AI and Shopping: What's Next?
The shopping experience is always evolving, from more ways to shop to new technological advances in-store and online. With all these novel ways to experience retail, it’s no wonder that artificial intelligence (AI) is preparing to be an integral part of shopping. In fact, according to a study by Juniper, global spending on AI is supposed to be 7.3 billion by the end of 2022. So, what are the ways in which AI is integrating into supply chains? From cutting edge fulfillment technologies to virtual reality, AI is making an impact on the customer journey. We’ve detailed how below.
When stores went contact-free at the height of the pandemic, some began to utilize computer vision to “see” the items in shoppers’ carts and compute costs, without the need for a checkout person. French big-box retail store Carrefour employed this strategy effectively, assigning a virtual avatar to each customer the moment they walked into a store. Two thousand AI sensors would record the customer’s product selection, adding it to a virtual shopping cart. When the customer finished shopping, they would then utilize a checkout station that offered contactless payments.
A Carrefour retail location in Dubai went the extra step, completely removing the checkout process. At this store, shoppers use their phone for access to the location and AI cameras discern which products they add to digital shopping carts. Purchases are completed the moment a customer exits the store, instead of requiring a checkout process.
AI-backed Inventory Management
With an uptick in AI-backed inventory management, many businesses may begin to utilize a system that merges online and in-store inventory models. Cutting-edge inventory management will allocate inventory to the appropriate doorsteps, while stores will only carry inventory for trying on and sampling, rather than to buy. This new version of a storefront will require fewer employees and a more personalized shopping experience for customers, the latter of which will utilize AI-backed data to provide better recommendations. Though this futuristic shopping experience is not poised to happen tomorrow, consumers may see these shifts begin to occur in the next few years.
Vision and Voice-automated Search
Many of us have used an Amazon Alexa or a similar product to make a purchase at one time or another; in fact, voice-based search and shopping is supposed to become a $40 billion enterprise in the next year. But vision-based shopping is also a new frontier. Google’s Vision Product Search utilizes machine learning to show shoppers like minded items from a retailer’s catalog. Research from ViSenze recently discovered that 62% of Gen-Z shoppers want visual search capabilities, more than any other new function. This statistic makes sense, when we consider that 80% of Gen-Z and millennial shoppers find products via their mobile devices (60% of Gen-Z discover products on social media), which facilitates a much more visual shopping experience.
One of Google’s new solutions is Recommendations AI, a tool that allows businesses to produce individual shopping recommendations by using machine learning. Retailers can optimize their catalog by offering loyal customers high-quality suggestions across multiple touchpoints, whether that’s a home page, mobile, or email. Since 66% of consumers expect todays’ retailers and brands to understand their individual preferences, it’s more important than ever for businesses to tailor their suggestions as particularly as possible, wherever these consumers might view their products.
AI-backed warehouses are becoming an integral part of the supply chain. Implementing robots into the warehouse can help fulfillment centers handle select tasks on-site and free human workers from more repetitive tasks. Robotics optimize picking, storing, and sorting times, and can cut down on checking frequency requirements. Moreover, they can reduce error rates, decreasing long-term costs brought on by fulfillment mistakes.
Artificial intelligence isn’t going anywhere and it is more important than ever for brands and retailers to implement AI into some part of the customer experience, or risk falling behind and losing shoppers. Though it may not be feasible for a business to incorporate all the AI offerings listed above, using savvy technology can only help to make an organization stand out and please their customers, while also curbing inefficiencies and creating a more seamless supply chain.