3 Years Out: That's When Shoppers Can Expect To See Great, AI-Driven Service

Retailers are embracing a new model, using AI, breaking down internal channel silos and fielding single-order management systems to deliver a superior customer experience.

At least that’s the dream. In reality, almost half are plagued by budget constraints and/or disparate systems, according to the 2018 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey by BRP. 

And this is apparently having an impact. For instance, 48% plan to deploy AI to fuel their customer service within three years, but only 7% are doing so now.

In addition, 31% plan to use augmented reality within three years, and 21% virtual reality — again, within three years.

And email? The study shows that 81% are using personal email as a means of customer interaction with the brand. But only 36% say it is working well, and 45% feel they need improvement.

Social media is utilized by 94%, with 36% saying it works well and 48% saying they need improvement. And 81% are using call centers, with 36% saying they need improvement.



The study notes that email and text messaging have “grown exponentially over the past few years.”

It adds that “as the majority of consumers have mobile phones where they can easily and quickly check email and texts, this is definitely an area of opportunity.”

Speaking of mobile, 93% are planning to have a mobile/tablet app for associates within three years, up from 81% in the 2017 survey. 

Another opportunity is in the scrapping of paper. Of the retailers polled, 17% are offering the option to email customer receipts as an incentive to encourage identification.

Of course, email ranks far below more personalized service as an incentive — 37% are offering the latter.  In addition, 30% are promoting product incentives, 27% are promoting specialized offers and 27% are promoting product information. And 37% have no incentives at all.

Many retailers are also improving their cross-channel capabilities. For instance, 66% have implemented consistent product assortment across channels, but 38% say they need improvement. And 65% are offering consistent pricing/promotion across channels, with 34% saying it’s not totally successful.

But only 7% offered shared cart across channels service, and all of them see room for improvement. Another 52% plan to try it within three years. One more area needing upgrading is returns visible and accepted across channels — 41% plan to implement it, but have not yet.

What are their customer experience priorities? They are:

  • Increase customer loyalty — 53%
  • Optimize the customer experience — 42%
  • Create a seamless experience across channels — 36%
  • Provide personalized promotions, recommendations and/or offerings — 36%
  • Enhance personalized services/sales assistance — 28%
  • Improve mobile shopping experience — 19%
  • Empower associates mobile tools — 19%

Their biggest challenges in achieving unified commerce?

  • Budgetary constraints — 47%
  • Disparate system — 47%
  • IT/business resource constraints — 47%
  • Other priorities taking precedence — 47%
  • Organization challenges (siloed organizations) — 42%
  • Business model does not allow all products available in all channels — 22%
  • Process challenges — 19%
  • Lack of executive support — 19%
  • Lack of mature software in the marketplace — 8%

BRP surveyed over 500 North American retailers. 

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