Shoptalk 2019: Trends around Retail & AI

Last week, the world’s top retailers and technology platforms gathered in Las Vegas to attend Shoptalk. With over 8,000 attendees, this year’s conference was their biggest yet.  After experiencing “retail’s best show,” I reflected on some trends emerging around the convergence of Retail and AI and what that means for Retailers moving forward. Here are 4 topics to keep an eye on:

  • 1:1 At Scale: With new customer channels emerging daily, it’s becoming clear that customers will have any number of questions and needs across these different touchpoints. At the ‘AI Retail Use Cases’ panel, the VP of Analytics from Jet.com commented that many online-only brands are missing a crucial touch point with their customers - the store associate.  Brands rely on this person to provide an important relationship building interaction with its customers. The prevalence of the digital shopping experience will require brands to find new ways to foster that 1:1 relationship. This is essential to building brand loyalty and address customers’ expectations of a personalized experience. Excitingly, we are now at a point where creating meaningful customer connections is possible through AI.  Brands have the ability to use AI to understand customer questions at a deeper and more contextual level which in turn allows brands to provide that elusive human experience at scale.
  • Creating Frictionless Experiences: There is nothing worse for a retailer than disappointing its customer. With new competition launching everyday, brands and retailers are looking to perfect every part of the shopping experience. During the opening keynote, Erik Nordstrom, co-president of Nordstrom, made it clear that their strategy revolves around satisfying the customer, regardless of channel. He said, "increasingly, it has become impossible to separate [a customer's] digital journey from physical journey." Having technology that is agnostic to the customer’s channel is a requirement in this day and age.
  • Customer Care is #1: Customer Care, or ‘Customer Service’, is usually the last place innovation strikes at a retailer.  This is mainly because it’s seen as a support function, something stagnant and not necessarily the center of exciting technology. Although some may think this is true, I saw a significant shift in mindset this year. Customer Care is finally a priority for a growing majority of retailers who care about building brand affinity with customers. Whether that’s with a pure AI solution, or a hybrid, brands are looking for ideas to innovate in this space, and fast.
  • AI is Inevitable: If Shoptalk last year was all about “what is AI?” and “How can AI help my business?”, this year our most asked questions were “how do I implement AI in my area of business? What business outcomes can we expect?” The majority of brands and retailers are aware of the benefits of AI and are now eager to see the technology in action. We spent many sessions brainstorming data architecture and availability to ensure retailers are ‘AI-ready’.  Brands have a wealth of knowledge, and now the question is how do they harness AI to not only make them ready, but give them a competitive advantage. We’re excited with the progress of Retail and AI and look forward to seeing where the conversation goes at Shoptalk 2020!

Retail