Most retailers see AI in their future
About 54% of retailers surveyed by SLI Systems stated that they already use or plan to add artificial intelligence technology in the future, with 20% them expecting to add AI within the next 12 months, according to SLI’s latest E-commerce Performance Indicators and Confidence Report.
Among those using or planning to use AI, the most popular applications include those that support personalized product recommendations (56%), apps to handle customer service requests (41%) and chatbots (35%).
Of companies planning to implement AI, about 13% aim to build their own tech, while about 60% will buy existing tech and 27% expect to blend "build and buy."
Among other findings in the report, 92% of retailers surveyed plan to growth in the third quarter. Nearly 90% expect their online revenues to increase in during the quarter, compared to the same period last year. Also, 80% expect revenue from mobile sites and apps to increase compared to the same quarter in 2016; and even 45% have happy hopes for brick-and-mortar retail, estimating a rise in Q3 in-store revenue and profits compared to the same quarter last year.
But as they grow, retailers have different plans when it comes to investing in AI technology. Most retailers using AI do so for product recommendations — an area many retailers have focused in on this year. In July, for example, West Elm tapped Pinterest to develop an AI-powered style finder. On the other hand, retailers don't seem to have found much of a use for AI when it comes to virtual reality, voice-activated apps or augmented reality.
Chatbots fall somewhere in the middle of retail AI uses: 9% already use AI for chatbots and 26% have plans to in the next year. Helpshift is one of the most recent examples of a company in the retail space using AI. The customer support platform provider on Thursday announced the release of Helpshift Web Chat, which uses AI to provide chat-based customer support on web and mobile sites.
Retailers already have demonstrated they are ready to embrace chatbots, and customers are coming around to them, too. But, the first-generation of these bots have been fairly limited in what they can do. More companies like Helpshift, mode.ai (which enabled Levi Strauss' chatbot) and others are starting to infuse chatbots with AI that helps them do more and process customer responses more quickly, leading to better interactions.