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AI is not here to take jobs, just to make work more meaningful

F3 News – Many fear that AI is taking away jobs, but this notion is misguided. Recent trends show that companies are using artificial intelligence and automation to improve efficiency, reduce errors, and enhance communication among employees — not to cut workforces.
In fact, about 89% of retailers plan to put mobile solutions in the hands of their store associates over the next three years, according to new research from Boston Retail Partners, retail consulting firm. Walmart recently announced that the rollout of a suite of apps to help employees with everyday tasks. These applications will enable store associates to look up inventory in real-time, or instantly find out what products have just arrived in store.

They are also designed to streamline store operations through up-to-the-minute insights, such as enabling associates to look up when a product went out of stock as well as get assistance identifying the root cause, such as shelf capacity.

Read Full Article: AI is not here to take jobs, just to make work more meaningful

2019 Retail Trends

Business 2 Community – If we don’t look ahead we risk being left in the dust, and perhaps nowhere is that risk greater than with the emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a practical retail technology. AI has left the lab, and although its long-range impacts and unexpected consequences remain the domain of science fiction writers, brands and retailers have seized upon it to predict individual consumer behavior and laser-target their messaging. Those who begin coupling AI with the human touch in the year to come will have a huge advantage long-term. As my 2019 trends that follow demonstrate, the technology gold rush will go unabated but savvy retailers will never lose focus on people.

Retailers are using AI to personalize customer service, and the trend is picking up steam. Fifty-five percent of retailers plan to leverage the technology within three years, according to the 2018 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey from BRP, retail consulting firm. Among the many applications: merchandise recommendations based on a customer’s response to a short survey, and the ability to contact a given client at the most favorable time of day.

Read Full Article: 2019 Retail Trends

Nearly 50% of Consumers are More Likely to Shop at Retailers that Offer Virtual or Augmented Reality, According to BRP Report

32% of Retailers Plan to Use Virtual and Augmented Reality in Three Years, According to the 2018 Digital Commerce Survey

Boston, MA – November 1, 2018– Through virtual (VR) and augmented reality (AR), innovative retailers offer new and enhanced ways for customers to experience products, like visualizing how a product would look in their home or even on their body. VR and AR offer interesting applications and opportunities, as the ability to mix virtual and real elements can be game changing – especially for furniture, home décor and apparel retailers. According to BRP’s 2018 Digital Commerce Survey, retailers understand the impact that VR and AR can have on the customer experience and 32% of retailers plan to use virtual and augmented reality within three years.

Consumers also see the benefit of VR and AR, as nearly half of consumers are more likely to shop at a retailer utilizing virtual or augmented reality, according to a recent study by Incisiv, sponsored by BRP and Windstream Enterprise.[1]As consumers shop for a new couch or bedroom set, it is very helpful to see what the furniture will look like in their house or browse a virtual array of options like colors and fabrics, rather than just viewing in a catalog or on a website – and VR and AR apps can make it happen. Many retailers have already introduced AR apps and testing and deployment of VR apps is increasing.

Macy’s is a recent example, as they’re currently rolling out a new virtual reality experience across 70 locations, combined with an AR app for home use, to offer an immersive furniture shopping experience that allows browsing and visualization of a much larger assortment of furniture than a typical store. Sephora’s “Virtual Artist” app uses AR to scan your face, figure out where your lips and eyes are, and lets you try different looks on your smartphone. Foot Locker’s “The Hunt” AR scavenger hunt inspired smartphone-toting sneakerheads to venture across Los Angeles to unlock geo-targeted AR clues throughout the city earning the chance to be among the first to acquire new limited-edition LeBron 16 King “Court Purple” sneakers. As more and more retailers adopt VR or AR technology over the next few years, this will increase customers’ expectations for the same from other retailers that they shop.

“Immersive technology like VR and AR is redefining the way consumers can experience and buy products, leveraging the advantages of physical space, like the store or the customer’s home, without being constrained by the space,” said Brian Brunk, Principal, BRP. “Traditional retail lines continue to blur as retail realities are rapidly evolving and the stage where the theater of retail takes place can be dictated by the customer.”

