How copilots help “people pilots” elevate store experiences

  • Posted on May 7, 2024
  • Estimated reading time 5 minutes

Retail customers don’t see channels. So, they don’t see why their experience should be any different in store compared to online. They expect a consistent, relevant, personalized interaction, where retailers know them as intimately inside the store, as they do online.

Generative AI and intelligent Copilot assistants give retailers a huge opportunity to transform the store experience. Fast-evolving AI platforms can reinvigorate in-store interactions, while through the power of data, retailers can sagely suggest, guide and assist customers.

But where does all this AI assistance leave the human workforce? According to our research, 50% of retail leaders believe that AI will lead to an increase in the number of human roles by the end of 2024. And in terms of the impact, 84% of retail respondents believe AI will increase efficiency, while 74% believe it will reduce frustration.

The concept of human store associates augmented and complemented by Copilots is an attractive one for many retailers.

From a pragmatic standpoint, by automating repetitive daily processes, generative AI assistants free up frontline store associates to focus on more urgent operational tasks, as well as unlocking capacity for reactive shopfloor customer requests.

And at the more visionary end of the spectrum, Copilots can intelligently surface contextual information for store associates, giving rise to a more proactive form of “good friction” – AI interventions that ignite the most compelling, personalized in-store experiences and moments that matter. Because the store associate – the human being in the store – is still ultimately the “people pilot”.

Below, we’ve explored three in-store experience benefits that Copilots can deliver, by elevating the potential of in-store employees.

  1. Contextual clienteling

    While today’s customers remain cost conscious, they still place significant value on their shopping experience. The premise of the intelligent or AI store is that it enables retailers to introduce more convenient customer experiences across channels, while automating insight generation. As we’ve talked about above, proactive retailers know when to infuse good friction into the customer journey. But doing so requires the ability to nudge frontline workers in the right moment of truth to enable them to take contextually relevant actions.

    Copilots can support more intelligent and contextual clienteling on the shop floor by enabling natural language interaction with data. Store associates can ask for recommendations based on a customer’s exact need, ask about product features to understand whether a specific item is suitable, or find out about stock availability.

    By drawing in real-time customer data, in-store interactions could be further augmented with individualized advice and recommendations, informed by insights around previous purchases and shopping preferences. This can all be done in a conversational exchange, that's quick and easy for store associates serving customers in store.

  2. Ditching the dull, dirty & dangerous

    Automation is often used as shorthand for workflow efficiency. But from an in-store perspective, this means much more than speeding up processes. It means removing dull, dirty and dangerous tasks from store associates, so they can spend more time with customers. Most retailers are already as lean as they can be – so this isn’t a case of Copilots replacing humans. It's about enabling store associates to focus on the things that create a better shopping experience.

    For instance, AI can scan the entire aisle for gaps and misplaced products and prompt a Copilot to send an automated nudge to employees in the vicinity, who have capacity to address on-shelf availability. AI can also alert employees to spilled, broken or leaking products and other hazards in the store, so that these issues can be addressed before they present danger to customers or associates. Copilot-powered applications can also support product wayfinding, driven by voice interaction and location-aware tech that helps customers find the location of specific products or departments.

    These data-driven principles can be harnessed to improve both operational efficiency and employee experiences. This creates a winning combination of satisfied shoppers whose expectations have been exceeded and an employee who’s more engaged with customers, as they were afforded time and trust to drive a meaningful interaction.

  3. Powering prescient predictions

    The ability to accurately anticipate what’s next is a key competitive differentiator in retail. Retailers are continually searching for ways to achieve greater demand forecasting accuracy, to provide increased fulfilment flexibility or to minimize returns. Yet the true power of forecasting reaches further – into the identification of emerging trends, shopping preferences and new or emerging patterns in consumer behavior. These are all insights that enable retailers to adapt and evolve at speed, keeping pace with shifting customer expectations.

    But these intelligent forecasting capabilities largely depend on one thing: robust data. Gathering that data can be difficult. Hence, we are currently witnessing an explosion of customer loyalty applications and schemes as retailers seek to learn ever more about their customers.

    In store, Copilots can help to harvest customer insights live from the shop floor. Through automated voice capture and natural language processing, store associates can take advantage of intelligent capabilities to simplify and speed up the process of inputting customer insights – giving retailers a powerful source of data, that can be leveraged across every channel.

Human + AI harmony
Copilots and Generative AI gives us the power to do better and be better. Inside the retail store, Copilots help associates focus on what matters most – meeting customers at the right time, at the right point of need, with the right proposition, in the right context. But while Copilots represents a huge technology opportunity, it’s impossible to avoid the human dimension to all this.

While interactions and journeys often start and end on a device, the entity operating those devices (either as a customer or an employee) is a human being. Retailers must adopt a human-centered AI to help realize the full spectrum of potential benefits.

For more on how we can help you get started with human-centric approach to generative AI, take a look at our Generative AI Strategy and Assessment offer and the 2-hour or a 2-day sessions. These sessions showcase how we can help you fast-track your AI journey so that you can start building business value today.

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