What motivates a consumer to walk into a store to make a purchase rather than shop online? Instant gratification? The inspiration that only comes from touch and smell? With 67 percent of the Gen Zs surveyed by IBM and the National Retail Federation preferring to shop in-store vs. 22 percent who favor online, there are tangible reasons that brick-and-mortar remains a viable channel for retail sales.
However, there are improvements to be made to the in-store shopping experience. When iVend Retail asked shoppers, “what would improve your in-store experience,” it found that in-store shoppers want more of the personal engagement they typically receive online. How can brick-and-mortar stores stop missing out on their chance to make omnichannel digital connections with their customers and make in-store shopping more enjoyable, productive and enticing? Below are a few tips on how artificial intelligence (AI) can transform online shoppers into in-store shoppers.
AI Finds Hidden Opportunities
AI is offering some promising solutions. Not only can AI-powered technology help fix age-old problems in retail, but it can introduce new opportunities for growth that were once inconceivable. AI creates the opportunity for stores to elevate the in-store experience before, during and after purchase. The result is a more rewarding and memorable experience that's so valuable that the customer will continue to choose in-store over online.
Skirt Length and Weather Patterns
Similar to the way that Wall Street once used skirt length to predict a bear or bull market, AI pulls data from seemingly disparate sources that are continuously in flux — e.g., weather patterns, market trends, social media posts, historical foot traffic, past sales, loyalty card data, and inventory. In seconds, this data is analyzed to make accurate predictions about what consumers will want and need in the future. These insights can be used to prove how AI transforms online shoppers and help stores make buying decisions, plan inventory levels and target customers.
How Well Do You Really Know Your Customers?
Shoppers are quick to snub brands that do little more than send them geo-targeted ads or loosely customized offers based on their last purchase. Worse is a campaign that automatically sends a text alert regarding the arrival of a favorite shoe brand, only for the recipient to arrive and discover their size is sold out. Customers want to be known.
There's great potential in pre-engaging the customer digitally before they arrive in-store. Deloitte found that nearly eight in 10 consumers interact with brands or products before arriving at the store, and the same study found that digital impacts up to 64 percent of every dollar spent in-store.
Another way how AI transforms online shoppers into in-store customers is creating a seamless checkout path. AI can help you avoid disruptions in the path to purchase. With its ability to continuously learn and analyze customer data, along with examining inventory levels, AI can make refined selections that target customers’ intents, wishes and needs. Stores are using AI to deliver the types of targeted, personalized omnichannel campaigns that can convert window shoppers into buyers.
AI Can Inspire More Purchases
Getting consumers excited about buying requires a subtle mix of education that intrigues while also appealing to emotions. The key is knowing that what the customer says may not always be what the customer wants.
AI uses multiple data points to create a complex, unique suggestion algorithm that delicately builds on what the customer has just purchased, combined with questions they're asking and trends on the horizon, to offer insightful cross-sell recommendations. Whether stores give hand-held AI-assisted virtual agents to the sales associates or place them on a kiosk for the customer to use interactively, these AI-assisted agents are guiding shoppers to the exact spot where the item is, along with the number of units and sizes available. The same device can also handle payment on the spot, enabling the customer to avoid standing in a checkout line.
AI the Key to In-Store Checkouts
The difference between in-store and online shopping is rooted in experience. New opportunities for omnichannel engagement do exist for brick-and-mortar stores. AI holds the key to making the live shopping experience more informative, satisfying and productive to ensure customers remain loyal, purchase after purchase.
John Forrester is the chief marketing officer of Inbenta, an artificial intelligence and natural language processing company.
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