To download 2018 Digital Commerce Survey, visit:

https://brpconsulting.com/download/2018-digital-commerce-survey/

The 2018 Digital Commerce Survey gold sponsors are ECRSand enVista.

About BRP

BRP is an innovative retail consulting firm dedicated to providing superior service and enduring value to our clients. BRP combines its consultants’ deep retail business knowledge and cross-functional capabilities to deliver superior design and implementation of strategy, technology, and process solutions. The firm’s unique combination of industry focus, knowledge-based approach, and rapid, end-to-end solution deployment helps clients to achieve their business potential. BRP’s consulting services include:

Strategy | Business Intelligence | Business Process Optimization | Point of Sale (POS)
Mobile POS | Payment Security | E-Commerce | Store Systems and Operations | CRM
Unified Commerce | Customer Experience | Order Management | Networks
Merchandise Management | Supply Chain | Private Equity

For more information on BRP, visit http://www.brpconsulting.com.

[1]Retail’s Digital Crossroads: The Race to Meet Shopper Expectations, July 24, 2018. https://brpconsulting.com/download/2018-retail-research-report/

51% of Consumers Want a Personalized Brand Experience Across Digital Channels, According to BRP Report

Retailers’ Top Digital Customer Experience Priorities are Creating a Consistent Brand Experience Across Channels and Improving Personalization 

Boston, MA – October 24, 2018– Customers’ journeys are more complicated and varied than ever before. Consumers now start and stop their shopping journey in different channels, including online marketplaces and social media, and frequently shop for the same product across different retailers, both online and in the store. According to the 2018 Digital Commerce Survey, 51% of consumers feel it is important to get a personalized experience across all digital channels within a brand. Retailers recognize the importance of the cross-channel, personalized customer experience, as their top digital customer experience priorities are creating a consistent brand experience across channels (57%) and improving personalization (38%).

“The new retail model requires retailers to transform their business and reinvent themselves to create a successful blend of the physical and digital worlds to maintain their customers’ loyalty,” said Jeffrey Neville, senior vice president and practice lead, BRP. “New and innovative methods of shopping – driven by mobile technology, artificial intelligence and rapidly changing fulfillment methods – are elevating customer expectations. The speed of these changes requires organizational agility to quickly and easily react to increasing customer expectations and changing consumer behavior.”

The challenge for retailers is to “keep up” with continually evolving customer expectations. The growth of mobile is driving demand for increased digital capabilities bundled with personalization in the store. The gap between consumer demand for digital experiences and retailers’ current capabilities is what we call the “great digital divide,” and is driving additional changes in the industry.

BRP conducted the 2018 Digital Commerce Benchmarking Survey to understand the current retail challenges and available opportunities as we face the future of retail. This report compares retailers’ priorities with customer expectations – based on results from Retail’s Digital Crossroads: The Race to Meet Shopper Expectations report[1]conducted by Incisiv and sponsored by BRP and Windstream Enterprise – to understand how retailer priorities are aligning with customer expectations.

Key findings include:

  1. Personalization – Effective customer engagement requires retailers to know whom the customer is to be able to offer personalized, relevant, compelling and consistent services across channels.
  • 51% of consumers feel it is important to get a personalized experience across all digital channels within a brand
  • 18% of retailers are currently utilizing customer identifying technology in the store and within three years, 79% plan to use it to personalize the experience
  1. Digital Influence – Retailers realize that mobile devices are ubiquitous and recognize that a mobile device in the customer’s hands holds tremendous opportunities to enhance the customer experience across channels.
  • 75% of consumers use digital tools prior to their in-store visit and mobile devices are leveraged in 46% of in-store shopping experiences
  • 67% of retailers provide online customer reviews to influence and drive purchases and 76% will extend mobile offers to customers in the store within three years
  1. Augmented Reality – Through augmented reality (AR), innovative retailers are inspiring their customers and offering them the ability to see what a product looks like in their home or even on their body.
  • 48% of consumers would be more likely to shop at a retailer that utilizes augmented reality
  • 32% of retailers will utilize augmented reality within three years

To download 2018 Digital Commerce Survey, visit:

https://brpconsulting.com/download/2018-digital-commerce-survey/

The 2018 Digital Commerce Survey gold sponsors are ECRSand enVista. 

