Online shoppers face a significant experience gap without the guidance helpful in-store salespeople can provide. As a result, finding the perfect online purchase can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack – even when you have a general sense of what you're looking for. Homepages are congested, product pages have exponentially increased, and search engines fill their results with paid placements. In addition, while there are more online reviews than ever, it's increasingly difficult to know which ones you can trust.
Imagine a customer who is shopping for a new addition to their wardrobe. While most shoppers have a category in mind, like a sharp suit or a new winter coat, they tend to be undecided about the details, like color, style, fabric, or cut. Even after identifying the perfect item, finding the right size can be difficult, especially when the item is from an unfamiliar brand. And when customers are looking for gifts, these challenges feel even more significant.
Online shopping challenges
A standard search, whether on a search engine or your retail site, struggles to address customer needs, presenting an overwhelming number of not-quite-right options. As a result:
of shoppers abandon carts because they are not ready to buy
more online purchase returns when compared to in-store
of consumers got irrelevant search results in the last 6 months alone
Smart retailers are beginning to harness the power of AI to fill this gap, increasing customer satisfaction and retail revenue at the same time. Imagine how a more curated, personalized experience could help customers gain confidence, moving them from consideration to purchase higher rates and faster speeds.
If your online retail experience could capture even 1-2% of missed opportunities and turn them into sales, what could that mean for your top-line revenue growth?
Using Gen AI to Synthesize Context for Online Shoppers
While there are plenty of promising AI use cases, finding focused opportunities to improve existing experiences and exceed the goals you're already working toward can be challenging. Leveraging AI to build a virtual shopping assistant could help retailers of all sizes deliver tangible results quickly.
In limited-scope testing, comparing current search results (Google, Bing, retailer eCommerce search, etc.) to responses that leverage generative AI capabilities, AI offers retailers a clear opportunity to bridge the online and in-store experience gap.
Generative AI's capabilities invite customers to share additional context, resulting in specific, recommendation-based results that can be tuned as needed. The driving force behind the tool is to narrow the divide between in-store and digital shopping experiences. In a physical store, assistants translate vague notions into more specific options and recommendations. AI offers an opportunity to deliver a digitally equivalent experience.
Bridging the Experience Gap with Virtual Sales Assistants
Imagine a system that prompts customers to identify the context that brought them to your site (e.g., dinner party outfit, gift for a friend, etc.), considers past purchases, leverages data from loyalty programs and past website visits, and gathers custom details depending on context.
For example, if the customer wants to purchase clothing, the assistant can prompt them to share sizes in familiar brands, body type details, and fit preferences. An assistant could ask about the recipients' relationship to the giver, interests, and personality to help guide gift purchases. This data can serve as a compass, expertly honing preferences and guiding customers toward ideal, recommended options.
AI can create and share virtual wardrobes, drive style personality assessments, highlight eco-friendly and sustainable options, share personalized gift-giving ideas, offer social community tips, and make recommendations at the intersection of a consumer's moods and industry trends. All in a single user interface.
While we’ve featured apparel-focused examples, AI-powered virtual shopping assistants would be useful in nearly any retail segment, from outdoor gear to electronics to travel experiences. And guided online shopping experiences could be especially helpful with complex, high-cost purchases like cars.
AI-powered virtual assistants allow retailers to elevate the shopping journey, delivering a new level of personalization and convenience. By integrating AI-driven solutions, retailers can establish themselves as pioneers, driving increased brand loyalty and setting industry standards. This additional customer support would likely increase cart size and conversion to sale while reducing cart abandonment, returns, and exchanges.
Get Started to Earn Competitive Advantage
The time to grab this opportunity is now. Major retailers have recently released new tools that will redefine the online customer experience.
- Amazon recently announced Rufus, an AI-powered, conversational shopping assistant designed to guide shoppers based on their needs, helping them compare products, discover new ideas, and consider contextual recommendations.
- Etsy will kick off a Super Bowl advertising campaign to promote its newly released Gift Mode service. Gift Mode helps remove friction and indecision for customers who are shopping for gifts. Shoppers can share details about the recipient, including their relationship, the occasion, and their interests and get ideal gift recommendations in return.
- Sephora, a leading cosmetics and beauty retailer, employs AI-powered chatbots and virtual try-on tools to assist customers in finding the right products and shades based on their preferences.
- The Nike app uses AI and augmented reality technologies to power virtual try-on experiences for shoes and apparel.
New technologies are often met with fear and uncertainty, but recent moves by major retailers show that any remaining uncertainty about Gen AI is fading fast. Embracing AI as a cornerstone of the shopping journey will soon become an industry imperative. By revolutionizing how customers interact with brands, retailers can unlock untapped opportunities, increase conversion, cart size, and repeat purchases, redefine industry norms, and forge lasting customer connections.
Find Your Path Forward
Interested in exploring AI's potential at your organization? Our experts can partner with your team on an agile approach to innovation, helping you explore solutions and build rapid prototypes in a low-risk, high-output 2-week design sprint. This is the ideal approach to Gen AI, ensuring you'll gain momentum, target opportunities, deliver value, and identify your best approach to delivering AI-assisted retail applications.
Contact us to learn more.