3 Ways Retailers Can Gain a Competitive Edge With AI
Artificial intelligence (AI) and automation are becoming more accessible to retail businesses of all sizes, allowing even the leanest teams to reap the benefits. Instead of spending hours managing tedious manual processes, retailers that use automation can free up hours in the day to devote to customer service, product and inventory, and business growth. While resource management has always been important for retailers, it’s even more critical at times of economic unpredictability. With automation and AI, retailers can remain flexible and fill any gaps when working with reduced teams, budgets and resources.
How are retailers using automation and AI to gain a competitive edge? There are a multitude of applications, from personalizing product recommendations to optimizing inventory management. Here I'll focus on three ways retailers of all sizes can employ AI in their day-to-day work:
- Use AI to publish the right marketing content at the right time. Your customers’ inboxes, mobile phones and social media feeds are saturated. Do you know the most opportune moments to cut through the noise and stand out? While it’s near impossible for a human to assimilate and analyze granular as well as large-scale trend data in real time to predict ideal outcomes, AI can do it instantly. Moreover, AI can dynamically process data that’s constantly in flux, allowing retailers to stay ahead of consumer behaviors that change from day to day, even hour to hour. For example, AI can determine the ideal layout for your promotional emails to boost clicks, as well as the perfect time to email each customer to increase open rates. Another example is using AI to determine which of your product or brand posts will gain the most traction with your social media audiences and the best times to post content for the greatest social reach and engagement.
- Automate processes to save time for business growth. Many tedious processes can be automated using AI — including those that seem complex enough to require human input. (After all, consider the complex job of a driverless car!) For example, when it comes to email marketing, retailers can completely automate the process of curating a newsletter: selecting content; designing a layout; sending the email; and testing, optimizing and iterating with each blast. AI can automate this entire process, saving retailers significant hours to reinvest in other areas of running and growing the business.
- Lean on AI to help create content and assist customers. Natural language processing (NLP) technology has made significant strides in recent years, meaning AI can now produce text that reads as if a human wrote it. Retailers can leverage NLP in many ways, from letting AI craft promotional share messages on social media to generating product descriptions at scale for their website. NLP is also the underpinning technology behind chatbots, which are used by many retailers to provide customers with a 24/7 support agent that can address basic issues. Chatbots are popular with retailers of all types, but are especially useful as a frontline support agent for leaner teams or as a helping hand during busy sales and holiday periods.
These are just a few examples of how retailers both large and small can put AI to work. The opportunities are rich for retailers that incorporate AI into their processes, especially as competition for consumer attention and dollars escalates.
By tapping into AI to make data-driven optimizations, retailers can generate exponential performance gains. Intelligent automation also enables retailers to remain resilient during challenging periods by saving them time, filling resource gaps, and scaling with business needs. In times when businesses must stay flexible and make each dollar invested count, AI unquestionably deserves a spot in every retailer’s tech stack.
Antoine Amann is the founder and CEO of Echobox, a leading content automation platform.
Related story: PepsiCo Pulls Accessible, Actionable Insights From AI
Antoine Amann is the founder and CEO of Echobox. After graduating from Cambridge, Antoine went into journalism with the Financial Times. He left the FT to develop the initial version of Echobox in 2013. Antoine is a regular speaker and panelist at conferences such as the Guardian's Changing Media Summit, the Online News Association's annual conference and the Digital Publishing Innovation Summit.