AI in Retail

Vue at eTail Europe: What We Saw, What We Heard, and What We Learned!6 min read

June 30, 2017   |   5 min read

Vue at eTail Europe: What We Saw, What We Heard, and What We Learned!6 min read

Reading Time: 5 minutesEtail Europe

Last week, we had the pleasure of attending eTail Europe –a three-day retail event. The attendees and speakers represented an amazing mixture of Europe’s largest established retailers, innovative startups and ecommerce disruptors.

Reflecting on the three-day flurry of keynotes and sales meetings, with a variety of retailers from all over the world – here are five interesting takeaways. 

Data + Retail = BFFs!

Various speakers talked about the need to leverage relevant data, given the competitive landscape of today’s retail ecosystem. To ensure that the right data is being collected, make sure to start your data capture initiative with asking intelligent and pertinent questions like –  

What is most important to your customer? What data would allow you to better serve the customer in the area that adds most value? Where are customers unhappy with your service?

Diana Smith, Head of Product Marketing at Segment pointed out that data is the first step in providing good experiences and highlighted Bonobos, as a company that is doing a great job of leveraging data to provide great experiences. Going forward, retailers’ competitive advantage will be centered around how quickly they can gather relevant customer data to better understand individual shopping journeys and patterns to provide exceptional experiences.

A/B tests are drivers for strategic optimization

Charlotte Briscall, Head of Digital Experience at Sainsbury’s talked about gathering data from different sources like surveys and using analytical tools to derive actionable insights. In one initiative at Sainsbury’s, they noticed that people were dropping off on the checkout page. They hypothesized that it was because customers had trouble adding their addresses and in order to test this hunch, they redesigned their checkout page. They soon determined that it was, in fact, the address field that was causing the drop-off and noticed a significant decrease in their checkout page bounce rate after they updated the page format.

On a similar note,  Mirko Caspar, Managing Director at Mister Spex pointed out that it is crucial for A/B tests to always test a hypothesis in order to draw meaningful conclusions for any retail business. With a considered strategy and clearly defined priorities, data leveraged successfully can help identify problems and opportunities, come up with intelligent solutions and ultimately create unique customer experiences.

Device and channel first are passé, try “Customer First”

In her talk about the Next Steps in the Digital Experience, Charlotte Briscall maintained that the way to stand out in the increasingly competitive market is to provide great, story- worthy customer experiences. If the experience is seamless, retailers will be rewarded with more sales and an increase in customer loyalty. Therefore, it is crucial for each initiative to be customer centric, which will not only improve customer loyalty but also add to the Customer Lifetime Value (CLTV).  

Mirko Caspar, discussed the need to do usability tests, by way of continuously going through the process that your customer goes through. If you encounter pain points, your customer will too. We heard from a couple of retailers who were changing their existing cumbersome process to a simple one-page checkout as a result of usability tests.

Another speaker gave an example of a recent instance when he made a large purchase on a denim site. What he expected was a special welcome, or at the very least to be recognized by the website on his return. What he got instead, was a pop-up that expected him to sign up with his email address.

These sort of disjointed experiences happen all too often today. Charlotte Briscall pointed out that, in order to thrive today, retailers can no longer think in terms of digital, online or offline in isolation, but must think in terms of providing a unified customer experience through relevant, frictionless and memorable retail experiences both online and in-store.

1:1 Personalization is the ultimate goal

Other companies discussed the importance of personalization and advanced analytics to greatly reduce acquisition costs. Product recommendations in general, are valued highly by the consumers of today. Customized shopping experiences will go a long way in amplifying customer satisfaction, boosting persuasiveness of your brand and enhancing conversions and overall revenue. Given that early adopters are already seeing substantial rewards, the talks concluded with the premise that 1:1 personalization must be the ultimate goal for retailers.

Optimove at eTail Europe
Live from eTail Europe 2017: Alon Tvina, Chief Commercial Officer of Optimove talks about the promise of AI for personalization in retail

While 1:1 personalization has indisputable longstanding positive outcomes, challenges in implementing an effective and optimized personalization engine due to the lack of necessary data and tools and technology to build such frameworks, still exist.  Despite the challenges, a majority of the retailers do intend to change their web optimization or personalization investment strategy in the near future as they are noticing the positive influences on sales and customer loyalty.  With advances in AI and technology, and by leveraging this tech to personalize at scale, it becomes faster for retailers to collect and process customer data and create effective activations.

SEE ALSO: The Promise of Personalization – The How and Why For Retail

Leverage the power of social media and capitalize on your omnichannel presence

We heard from Amy Jackson, the Digital Marketing Manager at Lipsy and Patrick Osborne, Head of Strategic Insight and Reporting at QVC about the effectiveness of Facebook look-alike ads in attracting new customers. A look-alike audience is a way to reach new people who are likely to be interested in your business because they’re similar to your best existing customers.

Customer Journey
Live from eTail Europe 2017: A panel on the role of social media in the customer journey

With so many channels and new ones constantly launching, it is difficult to know where to invest. A clear understanding of the target audience, a well thought-out strategy and an openness to experimentation is key to achieve consistent results and outreach. Both speakers expressed the need to choose channels based on the end goal. They concluded that Twitter was the least used channel and was reserved almost entirely for customer service queries and the occasional announcements that needed to be done in real-time. While Lipsy uses Instagram and Snapchat for retention and Facebook for acquisition, QVC is more focused on retention than acquisition. QVC’s presenters are also active bloggers, and this has lead to a lot of engagement. User generated content is really important for both Lipsy and QVC. For QVC specifically,  user reviews have proven to be very successful in adding an extra layer of credibility.

Also worth exploring is the huge revenue making opportunity in social media channels like Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter. With tools that allow retailers and brands to monetize all their images (including the ones in which shoppers are openly endorsing their favorite brands), it’s probably time retailers and brands take social media and their images more seriously!  

SEE ALSO: Monetize Your Visual Content with Shop the look

Long story short, success will follow those who:

  1. Drive strategy around adding the most value to customers
  2. Spend time on critical thinking and strategize carefully before execution
  3. Start data collection initiatives by asking intelligent questions, with clear objectives before collecting relevant data (through surveys, analytics, usability tests, etc)
  4. Invest time and resources in analyzing the available data to gather meaningful actionable insights
  5. Carefully evaluate AI/technology vendors with a thorough due diligence (on background, other companies they engage with, the integration process etc) and match it with the service that they will be providing your business. Most importantly, make sure you feel a sense of trust  with your engagement and stay open to experimentation

ABOUT THE AUTHOR engineers bespoke AI transformation roadmaps for enterprises across industries. Retailers to resellers, auto-extracting data from files to extrapolating fashion styles, 150+ conglomerates in five continents recruit How can we help yours?