How Artificial Intelligence is Changing Retail

Artificial intelligence is all around us. The most popular television shows of 2016 give you an idea of the impact technology is having on our everyday lives, as well as our imaginations. Westworld, Black Mirror, and Mr. Robot dominated top 10 lists last year, and echo the thoughts of leading technology and artificial intelligence experts, like Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking.

Conversational Commerce

Like TV shows, the way retailers communicate with customers has changed significantly in the last 50 years. Messaging is the indisputable medium of choice for interpersonal communication on a global scale – it provides interactions above and beyond what email ever could.

Soon, artificial intelligence will help customers to find the latest looks, tell them about current promotions, and answer any product questions – turning a traditionally one-way discovery experience into a two-way conversation. With messaging, retailers will be able to remove the friction that shoppers typically experience on the mobile web, making the process of finding and purchasing new products easy, familiar, and immediate.

Messenger is the Medium

The announcement at F8 last year that Facebook was going to allow bots for Messenger created a lot of excitement in the market – suddenly one-on-one chat (either with chatbots or with a customer service agent) didn’t require an app for mobile. It’s not that retail-assisted shopping with bots is brand new – WeChat and Kik have been offering the service for a while – but the ubiquity of Facebook Messenger, which has almost a billion active monthly users, means a huge audience has opened up for retailers.

Enhanced Customer Experience

It’s not just new TV shows that are predicting the future of retail. The 1962 cartoon The Jetsons got a lot right (so far – it’s set in 2062 so there’s still plenty of time for flying cars to become a thing).

  • Flying vehicles were used instead of cars in The Jetsons. Today, drones are being tested for delivery by Amazon. And it looks promising.

the jetsons flying car

  • Talking electronics like alarm clocks were featured in the cartoon, but who needs an alarm clock when you have your iPhone and Siri to help you do so much more than wake up?

the jetsons alarm clock

  • Robot service workers were used to clean the house and cook dinner in The Jetsons. These days, stores like Lowe’s and Best Buy are testing robots for customer service in-store.

the jetsons rosey robot

  • Watches with screens might have seemed outrageous in 1962, but today, the adoption of wearables is old news. With features like push notifications being added to marketers’ toolboxes, using these screens in retail becomes more important.

the jetsons watch

The Jetsons got artificial intelligence right, but it did miss a couple of key innovations. Social media and gaming have played a huge part in personalizing the relationships we have with our smartphones. We’ve adopted these devices as a part of daily life and entertainment, meaning they are great channels for retailers to connect with their customers.

Whether it’s Facebook Messenger, push notifications, or a sponsored Pokemon Go location, retailers need to figure out where their customers are and connect with them on those channels.

At the same time, retailers need to work with technology providers to future-proof their offering against future, Jetsons-esque innovations, and even begin using artificial intelligence in a way that surprises and delights customers.

Learn how to future-proof your brand in 2017 and beyond with our mobile commerce strategy guide for 2017.

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