How could retailers better use AI and automation to improve customer experience?


The introduction of ChatGPT at the end of last year has triggered a rush to use generative AI and related technologies, as reflected in the agenda at IRX & eDX 2023 at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham in late May

How will generative artificial intelligence change retail? How should retailers use this nascent technology, which has been prevalent in the media since the release of ChatGPT in November? And how could retailers better use other forms of AI and automation to improve employee and customer experience?

Attempts will be made to answer these topical questions at the upcoming IRX(InternetRetailing Expo) and eDX (eDelivery Expo), as reflected in the event agenda. Registration – which is free – is still open for the UK digital retail show, which takes place at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham on May 24th and 25th.
For example, a must-watch panel session titled: What will an optimal online experience look like by 2025? What are your next steps? Aurelie Seth, Senior Product Manager at The Whisky Exchange, and Victoria Ntale, Lyst’s Senior Customer Care Manager, will offer their words of wisdom.
Additionally, Dr Amna Khan, Senior Lecturer in consumer behaviour and retailing at Manchester Metropolitan University Business School, will join Michelle Gledhill, Programme Leader of MSC Creative Advertising Strategy at Manchester University, for a fireside chat, Consumer experience using mobile apps – how to get Gen Z obsessed about your app.
Also, Lois Richards, Logistics and Operations Lead at contemporary London-based jewellery brand Astrid & Miyu, will lead a session called Automating your fulfilment needs to save costs and improve efficiency. 
And finally, Maria White, Search Lead at Kurt Geiger, asks How will ChatGPT work in retail?
IRX and eDX attendees that engage with the above agenda ideas will better understand the direction of travel and how to accelerate their AI journeys to benefit employees and customers alike.

Blending digital and physical worlds

Fittingly, for this article, IRX asked ChatGPT, a large-scale language model fed 300 billion words by developer OpenAI: how could retailers make use of generative AI? Within seconds, the programme presented a list of 10 potential applications of generative AI that could improve a business’s operations, customer experiences, and marketing strategies.
One example was personalised product recommendations. Generative AI can analyse customer data, purchase history, and preferences to create tailored product recommendations, improving sales and customer satisfaction. 
Here, retailers can follow the lead of Amazon and Netflix. The latter’s “what to watch next” suggestions hint at what is now possible in digital retail. And retailers bold enough to use this type of technology in physical settings have prospered, according to Adam Warne, Chief Information Officer at River Island.
The fashion brand recently introduced “smart fitting rooms”. As Warne, who will be speaking at IRX in a session titled Championing the pace of change in your business to withstand the economic landscape, explained: “All the clothes are fitted with radio-frequency identification tags, and on the fitting-room screen, you can press a button for different sizes to be brought to you by staff. It also recommends other products that would go well with what is being tried on, even if only available online.” 
He added: “This innovation is driving an increase in order value. More than that, we are seeing the digital and physical worlds blend more.”
The ChatGPT reply to how generative AI could improve life for retailers and their customers pointed out that the technology can help with store design and layout, analysing customer behaviours and preferences to optimise where products will perform best. Moreover, this application could make someone’s shopping experience more enjoyable and efficient.

Debating the hot topic

The generated answer also included supply-chain optimisation and better end-to-end visibility of products and materials, content generation, market analysis and trend forecasting. On top of all that, it can assist with dynamic pricing based on factors such as customer preferences, competitor pricing, and market conditions. 
And, more predictably, it listed “chatbots and customer service” as a use case. Many online retailers have deployed AI-powered chatbots to handle customer inquiries, provide support, and guide shoppers through the buying journey. But there is still much room for improvement.
The ChatGPT reply concluded: “By integrating generative AI into their operations, retailers can improve efficiency, reduce costs, and provide better customer experiences.”
However, in late March, Elon Musk and multiple thousands of other high-profile signatories – including engineers from Amazon, DeepMind, Google, Meta, and Microsoft – called for a halt to the acceleration of generative AI in an open letter.
“Recent months have seen AI labs locked in an out-of-control race to develop and deploy ever more powerful digital minds that no one – not even their creators – can understand, predict, or reliably control,” read the letter. “Powerful AI systems should be developed only once we are confident that their effects will be positive and their risks will be manageable.”
Retail leaders would be wise to heed these words of warning, and keep humans in the loop if using generative AI – or risk losing custom and loyalty. Whatever, it’s sure to be a hot topic at IRX and eDX this year, on and off stage.
IRX & eDX takes place on May 24th and 25th at the NEC, Birmingham. 

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