The basic retail experience hasn’t changed much over the years: go into a store, look for the right product and make a purchase. Artificial intelligence has the potential to completely transform the traditional retail experience and take it to the next level with personalization, automation and increased efficiency. And it’s already happening! Here are 20 of the best examples of AI to improve the retail experience.
1. Lowes Uses Robots To Locate Items
Navigating a hardware store can be difficult, but Lowes created the LoweBot to help customers find their way around the store and get the items they need. LoweBots roam the store and ask customers simple questions to find out what they’re looking for. The robots can provide directions and maps to products and share specialty knowledge with customers. LoweBots also monitor inventory so the store knows what items need to be restocked.
2. Walgreens Uses AI To Track Flu Spread
The flu can be uncomfortable, inconvenient and even deadly if not treated properly. With the right information, people can take action to keep their families healthy. Walgreens uses data from the number of anti-viral prescriptions it fills at more than 8,000 locations to track the spread of the flu. The online, interactive map not only helps customers know how bad the flu is in their area, but also helps Walgreens stock more inventory of flu-related products in infected regions. AI is empowering customers and the store.
3. Sephora Makes It Easy to Find Makeup
Step into a Sephora store to find your perfect makeup shade without ever putting anything on your face. Color IQ scans a customer’s face and provides personalized recommendations for foundation and concealer shades, while Lip IQ does the same to help find the perfect shade of lipstick. It’s a huge help to customers who know the stress (and cost) of finding the perfect shade by trial and error.
4. North Face Helps Customers Find The Perfect Coat
Don’t know what coat to buy? North Face can help with that. The company uses IBM Watson’s cognitive computing technology to ask questions about where they’ll wear the coat and what they’ll be doing. Using that information, North Face can make personalized recommendations to help customers find the perfect coat for their activities.
5. Neiman Marcus Uses AI For Visual Search
Luxury department store Neiman Marcus uses AI to make it easier for customers to find items. The Snap. Find. Shop. app allows users to take pictures of items they see while out and about and then searches Neiman Marcus inventory to find the same or a similar item. Instead of using vague search terms to find an item, the photos can usually find a very similar match.
6. Taco Bell Helps Customers Order Tacos On The Go
When you want tacos, there isn’t time to wait. Taco Bell was the first restaurant to allow customers to order food directly through AI. The Tacobot works with Slack and makes it easy for customers to text or say their order. The bot even allows for customized and large group orders. In true Taco Bell form, the bot responds with quippy remarks after each order.
7. Macy’s Adds AI To In-Store Experience
Have you ever walked into a department store and had no idea where to find what you’re looking for? Macy’s On Call app is tailored with answers for each individual store. Customers open the app when they’re in the store and can chat with an AI bot to get directions to a specific item or check if something is in stock. The bot can even detect if a customer is getting frustrated and alert a human employee to go help the customer.
8. Walmart Deploys Robots To Scan Shelves
Walmart is one of the largest retail stores in the world, and it plans on using robots to help patrol those vast aisles. Walmart is testing shelf-scanning robots in dozens of its stores. The robots scan shelves for missing items, things that need to be restocked or price tags that need to be changed. The robots free human employees to spend more time with customers and ensure that customers aren’t faced with empty shelves.
9. ThredUp Uses AI To Remember Customer Preferences
Online consignment store ThredUp recently released Goody Boxes, which include a number of secondhand clothing items tailored to match each customer’s style. Customers keep and pay for the items they like and return the items they don’t like. An AI algorithm remembers each customer’s preferences so that future boxes can better fit their style. The non-subscription boxes are easier for customers than searching for individual pieces.
10. Amazon Eliminates Cashiers With AI
No list on retail AI would be complete with Amazon and its revolutionary Amazon Go store. Customers can simply walk into the store, take what they want from the shelves and walk out without going through a cashier. Sensors and cameras throughout the store track what customers purchase, and their Amazon account is charged when they leave. AI helps create a quick and seamless shopping experience so customers aren’t stuck waiting in line.
