AI is a lifeline for uncertain times in the retail industry

How major retailers are finally bridging the gap between insight and action to deliver meaningful experiences at scale

The 360-degree-view of the customer.

That was a key tagline and the vision created by Steve Blank nearly 20 years ago when E.piphany was getting off the ground and supporting 1-to-1 personalized marketing for major retailers like Amazon, Gap, Barnes & Noble and others.

It’s mind-boggling to see how that term is more pertinent than ever and helped proliferate a wide variety of marketing solutions to he­lp make it a reality. Truth be told, only one side of the 360-degree customer view coin has been solved for (insight) and the other side (action) is still largely an unattainable “Holy Grail” of nearly every retail (and B2C) marketer today—just the same as it was 20 years ago.

In addition, the challenge has been compounded by the expansion of digital and mobile channels and a more sophisticated consumer with higher expectations of personalized experiences. To try to solve for this, interactions between retailers and their customers have become a series of conditional “if this, then that” rules written in journey-builder technologies using informed best-guesses by marketing teams. The result for the consumer is often very “unhuman.”

The 360-degree-view at E.piphany was really all about the data—bringing it together, transforming it into a star schema allowing the retail marketer to build profiles to drive a more personalized experience and it worked mostly but lacked the ability to work in real-time. Improved data access and unified customer profiles using customer data platforms, data warehouses, ID graphs, and data management platforms have improved the issue of knowing your customer in a more real-time manner.

However, taking unified action is an entirely different story for today’s retailers.

How do you fully maximize the use of these new, complete data stores in an intelligent and near real-time fashion across all of your channels with the most personalized experience? The complexity gets overwhelming to imagine and, in fact, is not something humans can effectively process, despite all our best efforts. Today’s retail marketing teams need the help of a machine and that’s where artificial intelligence plays an important role. And it’s no secret. Accenture Interactive predicts that by 2020 86% of customer interactions will be managed by AI, giving retailers just a couple of years to embrace AI and work out the kinks.

Accelerate the “Insights to Action” Virtuous Cycle

At least for the moment, AI in retail presents with much more subtlety as compared to the images created by technologies like IBM Watson, self-driving vehicles from Uber, or AI-driven home assistants like Google Home. For retailers, AI is a foundational technology that will drive many aspects of business optimization, including intelligent decisioning to deliver 1:1 retail experiences at scale.

Whether it’s browsing products at home, shopping while mobile, calling customer service, browsing in a department, or picking up a product in store, personalized delivery of these experiences is a key to driving optimal results. For most retailers, the ability to attain truly omni-channel experiences relies on humans to coordinate, analyze and optimize multiple messages, across multiple platforms, via multiple delivery channels.

With masses of personal, transactional, and behavioral data at their fingertips as their customers sign in, make purchases, communicate or engage via multiple channels, the key struggle is being able to leverage this plethora of data to inform the decisions in real-time at scale across all channels. Marketers are relegated to running a few tests and making channel-specific guesses as to what will drive the most return. They are unable to go beyond offering simple product recommendations and cannot provide in-the-moment targeting and personalization. As a result, retailers are missing many opportunities that they don’t even know exist.

This is where core AI-powered technologies are taking center stage for retailers as they close the loop between insight and action. The technology is key to overcoming the traditional orchestration limitations many retailers face by delivering on shopper expectations through the following capabilities:

  • Orchestrate unified experiences across every system of engagement
  • Continuously optimize based on evolving customer preferences and conditions both short-term behavioral metrics and long-term customer lifetime value metrics
  • Adaptively experiment across multiple channels to deliver the best experience for each individual customer

Do Believe the Hype

In the past two years alone, we’ve seen the excitement and widespread media coverage of ground-breaking innovations and advancements, from Google’s GO champion AlphaGo to Amazon’s SageMaker. Tech giants like Uber, Netflix, Apple, Facebook and Tesla investing heavily in AI in 2018, and retailers are starting to take notice.

While retailers are certainly facing new challenges in the digital age, by this time next holiday season, we expect to see significant business results at major retailers who have chosen to leverage AI within their technology roadmap.

To learn more about evaluating AI marketing solutions for 2018, get a free copy of "How to Hire a Machine: The CMO's Guide to Artificial Intelligence Marketing."

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About Amplero

Headquartered in Seattle, Amplero is an Artificial Intelligence Marketing (AIM) company that enables business-to-consumer (B2C) marketers at global brands to optimize customer lifetime value at a scale not humanly possible.

Unlike traditional rules-based marketing automation systems, Amplero's Artificial Intelligence Marketing Platform leverages machine learning and multi-armed bandit experimentation to dynamically test thousands of permutations to adaptively optimize every customer interaction and maximize customer lifetime value and loyalty.

With Amplero, marketers in competitive, customer-obsessed industries like telecom, banking, gaming and consumer tech are currently seeing measurable lift across key performance indicators—including 1-3% incremental growth in customer topline revenue and 3-5x lift in retention rates.

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