How to Combine AI and Human Creativity to Enhance the Retail Experience
In today's retail landscape, brands are embracing artificial intelligence and other cutting-edge technology solutions to keep up with the competition and provide their customers with the best possible shopping experiences. However, it's equally important to maintain a personal touch and human element to create a truly immersive and engaging experience. The most successful retailers will combine art and science to create compelling and powerful shopping experiences across all channels.
The Science of Retail
With recent advancements, AI can help retailers quickly analyze information at a scale that previously wasn't possible. For example, AI-powered chatbots can provide personalized customer service to shoppers 24/7, helping to improve customer satisfaction and increase conversions. Similarly, CGI enables brands to scale image creation significantly faster and at a fraction of the cost of traditional photography. This results in more powerful and personalized shopping experiences optimized to convert at a higher rate.
A recent study by Coresight Research found that 40 percent of brands and retailers are already investing in CGI technology, with an additional 58 percent planning to invest in the near future. Furthermore, 60 percent of brands and retailers plan to invest in AI to automate their visual product content. These figures highlight the growing importance of technology in retail and the role that CGI and AI play in shaping the industry's future.
The Art of Retail
However, these technological advancements will only go so far. Brands that develop compelling imagery, innovative product lines and daring collaborations designed to evoke an emotional response will ultimately win long-term customer loyalty. Take Nike, for example. By associating its shoes with top athletes, developing bold new shoe designs, and promoting its products in innovative ways, Nike has made a shoe represent an entire lifestyle and made millions of sports fans feel like they, too, can Just Do It. Nike’s incredible branding comes from years of creative thinking and aligning with the right celebrities and athletes. AI won't replace that type of brand creation work any time soon.
Over-reliance on AI could easily lead to buying experiences that are uniform across a great swathe of retail, undermining both brands and sellers. When everyone digs with a spade, one hole looks much like another. To avoid this, retailers must develop significantly more robust visual experiences for customers and leverage AI to deliver the right message and visuals at the right time.
When companies get this right, the results can be very powerful. Grocery chain Kroger has successfully leveraged AI to offer customers personalized digital coupons in the moment of intent. This personal touch has led to improvements across in-store foot traffic and sales. Brands that use AI to predict what someone wants and couple this with robust imagery that showcases products in a compelling way will win.
Meeting Customers Where They Are With the Right Mix of Art and Science
Moreover, retailers need to provide seamless and personalized experiences across all channels to stay competitive in today's market. McKinsey & Company research has shown that 81 percent of consumers now browse across multiple channels before making a purchase. This shift to omnichannel shopping has been embraced by all age groups, from Gen X to baby boomers, who appreciate the convenience of shopping online, in-store and through apps. By integrating these channels, brands can provide customers with the convenience they crave while creating a cohesive shopping experience.
Retailers have begun investing in new hyper-immersive technologies as shoppers move from the offline world of physical stores to online e-commerce experiences. Take Babylist, for instance, which recently created a retail pop-up that enabled expectant mothers to explore baby strollers in real life, rolling them over different terrains before ultimately purchasing the item online. Some technology allows online shoppers to mix and match furniture and home décor accessories with a click of a button. By allowing consumers to decide on the best configuration for their personal tastes, they can not only have fun shopping online but also have the power to make informed decisions. This also improves sales conversion and repeat customer engagement for retailers.
For similar reasons, retailers and shoppers alike are also embracing augmented reality as a means to bridge the online world with the offline world. This technology meets shoppers where they are because it works with any smartphone camera. For example, shoppers using Walmart’s mobile app can tap "View in your space" and voila, they can see a desk they're considering in their own home office. This magical experience helps improve shopper confidence. In our latest Shopper Sentiment Report, we uncovered that 50 percent of shoppers said they're more likely to purchase a piece of furniture if they can visualize it in their space using the camera on their smartphone.
Overall, as brands embrace emerging technologies, expect to see more immersive and personalized shopping experiences as retailers harness CGI and AI together. Retailers must balance these new technologies with a human touch that evokes emotion and builds long-term customer loyalty. The most successful retailers will be the ones that combine art and science to create compelling and powerful experiences for shoppers across all touchpoints.
Alexandre de Vigan is founder and CEO of Nfinite, a leading e-merchandising platform that empowers retailers to grow their business and deliver better customer experiences through powerful, customizable visual content.
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Alexandre de Vigan holds a Master’s degree in business law and taxation from the University of Assas, then Colombia University (USA). He completes his scholarship with a Master’s degree in management at HEC (2011). Alexandre started his career as a business lawyer, specializing in mergers and acquisitions. Then he began his entrepreneurial vocation in 2014 and founded his first start-up Matchimmo, an online real estate acquisition platform. In 2016, after facing the difficulty of decorating his 1st apartment, he created nfinite (ex hubstairs).