11. Uniqlo Can Read Minds With AI
Clothing store Uniqlo is pioneering the use of science and AI to create a unique in-store experience. Select stores have AI-powered UMood kiosks that show customers a variety of products and measures their reaction to the color and style through neurotransmitters. Based on each person’s reactions, the kiosk then recommends products. Customers don’t even have to push a button; their brain signals are enough for the system to know how they feel about each item.
12. West Elm Connects Style And Products
Customers used to bring in physical style boards of furniture items they liked, but now furniture retailer West Elm does it through AI. The Pinterest Style Finder scans a customer’s Pinterest boards to understand their personal style and create a list of recommended home décor and furniture items to match. It’s an easy way for customers to get a beautifully designed home that reflects their style.
13. Sam’s Club Makes Warehouse Shopping Simple
The warehouse superstore recently opened a smaller, AI-powered version of its store called Sam’s Club Now. The store uses AI technology so that customers can shop without having to go through a traditional checkout line. The corresponding app can even map the most efficient route through the store to get everything on a customer’s shopping list.
14. Olay Uses AI To Personalize Skincare
With the help of AI, Olay customers can get personalized skincare treatment without having to see a dermatologist. With Olay’s Skin Advisor, customers take a selfie of their plain face, and the app uses AI to tell the true age of their skin. The app evaluates skin health and makes recommendations for problem areas with personalize skin care regimen recommendations.
15. Kroger App Customizes Product Recommendations
Grocery chain Kroger is testing out the idea of smart shelves. When a customer walks down an aisle and has their Kroger app open, sensors identify the shopper and highlight products they might be interested in. The app might highlight gluten-free products for a gluten-free shopper or kid-friendly snacks for a parent. The app can also provide personal pricing and alert shoppers if an item on their shopping list is on sale.
16. H&M Uses AI To Keep Popular Items Stocked
Popular clothing store H&M relies on staying on top of trends to be successful. The store uses AI to analyze store receipts and returns to evaluate purchases at each store. The algorithm helps the store know what items to promote and stock more of in certain locations. The data could find that floral skirts sell well at urban stores and change the inventory to match what customers want.
17. Zara Streamlines Order Pickup With Robots
Buying online and picking up in store is a popular option for customers. Fashion retailer Zara recently started using robots to help customers when they come to pick up their orders. When they get into the store, customers enter a pickup code that starts the robot moving in the warehouse. Once the order has been found, the robot delivers it via drop box. It’s a quick and efficient way to get orders to customers.
18. Starbucks Bot Makes It Easy To Order Coffee
The coffee giant makes it even easier to get your morning pick-me-up with its AI-enabled voice ordering. Customers can chat with the My Starbucks Barista app to place their order with voice or text. When the customer gets to their local Starbucks, the order will be waiting and they can skip the line.
19. American Eagle Creates Fitting Rooms Of The Future
There’s nothing worse than getting to the fitting room, only to discover you grabbed the wrong size or want to try another color. Instead of getting dressed and leaving the room or flagging down an employee, American Eagle is creating interactive dressing rooms. Customers simply scan the items they want and can see what’s in stock. Store employees are notified if the customer needs an item delivered to the fitting room. The technology can even make product recommendations based on what the customer has tried on.
20. Rebecca Minkoff Designs AI-Powered Smart Store
Clothing designer Rebecca Minkoff has three stores around the country and is one of the first brands to create “connected stores.” The stores use AI to run touchscreen smart mirrors, which allow customers to browse through clothing items and inspiration. Shoppers can then try them on in an interactive fitting room with custom lighting options. The fitting room mirrors use RFID technology to automatically know what customers are trying on and tell them what other colors and sizes are available.
Blake Morgan is a keynote speaker, futurist and author of two books, “The Customer Of The Future” and “More Is More.” Sign up for her weekly customer experience newsletter here.