For technology-focused individuals in the world of retail there really is no escape from Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning. It is increasingly being applied to the likes of chatbots, which aim to imitate a human interaction with customers. This is pretty hot stuff right now.
The ability to use this clever technology to engage with customers, and over time increasingly deliver a more personalised interaction, is proving a very attractive proposition. Many retailers are experimenting with such solutions as they apply them to dealing with customer queries on their websites.
Despite the increasing capabilities of chatbots and other such solutions there is an acknowledgment within sections of the retail industry that in order to deliver a truly personal level of personalisation the human element is vitally important. Furniture retailer Made.com has been testing a solution that enables customers on its website to click on an icon in order to chat to a member of staff located in one of its showrooms.
Rebecca Ruddle, head of showrooms at Made.com, has stated that such conversational interactions with a person are much more effective than the robotic and factual engagements that are delivered by chatbots. Her view is that the human interaction is better at dealing with trickier questions, which ultimately determines whether a purchase is made. This is particularly relevant for products at higher price points such as furniture.
This has been recognised by the mighty Facebook with its Facebook M product that mixes AI (through chatbots) with the human touch, whereby a person steps into the conversation when the chatbot is unable to deal with the latest question.
However, there is a twist in this little tale because such is the power of these new technologies that the machine learning aspect of AI should enable chatbots to learn from the human interventions and thereby, over time, reduce the need for humans to be involved. Whatever the case, these are indeed exciting times ahead for the developing relationship between humans and robots.
Glynn Davis, editor of Retail Insider
K3 Retail deliver multi-channel solutions that enable retailers to create joined up shopping experiences for their customers whether they choose to buy on-line, direct, in-store or via mobile. It has over 20 years’ experience delivering award winning solutions, to more than 175 internationally recognised retail brands.