How to get benefits from artificial intelligence in retail


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  • Customer Experience Audit: eBay’s Vibrant Marketplace of the Future

    Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series of Customer Experience Audits. They highlight advances in artificial intelligence in retail and other technologies. See all audit stories.

    Two years ago RJ Pittman and eBay made a big bet by making AI (specifically artificial intelligence in retail) a core discipline of the company, similar to brand marketing and sales. The organization was able to focus and build upon existing technologies to create a truly personalized retail experience. This is the definition of a big bet, and the reason why eBay is part of our Artificial Intelligence series.

    In the retail world of RJ Pittman, conversational commerce does more than help shoppers buy an outfit. It uses predictive analytics and artificial intelligence to design the outfit if it does not exist anywhere in the world.  Now that is the ultimate personal relationship a brand can have with a customer. Once eBay can consistently deliver this value proposition to the customer – and scale it for the 3Bn online users – Amazon will finally have a match. And Amazon will become less ubiquitous.

    How did eBay get here?

    “Don’t start from the tech, start from the experience and start with transformative experiences that your customers will feel…” is how RJ Pittman summed up his approach at the Forrester conference in San Francisco this fall.  eBay is an excellent case study of a brand that followed the principles for self-service we laid out last week.

    As a result, the brand will empower the retail customer of the future. With the new technology, eBay sellers can post and sell any item without effort or friction. To do this, e-Bay is building an AI-enabled ecosystem. That ecosystem consists of computer vision, deep science looking at images, real time pricing, interactive conversational commerce, and a world price guide. And it has the power to create real, personalized experiences.

    What about the eBay brand?

    RJ Pittman sums up the future of marketing when he says, “the brand is the product is the brand.” Today, marketing is less about ad campaigns and more about a brand’s products and the customer experience that accompanies those products.

    In fact, this year, JetBlue achieved $33M of ad spend equivalency with its launch of facial recognition technology at the gate. This is much more brand exposure than an ad campaign. And without existing social media and mobile technologies, it would have been impossible.

    However, in the world in which we live, the brand is more about keeping and living the promises you make as an organization. And less about what those promises are.

    This is an important note of caution for those who have brand marketing and customer experience under different executives. How are you ensuring there is real alignment between those two legs of your customer relationship?

    What did eBay really do?

    eBay applied technology to build a dream no one has imagined yet. The innovative brand did not merely optimize its responsive website. It invested heavily in a conversational commerce that will define how customers purchase in the future, using artificial intelligence in retail.

    This disruptive strategy is not a science project. It is the dawn of a vibrant marketplace of the future. Rik Reppe said on stage in San Francisco that courage, flexibility, and imagination will make or break our efforts with AI. Listening to RJ Pittman, it felt like he has all three of them.

    Do you?

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    Get Customer Experience Basics Right and You Don’t Need to Invest in Wow Moments

    Wow Moments are a Customer Experience hot topic. Customer experience professionals ideate how to build, prioritize, finance, and measure these Wow Moments. Chip and Dan Heath wrote a whole book on the topic: The Power of Moments. No Wow Moment saves you from negative word of mouth if your brand fails to get the customer experience basics right or to deliver the expected brand experience consistently.

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    Organizational Culture and Access to Information

    By and large, people perceive culture as an HR discipline. The most common perception is that culture covers the soft side of performance. Culture is about how you do things, not so much about what you do. This approach to culture could not be more wrong. In fact, organizational culture is about so much more than a few words in a performance review sheet.  It is about leaders expressing values, and the action guidance their cultural behaviors provide.

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