About BRP

BRP is an innovative retail consulting firm dedicated to providing superior service and enduring value to our clients. BRP combines its consultants’ deep retail business knowledge and cross-functional capabilities to deliver superior design and implementation of strategy, technology, and process solutions. The firm’s unique combination of industry focus, knowledge-based approach, and rapid, end-to-end solution deployment helps clients to achieve their business potential. BRP’s consulting services include:

Strategy | Business Intelligence | Business Process Optimization | Point of Sale (POS)
Mobile POS | Payment Security | E-Commerce | Store Systems and Operations | CRM
Unified Commerce | Customer Experience | Order Management | Networks
Merchandise Management | Supply Chain | Private Equity

For more information on BRP, visit http://www.brpconsulting.com.

[1]Retail’s Digital Crossroads: The Race to Meet Shopper Expectations, July 24, 2018. https://brpconsulting.com/download/2018-retail-research-report/

Can Artificial Intelligence Improve Customer Service?

The Motley Fool – Customer service isn’t just about having a pleasant attitude or adopting a “the customer is always right” policy. Those things are important, but they’re only a few of the things a company needs to do to meet the needs of its patrons. Attitude and a willingness to serve become almost irrelevant if a store’s shelves don’t have the right merchandise, or a retailer does not offer the delivery or pickup model that meets a customer’s needs.

Currently, most retailers try to figure out the right mix to keep their customers happy using old-school techniques like observation and satisfaction surveys. Only 7% of retailers currently use artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance customer service. But that’s going to change: Another 48% plan to start using artificial intelligence technologies with 3 years according to the 2018 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey.

“The convergence of AI with traditional customer service has the ability to transform the shopping experience,” said BRP President Perry Kramer in a press release. “AI offers the ability to exploit the vast amounts of customer preference and transaction data gathered and reach a much larger group of consumers on a personal level to enhance the customer experience.”

The challenge — and it’s a line that has not been fully fleshed out yet — is that consumers may not know they are interacting with an AI. Some may not be happy to find out that the helpful “person” on the other end of their conversation is actually a robot/AI.

“Transparency is a big discussion for AI. Do you want the customer to think they’re speaking with a real human being or should you disclose that this is a conversation with Watson or some other AI technology,” said BRP Senior Vice President Jeffrey Neville in the press release. “That’s a decision retailers have to make right now, as AI using voice is probably going to mess up the conversation at some point, and the customer is going to realize that they’re talking to a computer.”

Read Full Article: Can Artificial Intelligence Improve Customer Service?

Three Years Out: That’s When Shoppers Can Expect To See Great, AI-Driven Service

Email Insider – Retailers are embracing a new model, using AI, breaking down internal channel silos and fielding single-order management systems to deliver a superior customer experience. At least that’s the dream. In reality, almost half are plagued by budget constraints and/or disparate systems, according to the 2018 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey by BRP, retail consulting firm.

And this apparently is having an impact. For instance, 48% plan to deploy AI to fuel their customer service within three years, but only 7% are doing so now. In addition, 31% plan to use augmented reality within three years, and 21% virtual reality — again, within three years.

And email? The study shows that 81% are using personal email as a means of customer interaction with the brand. But only 36% say it is working well, and 45% feel they need improvement.

Social media is utilized by 94%, with 36% saying it works well and 48% saying they need improvement. And 81% are using call centers, with 36% saying they need improvement.

