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How AI Transforms the Real-Time Customer Experience

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A recent PointSource survey shows that AI makes people shop more, spend more, and spread the word about it their shopping experience to their friends.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming companies’ best weapon to reach customers in real time, and increase their levels of engagement. A recent survey reveals that AI makes people shop more, spend more money and spread the word about it to all their friends. The study, based on a survey of 1,008 consumers by PointSource, confirms when AI is present, nearly half (49%) of consumers say they are willing to shop more frequently, 34% say they will spend more money, and 38% say they’ll share their experiences with friends and family.

“Even just a few years ago, AI was a scary concept best reserved for Hollywood,” the report’s authors state. “But today, 83 percent of consumers say they’re OK shopping with a brand or retailer that uses chatbots or other AI capabilities.”

A separate survey, conducted by RIS and IHL Consulting Group, confirms that AI, along with machine learning, is in the plans of a majority of retailers interested in building stronger bridges to their customers.

Overall, retailers expect to ramp up their spending on AI and machine learning by seven percent. “The fact that retailers are increasing their AI-dedicated budgets for the next year means retailers are already deeply involved with the technology, although most deployments are likely in back-end enterprise applications. We know that deep learning is involved in several key areas of merchandise management and the supply chain, especially in warehousing and fulfillment.”

See also: Integrating real-time analytics to improve customer experiences

The PointSource survey explored adoption and attitudes toward chatbots, which rely on AI to deliver responsiveness. A total of 34% indicate they prefer to deal with chatbots, versus 36% who still prefer human contact. Thirty-eight percent have no preference. At least 39% indicate they find chatbots a useful resource for tracking deliveries online, and 38% say chatbots are key for checking inventory.

Along with AI, retailers are digging into a range of additional technologies that help deliver real-time customer experiences, the RIS-IHL study finds. Proximity and location-based marketing is receiving a 7.3% boost in spending, while 6.7% are boosting spending on predictive and prescriptive analytics. Another 5.5% are increasing spending on “conversational commerce,” or chatbots.

The authors of the PointSource study have three recommendations for getting their money’s worth from AI and chatbots:

  • Strive for transparency: “Transparency is always recommended, and consumers’ demand for it is evident. In fact, 39 percent of respondents say a clearer understanding of how businesses use their information would make them more comfortable using chatbots. But organizations should never feel compelled to reveal everything all at once. Rather, they should provide opportunities for end users to seek out information about their chatbot experiences when ready.”
  • It’s about enjoyment: “One of the few things all consumers have in common is wanting enjoyable chatbot experiences. Avoiding friction starts with businesses clearly identifying the needs they want chatbots to address.”
  • Seek personalized accuracy: “Businesses hoping to win consumers over long term should be mindful of partnering with chatbots that offer learning capabilities and customization. Accuracy of information will improve over time as the chatbot aggregates data from all available information sources.”
  • Keep humans first: “Humans are still a very important factor in helping consumers see that chatbots are secure and beneficial. Seventeen percent of consumers believe chatbots can be good additions to their customer experiences, but still feel human touches are needed. Likewise, half (49 percent) of consumers would feel better about using a chatbot if they had assurance that they could escalate their interactions to humans if necessary.”
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About Joe McKendrick

Joe McKendrick is RTInsights Industry Editor. He is a regular contributor to Forbes on digital, cloud and Big Data topics. He served on the organizing committee for the recent IEEE International Conference on Edge Computing (full bio). Follow him on Twitter @joemckendrick.

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