Retailers are increasingly leveraging artificial intelligence technology, and 87 out of 100 retailers using AI are doing so to increase customer engagement, according to a study from customer care automation platform company Linc and branding firm BrandGarage.
The study indicated that a vast majority of those surveyed plan to embrace AI specifically in the next 24 months, and will be on the hunt for AI-powered solutions that improve customer service.
Additionally, the study stated that 34% of those surveyed have begun experimenting with customer-facing AI trials or pilots, though it also noted that only 7.7% of retailers have rolled out AI as a regular part of customer service to-date.
On the surface, there is nothing too surprising about these survey results, though hearing about 87% of a group of retailers all whistling the same tune about anything is enough to make one sit up and take notice. AI has slowly been creeping into retail operations, both in customer-facing and back office applications, and this survey suggests that any organizations who weren't on board with that notion before are embracing the technology.
This survey paints a rosier picture than a Boston Retail Partners survey released about a month ago, which suggested 45% of retailers were planning to use AI within the next three years in customer experience capacities. This one suggests more urgency, though it also notes that the percentage of retailers surveyed that are experimenting with AI, as well as the percentage that have actually rolled it out, are still fairly low.
Other results from this survey: 44% of respondents said they wanted to use AI in the context of a conversational commerce offering in the mode of Amazon's Alexa. Again, that's not surprising, given the massive success Amazon has had with Alexa-powered devices. We are starting to see plans for more Alexa copycat offerings, and the strong response is further indication of how ready retailers are to buy into the concept of a sales driven by voice search and voice-activated devices.
The Linc study said retailers’ use of AI will extend beyond routine customer service requests. Though 68% of retailers plan to use AI to route customer service requests, about 52% said they plan to use AI to help track packages. About 43.5% will use AI for product suggestions, and 42% want AI to handle returns and exchanges in the next two years. The role of AI will not be limited to post-sale service, either, as some 39% of respondents plan to use AI to answer pre-purchase questions, and 38% said it will play into marketing functions.
The bottom line: AI could be almost everywhere in retail very soon.