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PREDICTIONS 2021 How retailers are using new technology

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We’re running a series of predictions for the ecommerce and multichannel retail industry in 2021 and beyond. Today we’re focusing on technology in the retail sector and how it might be used in the future. 



AI will help retailers make smart decisions in the face of unpredictability

“A lack of automation has slowed retailers down during the pandemic, with nearly 80% having to increase manual intervention in response to fluctuating demand and supply. In 2021, retailers will need to adopt AI to help keep up with these unpredictable swings in demand. Understanding the on-going changes in consumer behaviour or how daily life changes as a vaccine rolls out, retailers will need supply chains flexible enough to keep up. 

“AI can be used for smart decisions on everything from sourcing items at short notice to figuring out new logistical plans. However, they must think strategically when investing in AI. Thinking carefully about exactly where they want to make changes and ensure it helps meet business goals, rather than just serving a limited purpose.”

Wayne Snyder, VP Retail Industry Strategy, Blue Yonder



Retailers will ramp up AI adoption to drive deeper personalisation

Since the beginning of the pandemic, many retailers have ramped up their e-commerce capabilities in an effort to drive customer engagement and ensure business continuity. Our recent research indicates that they have been successful in achieving this, with retail coming on top for the best customer service for 50% of Brits, followed by healthcare and hospitality.

The data suggest that consumers’ adoption of digital CX tools will continue to increase next year, with nearly half of UK consumers expecting to use more chatbots (42%), virtual agents (43%) and self-service CX technologies (44%).

In response to this trend retailers will continue to strengthen their digital offerings, so we’ll see a stronger focus on personalisation. This will drive faster adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) and predictive analytics, with businesses looking to bundle AI-powered chatbots and agent-assist technologies with contact centre platforms to create more personalised and seamless online experiences. As AI becomes more widely used, virtual assistant apps will become easier to train and deploy, enabling smaller retailers to compete more successfully with larger brands when it comes to customer experience.

These technologies will be key for providing a seamless omnichannel customer experience and for meeting the needs of today’s consumers who expect quick and easy access to information at any time and on any device. 

Richard Roberts, VP UK & I and Northern Europe, Mitel


Brands in e-commerce will lean more on AI-powered product recommendations solutions to generate revenue and online sales

One way in which brands can create real-time relevancy is through better enabling product discovery with product recommendations. With so many channels and so much information being pushed to consumers, the ability to help them find and discover the items of most interest to them has become paramount. Product recommendations are ubiquitous across ecommerce and typically account for 2-3% of revenues from ecommerce.

However, traditional recommendations powered by collaborative filtering don’t really provide the most relevant product selection to the customer as they’re anchored on a product-to-product relationship. Solutions such as Google Product Recs-powered deep learning adapt to real time in-session behavior of the customer, anchored on the individual’s shopping journey, and use key context (such as time spent on a product, the order in which products are browsed, etc.) to adjust to changes in signals of buying intent. We predict companies to look more closely at personalized product recommendations to deliver more value to customers and in turn, drive significantly more revenue for the business compared to traditional recommendations.

Tracey Ryan O’Connor, VP of North America, Qubit

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