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AI, humanity and the shopping tango – ET BrandEquity

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AI is transforming the shopping landscape into a theatre of personalization, convenience, and innovation. There is a lot of discussion about how AI can streamline retail and make the process more efficient. But, AI can do far more. It can turn every click into an adventure, every walk down the shopping aisle an experience to savour. As we dive into the shopping bag, let’s explore how AI can make our shopping escapades more delightful than ever.

One Size Fits One – AI’s Custom Couture

Imagine walking into a store that knows you better than your BFF. AI is making this a reality, both online and offline.
Online, AI-powered recommendation engines are like your virtual fairy godmothers, conjuring up items you’ll adore based on your style and preferences. Stitch Fix is a shining example, using AI to deliver personalized clothing boxes that feel like they’ve been curated by a fashion guru who knows you inside out.

In the physical world, Starbucks rolled out its “My Starbucks Barista” feature, allowing customers to place orders via voice command or messaging. Whether you’re a latte lover or a chai connoisseur, the AI-powered barista remembers your favourite drink, preferred milk choice, and even suggests mouth-watering pastry pairings. It’s like having your own personal barista, minus the hipster moustache.

Social Butterfly Shopping – The Digital Catwalk

Who said shopping online has to be a solo journey? AI can ensure you’re always in good company. With virtual try-on features and AR dressing rooms, you can model your potential purchases for friends on social media, turning your living room into a virtual runway. L’Oréal’s Virtual Try-On tool, for example, allows you to experiment with different hair colours and makeup looks digitally, making it a breeze to explore beauty products with your friends, no matter where they are.

Instant Gratification Galore – The Genie in the Chatbox

Need a quick pick-me-up? AI is at your service. With chatbots and virtual assistants ready to assist 24/7, the satisfaction of finding what you need is just a chat away. These aren’t your regular programmed bots; they’re charismatic, knowledgeable, and oh-so-friendly. They can engage customers, answer queries, and recommend products tailored to individual preferences. They even have their own personas, 3D avatars, and can adapt to your mood. It’s like having your own personal shopping assistant, minus the awkward small talk. For example, H&M’s chatbot acts like your personal shopping concierge, guiding you to the perfect outfit without the hassle of endless searching.

Trendsetting Made Easy – The Crystal Ball of Retail

Keeping up with the latest trends can be a daunting task, but AI is here to simplify it. By analysing social media and fashion runways, AI algorithms can spot upcoming trends, ensuring you’re always ahead of the curve. ASOS uses AI to detect emerging trends and swiftly bring them to the market, so you can stay stylish effortlessly.

Balancing Bytes & Banter – Keeping the Human Touch

However, amid this tech-savvy retail revolution, let’s not forget that it’s the human connection that leaves a lasting impression. As customer service expert Damon Richards commented, “Your customer doesn’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Most people don’t remember conversations in full, but they do remember how moments made them feel.

While Indian shoppers love the convenience and efficiency of AI-driven experiences, research suggests they still crave genuine human interactions, especially in retail settings. In a recent survey by Cheil India (AI & I: What Indian Consumers Feel About, and Expect from AI in 2024), more than 1 in 2 consumers are unwilling to completely let go of human interactions when it comes to shopping for new products. It turns out, AI’s bells and whistles are cool, but they can’t replace the warmth of a genuine smile or the helpful hand of a real-life human salesperson (yet).

How much AI is too much AI – Finding the Sweet Spot

India has a rich cultural heritage that places a high value on human relationships, interpersonal communication, and personal connections. Trust plays a crucial role in Indian society, and human interactions are considered more trustworthy than a conversation with a faceless bot. This is especially true beyond the big metros. For instance, a recent Google report suggests that, in tier 2/3 cities, the retailer acts as a gatekeeper. Consumers have built relationships with retailers over time, and trust their advice regarding things like quality assurance and getting the best deals.

There is also the dopamine high of discovering things yourself. AI can suggest products based on past behaviour, but it’s the surprise and delight of stumbling upon something unexpected that often brings the most joy. The latest Vice report on Fashion says that “consumers don’t want to be told what to buy; they want to choose what feels right for them.”

AI can try to replicate these experiences, but there’s something about the tactile pleasure of browsing, the excitement of a surprise find, and the satisfaction of a tangible purchase that just can’t be digitized.

The Future of Retail – AI-Powered Efficiency with a Human Heartbeat

The future of retail is here, and it’s AI-powered. From virtual brand representatives to personalized recommendations and seamless payments, artificial intelligence is transforming the point of sale experience in ways we never thought possible. But as retailers embrace this brave new world of technology, let’s not forget the importance of balancing innovation with humanity. After all, the magic of retail lies not just in the technology we deploy but in the genuine connections we forge with our customers along the way.

The heart of the brand: Emotional intelligence in brand positioning

EI refers to the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to achieve your goals. When applied to brands, it translates to understanding your target audience’s emotions, values, and aspirations. With this knowledge, brands can craft a positioning strategy that resonates deeply, fostering loyalty and advocacy.

  • Published On May 29, 2024 at 08:58 AM IST

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