Artificial intelligence is making waves in the retail industry with many duties that you once thought could only be fulfilled by humans now being accomplished by a cognitive computer. It won’t be long before every online shopper will be affected by the phenomenon that is AI.

It’s important that marketers know how to take advantage of this technology in creating a perfect buyer’s journey for customers. AI helps marketers and retailers to not only use readily available data but also information about customers that is typically ignored and unused — information such as the number of clicks a user has on a specific website or the word they highlight on a page. AI can benefit practically every aspect of the retail industry process from marketing to customer service, from site layout to stock management.

Unlike other AI applications, AI in retail is much subtler with existing customer data being used to transform the customer experience. Some common AI systems that you might have already experienced include image recognition systems, remote video monitoring, chat functionality, and product recommendations.

While a smooth retail experience may be what customers want, a personalized one might just take it up a notch as AI has the ability to deliver precise experiences without compromising a brand’s signature. Instead of getting the same generic results as everyone else, you get a personalized answer every time as the AI learns what you’re interested in. It tries to read what you want right at that moment that you’re answering its questions. This is a higher level of personalization that the retail industry and its consumers can greatly benefit from.

Examples of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the Retail Industry

  • 1800-Flowers’ Gift Selection – has a feature called GWYN (Gifts When You Need) which behaves like a personal assistant that will help you pick the right gift. The customer only has to type a request after which GWYN will respond with a series of questions to qualify the best gift the customer should get. The user’s answers in combination with other sources such as buying trends and behaviors will help the AI decide what best recommendation to give.
  • North Face’s Product Selector – powered by IBM’s Watson is North Face’s product selector which makes shopping for outdoor gear easier. Using natural language, the AI helps refine product selections based on the user’s response to a series of questions pertaining to factors like location, temperature, and gender.
  • Spotify Recommendations – the recommendations a user receives through Spotify is powered by AI systems which suggest music based on the interests the user has chosen. It factors in elements such as dynamic vocals, guitar riffs, and driving bass in looking for songs with the same characteristics.
  • Shell’s Virtual Assistant – Distributors of shell are enjoying the pilot version of Shell’s new Virtual Assistants Ethan and Emma who carry on an almost lifelike conversation with customers. They are programmed with information including Shell’s 3000 products to answer users’ fuel and lubricant related questions.
  • Macy’s On Call – ten Macy locations in the United States are already equipped with Macy’s on Call which is an AI-powered tool that allows customers to navigate the store quicker. Customers can ask natural language questions such as the location of a department, a brand, or services.

Today, shopping still feels a bit like being inside a Costco where there’s endless aisles of items to choose from. A good shopping experience means getting what you need in the most seamless way possible. AI does exactly just that. With AI, retail shopping can become a truly personalized and efficient experience where you can focus on a certain part of an aisle, cut out the distractions, and get exactly what you want. No matter how many items there are in a store, nothing beats the feeling of finding exactly what you were looking for.

Retailers who embrace AI technology today will reap greater benefits tomorrow where customers who enjoy a hyper-personalized experience eventually become frequent return buyers.


By:  Rick Delgado
Bio: I’ve been blessed to have a successful career and have recently taken a step back to pursue my passion of writing. I love to write about new technologies and how it can help us and our planet.