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Transforming Retail through Analytics and AI

By Microsoft on August 11, 2017

Filed under Retail & Consumer Goods

In the modern retail environment, consumers are well-informed and expect intuitive, engaging, and informative experiences when they shop. Retailers need solutions that can help them delight their customers with personalized experiences, empower their workforce to provide differentiated customer experiences, optimize their supply chain with intelligent operations and transform their products and services. Big data, advanced analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) can help build transformative applications that can help retailers make this experience a reality.

Delight your customers with personalized shopping experiences

In an increasingly mobile and tech-savvy world, a “one-size-fits-all” shopping experience will no longer drive your business forward. However, AI solutions can help retailers meet the challenges of a changing marketplace and deliver personalized experiences for customers.  

Solutions for real-time insights incorporate AI tools such as sentiment analysis to help retailers effectively recommend relevant products and services to their customers. A customer could take a picture of a product and tag it to their preferences. And AI tools then generate metadata about the tagged product, such as the cut, color or style. Powered by machine learning, this data can then be matched to store inventory in order to surface targeted recommendations that delight customers. With a single a photo, retailers can create new access points for the customer on device of their choice. Here’s an example of what’s possible using Microsoft’s big data, advanced analytics and AI products.  

Customers can also engage in a personalized shopping experience with tools such as interactive kiosks that recall saved products, check if a size or style is in stock, request a fitting room and more. AI capabilities enable these kiosks to help drive the customer forward in the buying journey by instantly surfacing a customer’s next best step based on behavior. For example, customer once the customer has tried on a product, the kiosk could prompt them to purchase it on their preferred device.

Finally, the modern retail customers don’t have time to waste, especially when it comes to their product purchases. Personal digital assistants powered by AI are an excellent solution. Imagine if a customer could engage directly with a personal assistant chatbot on their preferred device to guide their decision-making. The bot would interact with the customer using natural question-and-answer language to determine the kind of product the customer is looking for, then provide a curated gallery of recommendations, along with cross-sell and upsell suggestions. Not only would this approach shift strain off of live sales associates, it would shorten the conversion cycle and provide an efficient shopping experience.

Empower your workforce to provide a differentiated customer experience

By enhancing your business’ day-to-day strategies and operations with Artificial Intelligence solutions, you can empower your workforce to deliver not only improved, but differentiated customer interactions.  

A key differentiator can be utilizing digital technology to better understand customer shopping behaviors and drive conversions. Using cameras powered with AI capabilities, a retailer can track customer traffic patterns to build a heatmap of where they go and what products they’re looking at. This enables them to take the heatmap and apply advanced analytics to make store layout recommendations. By overlaying this data with POS data, retailers can further refine their models and change store layouts to increase sales

Some of biggest challenges that retailers face are missing or misplaced products on shelves and incorrect product labels. With AI tools, retailers can empower store cameras to scan shelves or displays and match the layout with their plan-o-grams. Missing or incorrect items would automatically be flagged, with notifications pushed to the appropriate employee for action.

AI capabilities enhance existing security cameras by taking the video feed and analyzing behavioral patterns to identify customers who may be confused and need help. Based on where they’re located in the store, the tool can then send notifications to an associate with expertise in that product.

Optimize your supply chain with intelligent operations

Intelligent inventory and supply chain management not only drastically reduces costs, it makes businesses more agile and efficient while improving the customer experience.  

Successful retailers know that effective operations start with the right balance between supply and demand. If too many products are ordered, they may not sell. If too few products are ordered, it impacts the customer experience and store profitability. AI tools can improve a retailer’s ability to accurately forecast demand and generate pricing insights. By analyzing consumer trends and sentiment in conjunction with internal POS and engagement data, a retailer can identify and track trends in order to predict optimal inventory levels and competitive price points.

Using advanced analytics, retailers can also match a customer’s location with the closest warehouse in order to cut shipping costs while maintaining optimal service levels. Machine learning allows them to aggregate this data by geography to predict future purchases and recommend how to stock each warehouse.

Using cognitive tools, retailers can empower store cameras to scan shelves or displays and match the layout with their plan-o-grams. Missing items would automatically be flagged for replenishment, with notifications pushed to the appropriate employee to restock or order additional inventory.

Now that you know a little more about where AI solutions can play a role in the retail industry, let’s talk about how to explore what options might best fit your business needs.

Learn how you can Empower Your Business with Advanced Analytics by downloading this informative ‘how-to’ video.

Written by,

Kuber Sharma – Sr, AI & Big Data Advisor

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