With Black Friday just a few days away, U.S. retailers are making final preparations in both their physical and digital stores to support the expected high volume of shoppers. In fact, NRF estimated that 174 million people shopped in stores and online during last year's five-day Thanksgiving weekend, which ends with Cyber Monday. This year, the organization anticipates 2018 holiday sales in November and December to climb between 4.3 and 4.8 percent over 2017 to between $717.45 and $720.89 billion – all thanks to a healthy U.S. economy, low unemployment records and increasing wage gains.
This is all great news, but the economy is not the only thing that has improved over the past year – so has technology both online and offline. Specifically, when it comes to making more personalized recommendations through the use of Artificial Intelligence.
AI-Driven Personalization Makes It’s Mark
We know that retailers, and the AI-driven platforms they use for their digital channels, are becoming more sophisticated as they make more personalized (or even individualized) recommendations for their customers. This ultimately increases revenues for retailers and brands. According to Boston Consulting Group’s 2017 “Profiting from Personalization” report, “Brands that create personalized experiences by integrating advanced digital technologies and proprietary data for customers are seeing revenue increase by 6% to 10%, according to our research -- two to three times faster than those that don’t.”
For Black Friday shopping, and holiday shopping in general, AI can be a wonderful tool used to automate the process of helping online and offline shoppers find what they are looking for. We’ve all been there, desperate to find a memorable gift for friends and family, but have no idea where to start. You might search for top holiday items online or look through a dozen aisles in the store to find that perfect gift. AI simplifies this process, giving retailers or brands the ability to ask their customers questions about their gift recipients and offer personalized recommendations based on individual tastes and preferences.
The use of AI-driven personalization for the ecommerce channel might be more common right now, but according to experts, the future of AI is truly limitless – especially in the physical store. According to Tom Savigar, Senior Partner, The Future Laboratory, there is no doubt that the future physical retail will be a mix of the speed and convenience offered by AI — as well as human touch. “Customers want to be engaged through human interaction rather than the theatrics of light and sound, so retailers would do well to create community events and use data to offer personalized in-store experiences,” said Savigar.
Looking to the Not So Distant Future: In-Store Personalization to Support Retail Employees
As more technology is introduced into the store environment, it is clear that autonomous management, instead of manual management by store staff, will be required. According to a recent RIS News study, retailers have predicted providing in-store recommendations to shoppers through AI engines to be the most mainstream in-store technology in the next three years. Though pegged a technology of the “future,” it’s a concept that is not too far off the distant horizon. AI capabilities further enable retailers to pursue shopper personalization in real time, a top priority that will only become more important to shoppers as time goes on. Automation replacing mundane, manual labor is a benefit reaped when using ESLs. The technology’s capability to display prices and promotions, which are subject to change, also coincides with the concept of a more personalized, consumer-friendly store.
As we inch closer to Black Friday and the official kick-off of the holiday shopping season, it will be interesting to see the ways in which retailers and brands will utilize AI. While they will surely pursue personalized offers and promotions to enhance shopper loyalty during the months of November and December, they will also be able to take advantage of the data they receive to encourage repeat business throughout 2019.