Artificial intelligence and automation has everyone scared for their jobs these days — especially in retail. It’s being used to predict demand, reduce inventory and automate decision making. Walmart is deploying robots to analyze shelving inventory and look for missing labels or prices. Kroger is implementing smart shelves that automatically update pricing. Amazon recently launched cashierless checkout with Amazon Go and is planning on opening more stores this year. And Walmart has even patented the ability to put a storefront directly in your home, bringing people-free retail into your living room.
What does this mean for customer service and the future of the in-store experience? Are we headed for a robot-automated and impersonal shopping experience or an experiential one with a more personalized human touch? The answer is yes to both.
Luxury retailers like Saks Fifth Avenue, single brand retailers like Apple, Zara, Nike and specialty stores like Best Buy and Verizon Wireless are busy converting their stores into experiential discovery centers that define themselves on the ability to engage consumers and provide a next-level of customer experience.
To do that, retailers like Saks Fifth Avenue are empowering their sales associates with tablets and mobile tools that allow them to pull in the customer profile for purchase history and recommendations, access inventory both in-store and online, pull in digital media and even contact the customer directly for post-purchase marketing, thus deepening the sales associate relationship as a key differentiator to online purchasing.