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We would be downplaying the situation if we said that the past two years have been turbulent for the retail industry

Consumers have flocked online to shop as the measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic were enacted, leaving retailers scrambling to keep up with customers’ evolving needs. Digital-first trends such as curbside pickup and appointment shopping, as well as burgeoning showroom concepts, have transformed the retail experience, paving the way for more innovation that’s moving at unchartered speeds.

But one of the biggest waves of innovation across the retail landscape has happened in the area of AI-powered solutions. Since the pandemic hit, AI application has literally exploded, empowering organizations to make smarter decisions, enhance the customer experience, solve complex problems, and manage risk better.

This year, we expect that AI will continue to gain popularity among retailers and open up a world of possibilities for brands prepared to embrace change. Although AI is transforming every area of commerce, we’ve identified the top five AI-powered trends that will shape the way retailers drive business in 2022:

Tighter inventory control

When retailers implement effective supply chain management practices, they deliver quality products, control inventory levels, curb excess costs and save time. They also eliminate leftovers and don’t run out of stock, which can have detrimental effects on the bottom line and erode customer trust.

Luckily, a growing palette of AI tools is helping retailers calculate the demand for their products and forecast future shopping patterns with greater accuracy. Using the history of sales, weather, promotions and location, retailers are able to prevent overstocking and learn when to replenish their inventory for a better supply-demand balance.

Visual search

Searching for products using images captured by a mobile device is a powerful way to take the customer experience to a new level. Visual search enables customers to quickly obtain contextual information about the product they need while delighting them with a seamless process across the initial points of their journey – awareness, expressing interest and conducting research.

In 2022 we expect more retailers to harness AI technologies to power their visual search engine to help people find the product they’re seeking faster and make suggestions based on existing purchases.

Conversational AI

Customers no longer want old-school chatbots with pre-written content whose program doesn’t allow them to diverge from cookie-cutter responses. They want real conversations with service representatives who understand their queries, provide intelligent answers and have the autonomy to solve their problems.

Conversational AI empowers retailers to engage with their customers without hiring an army of agents. It’s based on Natural Language Processing (NLP) that enables machines to understand the way humans use language, including contextual layers, slang, misspellings, and abbreviations. They also make it possible for the machines to extract valuable insights from conversations with customers. 

In addition to NLP, AI employs machine learning principles. As a result, the application is able to learn from interactions with customers and conduct an intelligent analysis that guides future conversations for better content quality. Finally, integrating automated online assistants will help organizations understand their target market in real-time and how well they meet their consumers’ needs. 

Gartner estimates that in 2022, 70 percent of white-collar workers will interact with conversational platforms on a daily basis, while the global conversational AI market size is expected to grow to $18.4 billion by 2026 from $6.8 billion in 2021, according to MarketsAndMarkets.

Price optimization

Price adjustment is a necessary component of every retailer’s business strategy – it can boost demand and increase profit margins. Only a slight change in pricing can have huge effects on customer retention and acquisition, which is why retailers are constantly reevaluating the efficacy of their pricing models.

The good news is that AI-powered solutions take the guesswork out of determining whether a product should be sold at a higher or a lower pricing point. They optimize pricing based on demand, seasonal trends, competition, and various other factors, helping spur growth and strengthen customer loyalty.

AI-powered product search

One of the most important drivers of online retail is convenience, and if shoppers can’t find what they want quickly, they’ll click on a competitor’s site to continue their search. This is why optimizing product search based on AI will be a must for retail eCommerce companies seeking to boost conversation rates.

With AI-powered product search, retailers can collect richer insights about their customers’ preferences by mining past behaviour to deliver precise search results much quicker. This allows brands to identify opportunities and display similar products for their visitors in order to enhance the customer journey, solidify relationships and build loyalty.

Conclusion

The pandemic has compelled retailers worldwide to reevaluate how they do business to monetize this moment of disruption. As retail brands continue to experiment with various tactics, we anticipate that 2022 will usher in groundbreaking developments across a number of AI trends that are based on an entirely different way of data processing.

With innovation accelerating at previously unknown speeds, retailers have much to look forward to in the space of product merchandising. By dialling up on these AI trends, organizations will be empowered to beat the competition, accelerate growth, and drive customer growth like never before.

EAIGLE is a leader in delivering AI-enabled tools that help retailers obtain data on inventory levels, supply chain movement and consumer demand to measure performance, improve sales and drive loyalty. Visit eaigle.com to learn more.

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