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Winston-Salem, NC | January 12 — For years retailers have been forced to compete with the Amazons of the world. The result has been astonishing. Sure, we’ve seen companies shutter their doors, but we’ve also seen companies improve their digital prowess to deliver more relevance and offers. Each New Year brings predictions and trend reports, and this year, AI makes appearances as one of the most promising and disruptive innovations for 2017 and beyond. Here’s a quick glimpse:
January 2, 2017 | The next time you’re in a Lowe’s hardware store don’t be surprised if a robot zooms up to ask if anyone needs help. And when you order your morning joe, a programmed bot may be whipping up that venti skim macchiato at Starbucks.
Watch out, folks, the age of artificial-intelligence-powered retail is upon us, promising an unprecedented amount of data and information that can help merchants grow their businesses. Once the stuff of sci-fi novels, AI is poised to juice up everything from customer service to merchandising—except jobs for humans.
“AI is going to be like electricity or the internet—it’s going to be foundational technology [for] which most things are built,” says Kyle Nel, executive director of Lowe’s Innovation Labs. “It becomes so interwoven into robotics and everything. It takes CRM, it takes all of this other stuff that we’ve been doing for so long and it makes it better than the sum of the parts.”
December 20, 2016 | It seems the entire world of people and things are connecting to the internet, with projections of 6 billion active smartphones and 50 billion connected things in use by 2020.
We’ve seen great strides in using customer identity to personalize experiences and to make better use of people’s time and attention. However, relevance is the currency of the digital economy, so it’s no longer enough to deliver personalized customer experiences — those experiences need to be smarter, faster, and in the right context.
Thanks to dramatic advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning over the past several years, we’re already seeing new AI applications for improving customer service and other areas of customer experience. For instance, chatbots powered by AI are able to field and respond to questions from customers on a variety of subjects. AI will be crucial in delivering these next-gen personalized experiences for customers, and as the conductor of the customer experience, marketers must embrace it in order to succeed.
December 15, 2016 | Retailers investing in new technologies during 2016 did so in many cases to keep up with the competition, often represented most specifically by Amazon — the company that influenced how many of them pursued e-commerce, and now is prompting them to consider innovations in the emerging area of conversational commerce.
Retailers also pursued new innovations this year in the name of enabling better interactions and stronger relationships with their customers. That notion is the common thread running through what we believe were the five most significant areas of retail technology innovation in 2016.
1. Artificial Intelligence
It’s very likely a lot of retail folks feel AI was the biggest and most broadly impactful innovation to shape the retail sector in 2016. And it’s not just a single innovation, but a vast field on innovation, affecting everything from chatbots (more about those little guys shortly) to other forms of virtual shopping assistants to mobile and visual search to mall directory services.