Read Full Article: Three Years Out: That’s When Shoppers Can Expect To See Great, AI-Driven Service

More retailers use AI to improve customer service

Chain Store Age – Retailers are increasingly applying artificial intelligence (AI) to better personalize customer service initiatives, and momentum is increasing. Fifty five percent of retailers plan to leverage AI technology within three years, and applications will vary, according to the “2018 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey,” from Boston Retail Partners (BRP) retail consulting firm.

AI’s ability to learn from data, identify patterns and make decisions with minimal human intervention makes it a credible option to improve customer service. Some retailers use it to offer purchasing suggestions based on customer responses to a series of questions. Others use it to pinpoint the most convenient time of day to reach out to consumers with product suggestions, which are also based on past clicks and website visit data.

While chatbots can be a useful customer service tool, some consumers may not know if they are talking to a real person or a bot until they’ve already entered the interaction. Without transparency, that lack of clarity may also turn off some consumers.

“Transparency is a big discussion for AI. Do you want the customer to think they’re speaking with a real human being or should you disclose that this is a conversation with Watson or some other AI technology,” said Jeffrey Neville, senior VP and practice lead, BRP. “That’s a decision retailers have to make right now, as AI using voice is probably going to mess up the conversation at some point, and the customer is going to realize that they’re talking to a computer.”

Read Full Article: More retailers use AI to improve customer service

Retailers Plan to Add Artificial Intelligence

Convenience Store Decisions – Retailers are watching technology trends, especially artificial intelligence and deciding how they might best implement it to serve their customer base.

Retailers recognize the value of using artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance customer service, as 55% plan to leverage this technology within three years. According to the 2018 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey, 7% of retailers are currently using AI as digital assistants and chatbots, and another 48% plan to implement this capability within three years.

Artificial intelligence is a method of data analysis that automates analytical model building to learn from data, identify patterns and make decisions with minimal human intervention. Some retailers are experimenting with AI to offer purchasing suggestions based on customer responses to a series of questions or to pinpoint the most convenient time of day to reach out to consumers with products they would be willing to purchase based on past clicks and website visit data.

“The convergence of AI with traditional customer service has the ability to transform the shopping experience,” said Perry Kramer, senior vice president and practice lead, BRP Retail Consulting Firm. “AI offers the ability to exploit the vast amounts of customer preference and transaction data gathered and reach a much larger group of consumers on a personal level to enhance the customer experience.”

Read Full Article: Retailers Plan to Add Artificial Intelligence

55% of Retailers Plan to Utilize Artificial Intelligence (AI) to Improve Customer Service within Three Years

BRP’s Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey Addresses the Customer Experience of the Future

Boston, MA – September 27, 2018– Retailers recognize the value of using artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance customer service, as 55% plan to leverage this technology within three years. According to the 2018 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey, 7% of retailers are currently using AI as digital assistants and chatbots, and another 48% plan to implement this capability within three years.

Artificial intelligence is a method of data analysis that automates analytical model building to learn from data, identify patterns and make decisions with minimal human intervention. Some retailers are experimenting with AI to offer purchasing suggestions based on customer responses to a series of questions or to pinpoint the most convenient time of day to reach out to consumers with products they would be willing to purchase based on past clicks and website visit data.

“The convergence of AI with traditional customer service has the ability to transform the shopping experience,” said Perry Kramer, senior vice president and practice lead, BRP. “AI offers the ability to exploit the vast amounts of customer preference and transaction data gathered and reach a much larger group of consumers on a personal level to enhance the customer experience.”

Amazon and other multi-channel retailers are currently experimenting with AI to offer purchasing suggestions based on responses to a series of questions and past purchase history. Sephora, using a Kik chatbot, offers customers “conversational commerce” by offering a one-on-one mobile chat experience to offer ideas on new makeup looks and identify products in tutorials to offer customers a better shopping experience. In-store, the chatbot is becoming a personal shopping assistant by offering product recommendations, reviews and ratings.

While chatbots can be a useful customer service tool, some consumers may not know if they are talking to a real person or a bot until they’ve already entered the interaction. That lack of clarity may turn off some consumers, which can negatively impact your brand.

