Earlier this year, Sainsbury’s announced it was in talks with Uber Eats to launch a grocery delivery service. Whilst most major supermarkets offer their own online delivery service, it’s this kind of innovative thinking and the alignment of offerings with services relevant to your audience that will help gain an edge over competitors.
As an example, research has shown that while Millennials are highly engaged with food, the same Millennial grocery shoppers are disappointed with their supermarket visits: 40% go there to get ideas, but only 12% say that supermarkets inspire their cooking. Retailers across the industry need to think about how to use digital technologies like AI to improve the overall customer experience.
The importance of retaining customers in the digital age
Today, convenience is everything, but convenience means different things to different people. What businesses need to better understand, especially retailers, is the unique behaviours and needs of their customers. One of the most visible footprint of customer behaviour which is often left behind is Data.
Data collected through POS, commerce sites, mobile and social media presents retailers with a goldmine of information on consumer behaviour. The question remains, how do companies mine increasingly huge amounts of Data and more importantly how can they ensure it is actionable?
This is where AI comes in. Leveraging AI, retailers can provide an intelligent, informative and convenient customer experience during the customer journey, based on insight generated from their own data. Retailers can capture and analyse their customers shopping habits and use this to offer a personalised experience based on what they think the customer will be interested in.
McDonald’s has recently acquired a number of companies to boost their AI and machine learning capabilities in a bid to provide a better, more intuitive in-store experience. The fast food chain now has digital signage that is programmed to market food more strategically by taking into account a number of factors including the weather and time of day to better appeal to a customer’s needs in that specific moment. For example, ice-cream might be featured on a hot day over chocolate cake.
Unlocking data and using it to better predict what your customers will want is exactly what is going to set you apart from the competition.
Creating the most convenient shopping experience
It’s not just your customers that will notice the difference through front-end technology like loyalty apps or in-store digital displays, the implementation of AI can also transform back end functions, like improved forecasting to help course-correct any supply chain issues that might arise from a shift in buying behaviors. Spending on AI in the retail supply chain is likely to increase to $10bn (£7.7bn) a year by 2025, suggesting retailers are already valuing the benefits of AI to this part of the business.
All this technology needs to come together to create the best and most convenient experience for the shopper, like making sure stock levels meet demand to ensure zero stockouts on the shelf, or discount codes are sent based on loyalty, or assortments are customized to reflect each individual customer’s preference.
AI therefore has the power to enable Customers to be more engaged and build deeper relationships with the brand.
An effective IT strategy that leverages new technologies, including AI, will deliver growth for retail through the streamlining of systems across the entire customer journey, whilst leveraging the rich data that they have up their sleeves. This is core to enable a business to work at the speed of digital, whilst responding quickly and easily to changing market conditions, customer preferences or competitor activity.
Anil Gandharve, senior VP and global head of retail, CPG and manufacturing at Mindtree