Everyone Deserves an AI-enabled Personal Shopping Assistant

Everyone Deserves an AI-enabled Personal Shopping Assistant

This article was written during my tenure at Yellow Messenger, a cutting-edge conversational AI platform.

Retail brands of all sizes have been working hard to make their customers feel like queens and kings. Some go the extra mile of delivering an exclusive, dedicated, and tailored experience that makes the shopper, feel like they are the center of the brand’s universe.

Nothing beats having a retail brand dedicating resources to support customers in a very personal way in helping them find the perfect products, the products that make customers feel like a million bucks. It makes customers feel important like they matter more than others, and this kind of social proof can be intoxicating to many many more buyers.

And this kind of intoxication pays off. In a big way. As a matter of fact, I am sure that this setting probably increased the price tag of wedding dresses by at least 30%.

So why shouldn’t every organization attempt to do so and reap the rewards of a higher spend by their customers?

If you notice, while personalization is something that all stores offer, a personal shopper is more elite. Why? Because a personal shopper has to understand each persona, their needs, and their taste, before really making a suggestion to the buyer.

Far from us to state the obvious, but it’s expensive. And to add to it, it is far from being scalable as a model: it requires a lot of training and product knowledge and, in a space where staff turnover is on the higher side, it just never breaks even. That proposition simply isn’t viable for the overwhelming majority of retailers.

We are obviously talking about traditional brick-and-mortar retail in these scenarios but eCommerce can land itself to it just as much. If anything, we see eCommerce as a significant enabler to change the status quo as it has the infrastructure to host thousands of people at the same time, looking at the same catalog, purchasing and making global payments from all around the world by integrating software solutions offered by companies like FastSpring (https://fastspring.com/global-payments/) from the comfort of their own homes. But while it can physically cater to thousands of people at the same time, it still doesn’t solve the equation of a personal shopper being dedicated to, well, one shopper.

This is where artificial intelligence and natural language processing come into play. This is where AI technology starts to challenge the status quo and, we argue, empowers savvy organizations to bring personal shopping to the masses.

Meet the Virtual Personal Shopping Assistant

Chatbots optimized using various text annotation tools have been around for a little while now and most people are fairly familiar with the concept. The chatbot is a piece of technology that helps users with their queries, more often than not, in a customer support environment.

But personal shopping isn’t customer support, it’s literally at the other end of the customer journey. Fortunately, chatbots are no longer confined to customer support and have been seen driving outstanding results across a variety of scenarios. eCommerce personal shopping is just one of these situations!

The virtual personal shopping chatbot is an AI-powered chatbot that enables organizations to offer a tailored one-on-one consultation to their clients at a scale never seen before.

By marrying up natural language understanding (in other words, understanding what people mean to say, what they are asking rather than looking at the words they use) to an extensive catalog of SKUs and well-structured feature sorting capabilities available in all major e-commerce software providers, chatbots are able to evolve and transform themselves into genuine advisors to consumers.

Instead of putting your customers through never-ending scrolling, you can help your customers land on exactly what they want to see by curating content through a conversation with them, showing only a few relevant items they are looking for, rather than having them search for them like a needle in a haystack.

yellow messenger personal shopping assistant
Yellow Messenger Personal Shopping Assistant

Putting ourselves in the shoes of our customers, which scenario would you prefer? The exchange illustrated above or going through 72 pages of 30 items to find that perfect item?

The capabilities of today’s AI chatbots go a lot further than just listing features out and can even read and make sense of images as part of the personal shopping experience, helping people understand the right style for them, personally.

Is there a business case for this?

Typically, when I share this vision, there is a clear pattern in how they react to it.

  • Step 1: Wrapping their head around the concept, incredule this is even a thing
  • Step 2: Amazed at the possibilities that technology brings to them and their business
  • Step 3: Concerned of how prohibitively expensive must be, ask about the financials

Let me start with the bad news: very few organizations have today the technology to pull this off. It requires a lot of computing power, very smart engineers, and cutting edge AI and machine learning know-how to get remotely close to delivering on this promise.

The good news, however, is that this isn’t as prohibitive as you may think. And the truth is, it does end up paying for itself through an increase in revenue and overall lower operating costs.

If we go back to its core, a chatbot takes over operations that are currently/were once handled by a human customer support agent and delivers on them at a faster rate, at greater scale, and at a lower cost.

Savvy organizations who want to invest in a virtual personal shopper ai chatbot understand that this is just one way of getting ROI and growing revenue and that customers’ needs are a lot more varied than just helping them buy the right product. They need help with order status, returns, customer support, frequent questions, and so on.

While it wouldn’t be viable to invest in a bot for just this one thing for most organizations, an all-rounded ai chatbot can handle all the above cases as well as the virtual personal shopper at such a scale that even though we are talking about delivering a rapid, premium and tailored service to customers, it often turns out to be a no-brainer investment, where the savings generated far outweigh the investment allocated to the technology.

The true ROI of AI technology is found in volume and its application across several processes or, as the industry would have it, use cases.

The reality of the matter is, it’s not because the technology is going to enable a revenue-enhancing premium service to your customers that the price, will too, have to come with a massive and prohibitive premium.

After all, we are Yellow Messenger, not a famous British luxury retailer, and we are on a mission to help forward-thinking organizations 10x their results, not their costs.

The personal shopper has gone virtual and eCommerce will perform much better for it.

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