At the StoreAI launch in May, our CEO Andreas Hassellöf talked with Microsoft’s ShiSh Shridar about what retailers are looking for out of AI. One of the key topics they brought up was that AI can be a huge productivity tool for front-line employees.
A centralized knowledge portal
ShiSh gave the example of using OpenAI as a front end to multiple different applications. It can pull data from numerous sources, collate it, and present it in a single, unified format. In other words, instead of having to look things up in several different apps or portals, the employee can ask questions in one single place and get consistent, up to date answers.
For example, product information and specifications, pricing and discounts, inventory and availability, delivery options, and purchase can all be handled as a series of simple questions. Because it’s all conversational, employees don’t need to spend time learning the intricacies and quirks of each individual system – they can just talk to the system exactly as if they were dealing with a person. This means that when they’re dealing with a customer, store associates can have everything they need at their fingertips, whether they’re at a service desk or on their mobile.
But that’s just the start of what AI can do. For example, it can reduce their workload in all sorts of ways – not just by automating routine tasks but by streamlining the entire customer journey.
Earlier in the presentation, we showed Volumental’s FitTech footwear solution and how it integrates with Grid. One of the most frustrating things about buying shoes is that even though I know my shoe size, most shoes aren’t comfortable. That’s because most places only measure the length and width of my feet. They don’t take into account the actual shape of my feet. As a result, I have to keep trying numerous pairs of shoes until I find something that actually fits. This is a huge waste of the employee’s time, constantly going and fetching more shoes for me to try on, and then having to put them all away afterwards.
FitTech takes a different approach: it creates a 3D scan of my feet, and then compares that to its extensive database of footwear and the retailer’s inventory. It can then recommend shoes that will actually fit well in a range of different styles and which are in stock. I can then select the items I want to try. This sends a notification to the staff, who can bring me the shoes I’m interested in. I can be confident they’ll fit – all I need to decide is whether I like them and want to buy them! This cuts down on a lot of unnecessary work for the staff and makes the whole experience a lot more enjoyable for me.
And of course, AI is also an amazing tool for enabling store associates to offer personalized service. As well as pulling up product information, they can access detailed customer histories – what they’ve bought in the past, what they’ve browsed for, loyalty memberships, previous queries, and so on. AI can enable store associates to make relevant product recommendations, suggest available discounts and promotions, and so on.
This allows large retailers to offer a level of service that’s normally only found in small local stores or online. For example, once you know my taste in furnishing and home decor, you’ll be able to offer me products that will fit with what I already have. If you know I like minimalist, modern styling, don’t bother trying to entice me with fake antique armchairs, prints of Old Masters, or retro lighting. This makes it much easier for your employees to engage with customers and provide a truly helpful and efficient service.
The AI-empowered associate
Customers want store staff to be knowledgeable, attentive, efficient, and able to address a wide range of issues. AI makes this much easier by addressing all these requirements. Giving staff detailed information on demand increases their knowledgeability and adaptability. Handling routine tasks and streamlining workflows frees them up to be more attentive and efficient.
Including employee-focused AI in your store digitalization program will be a game-changer. It has the power to transform the customer experience and make life much easier and more enjoyable for staff. That leads to reduced turnover, increased revenues, and greater productivity.