“Why Retailers Need AI to Reach the Customer and Outshine the Competition This Holiday Season and Beyond” by Cynthia Sener via Total Retail Report

“Why Retailers Need AI to Reach the Customer and Outshine the Competition This Holiday Season and Beyond” by Cynthia Sener via Total Retail Report

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This year,  the U.S. experienced a 14 percent decrease in customer loyalty, falling from 79 percent to 68 percent. With inflation still impacting today’s consumer, businesses must become agile and shift how they reach their customers. The voice of the customer is more important than ever.

One of the biggest challenges retailers face is determining what matters to their customers amongst the endless amounts of data out there. It’s estimated that 80 percent to 90 percent of today’s data is unstructured — i.e., the data that shows what people say about your brand in reviews, on social media, and in videos. Thanks to advances in artificial intelligence, retailers can cut through the noise of unstructured data and efficiently and effectively glean customer sentiment and trends, making for more successful marketing.

This holiday season, 64 percent of consumers will turn to online reviews for insights when purchasing a gift. Brands need to tap into the abundance of unstructured, unsolicited data found in online reviews and social media to edge out the competition during the most crucial selling cycle of the year.

Related story: It’s Not All Negative: How Bad Customer Reviews Create Revenue Opportunities

Understanding the Voice of the Customer

Anticipating customer needs will be critical during the holiday buying season. Organizations must put effort into listening to the voice of the customer, sharing feedback with stakeholders, and addressing concerns quickly. Using AI allows retail marketers to understand data thematically and conceptually, steering teams away from spending hours or months to uncover insights. For example, AI-powered sentiment analysis can give retail brands a quick and easy understanding of how customers feel and what matters most to them, empowering brands to augment their offerings or double down on things that work well.

Whether shopping in-store, online or in app, AI is essential in creating the path of least resistance for consumers. With AI, tens, hundreds or thousands of reviews and social posts can be scanned, and businesses can more readily predict their customers’ purchasing patterns, where sales have been low, or where there’s been a lack of interest. For example, commentary left by customers during last year’s Black Friday events can be incredibly powerful. Whether it’s social surveys or review data, the AI analysis of feedback and seeing what went well for Black Friday allows retailers to optimize marketing strategies this year.

Remove Friction Points

Removing commonly encountered friction points is one of the easiest ways retailers ensure their customers aren’t dealing with minor annoyances. Alleviating these barriers can be as simple as posting your holiday hours to all your listings or as complex as offering a full-blown e-commerce experience.

AI helps remove friction points between consumers and businesses in a number of ways. One of the most significant is predictive analytics These actionable insights allow for data-driven decisions that more effectively anticipate and meet consumer needs. And with the customer’s desire for a personalized experience, AI-powered recommendation engines analyze user behavior and preferences to suggest products or services specific to each consumer. Eliminating these barriers drives brand loyalty and value for the customer.

Use Reviews to Your Advantage

Lastly, with 66 percent of consumers shopping for better prices and promotions this year, retailers cannot turn a blind eye to replying to online reviews and comments. Not only will responding to reviews boost a brand’s Google ranking, but it also offers an opportunity to build brand loyalty. AI can not only replicate a brand’s voice and tone, but it can analyze the content of a review and create a tailored response in seconds. Consumers want to have, and will reward, positive brand interactions. In fact, 76 percent of consumers reported that if they posted a negative review and a company addressed it to their satisfaction, they would go back and update their review. Another 11 percent would go back and delete the negative review.

Investing in AI-powered solutions means human capital is no longer a bottleneck, and your customers feel seen and heard. While understanding and reaching customers may feel more challenging to businesses, AI will be the solution to listening to the voice of the customer and staying ahead of the competition — during the holidays and beyond.

Cynthia Sener, MBA, is president, go-to-market, at Chatmeter, the only reputation management and brand intelligence company to combine AI-powered deep listening with real-time CX agility

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