1. Technology & Innovation

Could AI Be Your Next Stylist? Consumers Are Ready

Keeping up with nanosecond social media trends is a never-ending challenge for retail brands and shoppers. In addition to responding to these fast-paced microtrends, merchandisers face increased pressure to incorporate cutting-edge personalization techniques that drive authentic shopping experiences and cultivate brand loyalty. So, what’s the answer to remaining innovative and on-trend in 2024? According to shoppers and retailers alike, the solution lies in a technology that’s on the tip of everyone’s tongues: artificial intelligence (AI).

Algolia’s recent survey of 1,000 U.S.-based adults indicates that 59 percent of consumers think online retailers’ broader adoption of AI will create better shopping experiences. In tandem, Algolia’s 2024 B2C Ecommerce Site Search Trends report finds that, in the next year, 52 percent of B2C retailers will implement AI tools to aid merchandising teams, and 46 percent anticipate an increase in AI-driven customer interactions. Together, these pro-AI consumers and businesses will revolutionize the retail landscape, catalyzing more immersive experiences, refined fashion, and unparalleled brand loyalty.

For the Overall Good of Experience

As mentioned, most consumers (59 percent) are confident that retailers’ adoption of AI will drive better shopping experiences. That number increases to 73 percent for millennials, a group that trended the most pro-AI throughout Algolia’s consumer survey. We’ve seen a shift in consumers’ sentiment toward AI after the advent of ChatGPT and a closer introduction to the benefits this technology can bring. Knowing this, retailers should feel confident in their investments in responsible AI — especially those brands embracing AI to bolster existing objectives like increasing search revenue and perfecting personalization.

For the Overall Good of Style

Ten years ago, people may have guffawed at the thought of a robot picking their outfit, but that’s not the case anymore. Thirty percent of consumers believe AI-trained shopping assistants can identify fashion trends better than they can, and 23 percent of consumers also believe AI-trained shopping assistants can help keep their wardrobe from becoming dated.

Shoppers are also tired of clicking through endless pages to find the dress they need for a wedding next month or spring break. Instead, over one-third of consumers want AI trained on their retail preferences and shopping activity to recommend wedding and vacation attire.

Trust in AI is improving as more consumers see the benefits the technology can bring in terms of personalization, understanding and vast knowledge. Twenty-five percent of consumers said they would trust AI trained on their retail purchases and preferences to pick an outfit for them more than their friends. This percentage goes up to 30 percent for Gen Z and 35 percent for millennials. These younger generations of shoppers see the promise this technology can bring, from highly tailored product recommendations to relevant deal promotions.

For the Overall Good of the Brand

Personalizing the online experience is an integral part of any e-commerce strategy for 70 percent of B2C retailers. Retailers offer personalized shopping profiles (56 percent) and product recommendations (46 percent), but more can be done. With the right strategy and offerings in place, AI-fueled personalization could be a critical sales driver.

Ironically, AI can make retail interactions more human by offering data-driven recommendations, and a lot of consumers say “sign me up.” In fact, 64 percent are interested in using AI personal shoppers trained using their previous searches from their favorite retailer — and that number increases to 77 percent for millennials. Retailers, especially brands that sell their own products, should be tapping into the valuable treasure trove of data they’ve accumulated from their loyal customers to fuel strong relationships.

If there’s only one takeaway from the research, it’s that consumers are ready and willing to use AI if offered by retailers. These results should come as good news for the many retailers investing time and resources into customer-facing AI solutions to improve experience and convert sales. Now, it’s a question of how to take AI use cases in retail even further to exceed customer expectations.

Piyush Patel is chief ecosystem officer at Algolia, a leader in globally scalable, secure, digital search and discovery experiences that are ultrafast and reliable.

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