Michael Demko, CEO and Founder, Locai Solutions
2018 was marked by many advancements in the various applications of data intelligence – the ability for computers and apps to gather information, and use it to give customers a truly personalized experience – setting the stage for the next-level in convenience. Shoppers are now less resistant to the idea of individualized product suggestions, which creates a new dynamic of customer service: people expect products to be presented to them in an easy, personalized, and intelligent way.
A great user experience is an imperative part of any eCommerce offering, but the underlying logic, algorithms, and intelligence that bring depth and relevance to the user experience is where the real innovations are occurring. In 2019, personalization and AI will grow from being merely promotions and product recommendations to a set of tools that help retailers sell time-saving solutions. By 2020 45% of retailers plan to utilize artificial intelligence to enhance the customer experience. Currently, many platforms generate lists that you can buy from, but with machine learning you can now deploy solutions that provide higher levels of convenience for your customers.
What exactly does the customer experience?
A more frictionless buying experience. Upon initial sign in to an app powered by an engine like eGroceryIQ, customers answer questions about their dietary preferences, portion sizes, and favorite items. After each purchase, the order details are collected and used to modify that user's next shopping experience. If the customer reviews an item, that information is also integrated into future product and recipe recommendations.
eCommerce platforms embedded with AI powered solutions will take all this customer data, integrate it with what is currently in their shopping cart, and provide them with a highly personalized and engaging shopping experience. These smart apps, using segment-of-one personalization, create a unique interface for each customer. Instead of having to sift through an entire catalog, shoppers are presented with their favorite items right away, as well as similar product suggestions – foods they might like based on past purchases.
Other applications for data intelligence include capabilities that provide shoppers with information to problem solve for quantity and product type. Customers can filter and scroll through listings to compare nutritional information and see what items fit with their dietary preferences or restrictions. AI solutions can sift through recipes, parse ingredients, map them automatically to a retailer’s assortment and systematically scale the amounts needed for a family of 4 or a single serving enabling customers to use tools such as meal planning to maximize use of products already in their virtual shopping cart. As machine learning continues to evolve, the possibilities become endless..
Is it worth the investment?
All that value for your customers translates to higher sales. Intelligent solutions mean higher basket sizes, improved loyalty & retention, increased conversion rate, and higher purchase frequency.
Furthermore, data intelligence can be used to advance your merchandising, logistics, and fulfillment efforts. According to Tech Emergence, "the predictive capabilities of AI may play an important role in forecasting inventory needs, determining prices of products based on internal and external factors, analyzing customer behavior, loss prevention, delivery services–and potentially much more."
Equipped with volumes of data about your customers, new platforms will emerge to enable you to more easily pivot your business strategies, optimize your interfaces, and offer a catalog of high selling products.
The bottom line? More convenience equals greater customer satisfaction and more revenue.
Intelligent solutions for today and tomorrow
According to Forbes magazine, almost half of Americans now buy groceries online. Recent surveys by Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and Nielsen show that 49% of US consumers had bought CPGs (consumer packaged goods) online in the past three months, up from 23% in 2016. The rates were higher among younger demographics – 61% for millennials and 55% for Gen Xers. As these rates continue to increase, experts predict that AI will continue to expand to meet the growing needs of both grocers and shoppers.
Without AI, traditional grocery stores will have a difficult time meeting consumer behavior and demands. Many are finding that simply adding an online catalog is not enough to satisfy their customers, nor drive higher sales. The key is increasing value through efficiency and continuous learning about your customer. Solutions embedded with machine learning are designed to meet the needs of both the retailer and the consumer – giving the consumer an engaging, personalized experience, and the retailer a comprehensive, sales-driving and scalable platform.
In order to succeed digitally, a broad set of components are needed and we’re beginning to see more and more partnering between grocers and technology solutions. As Yeal Cosset, Chief Digital Officer of Kroger said, “Personalization based on available data will not work. If the filter of the data is only good you will become obsolete, but if it is great you will have success.” Investing in flexible platforms that enable integration with the best in class consumer and operational features will become necessary, as a wide host of 3rd party application providers continue to emerge as the industry evolves.