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Written by: Ian Wong, Consumer Industries, IBM
Retail in the Cognitive Era
As technology continues to advance, we have seen a shift in customers’ expectations, which, in turn, has led to retailers rethinking their strategy. With mobile devices in every pocket and retailers trying to increase their online presence, consumers now have the choice to shop whenever, wherever and however they like. Price is no longer the only key factor in the decision-making process. Shoppers are expecting a superior shopping experience and innovative retailers who place customers at the centre of the disruption and provide a meaningful personal experience will stand out amongst the rest.
So how are Cognitive technologies enabling retailers to disrupt and enhance the customer experience?
Cognitive Shopping Experience
To be able to offer customers a personal experience with multiple, meaningful touchpoint interactions, retailers need to know their customers on a personal level.
Large retailers are gathering information about their customers through their loyalty programs and transactional data. However, 80% of data is unstructured, and to fully understand the customers’ mindsets, retailers will need to rely on Cognitive and AI technologies to augment both structured and unstructured data. This can be sourced from numerous social media outlets or the latest smart devices – information that is publically available to businesses.
IBM Watson also comes into play by helping to make sense of the big data. IBM Metro Pulse, powered by Watson, helps harness the ‘heartbeat of the neighbourhood’, analysing overall sentiment – be it every day or during local events – that affect customer behaviour.
This is what we call The Cognitive Shopping Experience, where AI is used to understand the customers via multiple touchpoints. These insights are used to design the customer journey map, all the way from awareness through to the in-store or online shopping experience, even to return and exchange process and driving loyalty through advocacy.
On the other end of this process, we’re also seeing AI being built into digital and mobile solutions to make offers more personal. During the Melbourne Spring Fashion Week for example, shoppers who were in the Melbourne Central precinct would receive notifications via the MSFW app on their mobile devices about offers and promotions from nearby stores to encourage potential customers to come in and shop.
There has also been great interest in how natural language search can deliver a better experience for customers on the webstore. IBM Watson is helping North Face customers to find the perfect jacket for their next adventures. By answering a few simple questions with natural language, IBM Watson filters products on the site to find the right suited to your particular need.
Retailers are also looking at research on click through data to identify what ads or banners customers click through, to better understand their path to the webstore.
Cognitive Supply Chain and Merchandising
Not only retailers are experimenting with Cognitive technology to determine the right stock levels to be shipped to store, there is also an aspiration to incorporate both cognitive and analytics to understand trends. We saw an Australian first example of this at the Melbourne Fashion Week in 2017 when JASONGRECH unveiled the Cognitive Couture collection.
Working with Grech and his team, IBM used a mix of Watson APIs, including Watson Visual Recognition and cognitive tools from IBM Research to provide insights into fashion trends, consumers and design possibilities during the creative process. Grech captured ten years of runway fashion images and real-time social media inishgts and then used Watson Visual Recognition technology to not only analyse, but predict trends in colour. As a result, Grech worked with a colour palette he would not have considered before.
Internet of Things in store
A great example is the beacon technology used by large supermarkets for customers who are collecting orders made oline. The beacon is connected to an app on the customer’s mobile, and as he or she approaches the store, it will trigger staff to get the order ready so there is no wait time when collecting their shopping. This simple technology opens the door to create a more meaningful engagements with customers.
With quite a number of Australian retailers experimenting the new technologies today, we should anticipate to see a number of innovations emerge in the near future, as retailers start continue to adapt to online shopping trends. Today, more and people seek to find connection through technology – whether its through social media, smart devices or when they shop. Retailers have an opportunity to get ahead by creating more personal interactions with their customers through technology – all made possible through Cognitive technology.
Jason Grech’s collection at Melbourne Spring Fashion Week is the first time in Australia that artificial intelligence has been used in combination with creative thinking and design process. For more information visit http://www.ibm.com/cognitive/au-en/fashion/. JASONGRECH is a trademark of Jason Grech Pty Ltd. Melbourne Spring Fashion Week is a trademark of the Melbourne City Council.