Did you know revenue from AI assistant chats is set to hit $112 billion in 2023?

Using an AI assistant to increase rocketing retail revenues

In just four years, retail sales from AI-assisted interactions have gone from $7.3 billion in 2019 to a predicted $112 billion for 2023, reports Juniper Research. That’s an “annual growth rate of 98%.”

In 2021, PWC reported 86% of business leaders said companies had “accelerated their AI adoption plans because of the Covid crisis” and AI was becoming a “mainstream technology.” By 2022, they said it was becoming “the rule, not the exception” to find success with AI.

Now, if you’re not already using AI assistants, you might “face strong challenges from more technologically-adept disruptors,” but the good news is, it’s not only easy to get started, you can scale fast too.

First, let’s look at all the reasons retailers are so intent on having an AI assistant.

Retailers globally can save $439 million a year using AI

Nick Maynard, author of the Juniper Research report and their Head of Research, says embracing automation means “retailers can act in a more flexible and efficient way.” AI assistants, he confirms, are “no longer a luxury, they are essential”.

In 2019, retailers were saving “just $7 million,” his research shows. By 2023, using AI assistants for customer service could mean savings of “$439 million globally.”

“These potential savings will act as a key ‘pull’ factor, given the margin pressure that many retailers are presently feeling,” says Nick. And it’s not just about money.

Customers can shop in the moment and agents enjoy their work

Retailers are starting to see that using an AI assistant for customer service (instead of encouraging more phone calls) is effective for getting customer queries resolved quickly. Responses from the AI assistant are instant and it works 24-hours a day. It’s never off sick, doesn’t need annual leave, and only ever has to learn information once to know it forever.

While the AI assistant powers through all the enquiry paths you can automate, customer service teams are left with the most rewarding and challenging work that needs the human touch. Features like live chat seamlessly link the two together, passing anyone in the automated chat over to a member of the customer support staff if they need them.

This partnership is fundamental to making sure every customer is served in the best, most appropriate way. And to keep technology from getting in the way of a) a positive experience for shoppers and b) employee job satisfaction when offering customers support.

Here are just some of the benefits of using an AI assistant for retail.

Customers don’t have to search for information ― ever 

Trying to showcase huge numbers of products and product variations on one website is hard enough. Add information about delivery options, returns, accounts, sales, sustainability or charitable causes, and a website quickly becomes frustrating to try and browse.

Instead of customers having to navigate through menus and scour pages to find answers to their questions, an AI assistant can go find that information for them and share it instantly on any channel, including your website, a mobile app, social messaging platforms, SMS, smart speakers or even in-store at a kiosk or on a device.

One AI assistant can live in all these places at the same time, to send one consistent message.

Shoppers can get to know one AI assistant rather than use multiple apps

Mobile apps are designed to be a nifty, convenient way to interact with customers. The problem nowadays is there’s an app for everything and there’s only so much space on a smartphone home screen.

TechTarget recently published an article saying the use of micro apps, which are used to hone in on one task, has become a good workaround for this problem and a “simple way to add sophisticated features.” People no longer have to find an app, take time to download it (hopefully quickly and without fail), and then set it up ready to use it. They can use a micro app that doesn’t need downloading or setting up. It lets them carry out a task there and then on their phone.

But the author notes micro apps “have their weaknesses” too. “The downside is their focus and embedded nature, which doesn’t do much for customer retention, since they are not specific destinations that customers are likely to continue accessing purposefully. Micro apps are best used in limited capacities, such as one-off marketing campaigns.”

Apple’s App Clips are similarly designed to “help people focus on finishing one task quickly,” and they do. Instead of launching an app, people can use their iPhone to get straight to the one thing they need to do right now using just a URL.

In much the same way, AI assistants on any device can use URLs to generate QR codes, which get shoppers straight to the content that matters to them there and then. Most importantly, at the exact moment they might decide to visit a store on or offline to make (or not make) a purchase. Scan a QR code and an advanced AI assistant can show you content instantly, wherever you are, that:

• Reveals a discount code or offer
• Shows a video about a product
• Shows a store location on a map
• Guides you through a cashless payment
• Arranges delivery of an item

AI assistants are the bridge between real-world physical equipment and instant digital services

Right now, retail is still a hybrid of high street shopping and online purchasing.

The Office for National Statistics says, “In May 2022, seasonally adjusted internet sales accounted for 26.6% of all official retail sales,“ compared with almost 7% less in February 2020. “Although online shopping has been a growing behaviour over several years, the pandemic appears to have accelerated the trend,” it says. “In recent months, we have started shifting back towards shopping in-store, although spending online remains high.”

This hybrid, yo-yo existence might be a lot for retailers to contend with, but an AI assistant means retailers can keep their in-store promotions active and link up with everything else that forms part of a visit to a bricks-and-mortar store too. Like using a QR code at parking meters outside, so there’s no faff for customers to pay or having to touch a germ-ridden display to do it. With “potentially dangerous bacteria” being found on touch screens in grocery stores and pretty much everywhere else they exist, an AI assistant can help provide a defence against real-world problems. Customers can easily sort out car parking from their own phone to make sure the visit is pleasurable, not a pain.

Get to know your customers and the products or services they need

As well as making shopping easier and more enjoyable, AI assistants help to form strong bonds with customers. With all the information they need from you at their fingertips and instant answers to any sales queries available 24/7, people are more likely to stay loyal to your brand. And the more people return to your store, the more you get to know what they like, and you can use your AI assistant to upsell or cross-sell, to keep on giving them an exceptional retail experience. With you, not your competitor.

AI assistant helping customer

Creating an AI assistant isn’t expensive or time-consuming and you don’t even need technical expertise to do it

An AI assistant acts as a UI/UX glue for retailers that can hold together in one place everything you need to engage with customers, effortlessly. Drawing from new or legacy systems into one central AI-driven platform.

You can launch an AI assistant with as few as ten key questions for it to answer for you, instantly and 24-hours a day, to take the pressure off your teams. Questions like:

• Can I see your latest offers?
• Where’s my order?
• How do I change my delivery address?
• There’s a problem with my delivery
• How do I become a member?
• What time does my local store open?
• Do you deliver to my address?
• I need to update my details
• I need to change my payment details
• Do you have this available in your store?

From there, your AI assistant learns about your unique take on retail. Whether you’re a well-known brand, a start-up, or a temporary pop-up shop ― retailers are using AI assistants in all sorts of different ways.

How will you use yours?

Over time, your AI assistant becomes your best salesperson

An AI assistant soon gets to know the products you sell, the services you offer, your brand message and how you want your customers to be treated. Use your AI assistant to cover every enquiry, from who you are to what you sell, where you are, and when you’re open. The result is lower call volumes, less stress for your teams, happier customers, cost savings and increased revenue.

Bag your share of the $439 million savings destined for retailers this year.