Stores could use artificial intelligence instead of workers

Customers came out in large crowds for Thanksgiving Day sales in the Miami Valley. KARA DRISCOLL/STAFF

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Customers came out in large crowds for Thanksgiving Day sales in the Miami Valley. KARA DRISCOLL/STAFF

Nearly half of all retailers plan to use artificial intelligence within the next three years to enhance the customer experience.

A new report from consulting firm BRP found that 45 percent of retailers plan on using artificial intelligence within the coming years. The report found that brick-and-mortar stores will need to encompass both the sensory experience of the physical world and the convenience of the digital world.

Consumers will likely see more opportunities to intereact with artificial intelligence like a Siri or Alexa, or even a chatbot that can help with customer service. The shift may replace traditional customer service as “we may see human interaction be perceived as less efficent than articical intelligence,” the report says.

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“The customer experience in a unified commerce world is much more complex than it is in a pure play e-commerce or brick-and-mortar retail environment and we are seeing retailers map out the entire customer journey to design the optimal customer experience,” said Perry Kramer, vice president and practice lead at BRP. “This complexity expands exponentially as the proliferation of social media, the Internet of Things, (IoT), artificial intelligence and machine learning influence the retail world and more specifically, the customer journey.”

Online retailers like Amazon are already testing artificial intelligence by offering purchasing suggestions based on a series of questions and past purchase history by consumers.

Retailers are already using tech to better customer experience. About 89 percent of retailers are using social media comments as a critical customer satisfaction measurement, an increase of 59 percent last year.

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The report emphasizes the importance of innovation as dozens of retailers close more than 8,600 stores. Major national retailers, many of them that typically anchor malls and shopping complexes, are in crisis as online shopping disrupts the industry.

“When you’re talking about sales that go to online-only retailers that don’t have a presence here, that’s a shift in consumer demand,” said Gordon Gough, president and CEO of the Ohio Council for Retail Merchants. “Will it have an impact on the local economies? Sure.”

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