“Transparency is a big discussion for AI. Do you want the customer to think they’re speaking with a real human being or should you disclose that this is a conversation with Watson or some other AI technology,” said Jeffrey Neville, senior vice president and practice lead, BRP. “That’s a decision retailers have to make right now, as AI using voice is probably going to mess up the conversation at some point, and the customer is going to realize that they’re talking to a computer.”

For more details and other retail insights, download the complete 2018 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey:

https://brpconsulting.com/download/2018-unified-commerce-survey/.

The 2018 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey platinum sponsors are Aptos and Manhattan Associates, gold sponsors are CayanECRS, enVista and PCMS, and the silver sponsor is STORIS.

About BRP

BRP is an innovative retail consulting firm dedicated to providing superior service and enduring value to our clients. BRP combines its consultants’ deep retail business knowledge and cross-functional capabilities to deliver superior design and implementation of strategy, technology, and process solutions. The firm’s unique combination of industry focus, knowledge-based approach, and rapid, end-to-end solution deployment helps clients to achieve their business potential. BRP’s consulting services include:

Strategy | Business Intelligence | Business Process Optimization | Point of Sale (POS)
Mobile POS | Payment Security | E-Commerce | Store Systems and Operations | CRM
Unified Commerce | Customer Experience | Order Management | Networks
Merchandise Management | Supply Chain | Private Equity

For more information on BRP, visit http://www.brpconsulting.com.

Can Conversational Commerce Fulfill Its Potential In Retail?

Retail TouchPoints – The remarkable growth of voice-assisted devices over the past year has expanded what “conversational commerce” truly means for retailers. While the term had largely been used to describe chatbot activity just a few years ago, voice now gives retailers yet another shiny toy to fulfill consumer needs — and hopefully create a new shopping channel. As such, there are high expectations around the technology: voice shopping is expected to account for $40 billion in U.S. consumer spending by 2022, according to a study from OC&C Strategy Consultants. However, for such a figure to be achieved, retailers must still surmount some high barriers.

It’s true that enthusiasm for the technology itself is high— voice-activated devices are set for 50% U.S. sales growth from the 2016-2017 period to the 2018-2019 span, according to NPD Group. Yet despite this popularity, interest in — or even awareness of — their commerce functionalities remains low.

“As much as retailers have made great strides over the past couple of years in being nimbler and more agile, this is such a unique technology that they will still struggle with,” said Jeffrey Neville, Senior VP and Practice Lead at BRP Consulting in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “The thought of doing a pilot of a customer service/voice commerce program is going to be difficult because it’s so different. There’s a tendency to overthink the impact of something like this on their customers. As far as the base technology goes, you can get partners or cloud-based third-party applications to do a lot of the groundwork, but from a data integration standpoint and from an understanding of how you build and manage these tools — that’s going to be a struggle.”

“A big discussion in this space is: ‘Do we want the customer to think they’re speaking with a real human being or do we want the customer to realize that this is convenience with Watson or some other AI technology?’” said BRP’s Neville. “That’s a decision retailers have to make right now. Any AI using voice is probably going to mess up the conversation at some point, and the customer is going to realize that they’re talking to a computer.”

“If you look at apparel or luxury, you’re seeing companies like Burberry and Tommy Hilfiger use chatbots to be able to play the role of a stylist and provide fashion advice,” said Neville. “That’s where you may start seeing that relationship building through a chatbot, versus the stylist you’re used to going to at Polo Ralph Lauren. Not to bring this back to Amazon, but the Echo Look can take a picture of you in an outfit, and the long-term theory is to be able to combine this conversational commerce and voice shopping with image recognition. As you start to mix the concepts of being able to have a conversation with a computer-based stylist, and then having that computer-based stylist also be able to recognize patterns and colors, and making recommendations out of the existing retailer’s catalog, there’s some cool opportunities that retailers can tap into.”

Read Full Article: Can Conversational Commerce Fulfill Its Potential In Retail?