It’s simple. Personalization of the shopping experience increases customer satisfaction, conversion and revenues. And the next generation of intelligent virtual shopping assistants will personalize the shopping experience.

In store, shopping associates listen to shoppers to understand their preferences and desires and guide them through the available items and offer recommendations.

In the post Data, Data, Data. It’s What Drives Shopping Personalization, we delved into the data that retailers can use to personalize their shopping experience they deliver to their customers. Historical data and data from the current shopping session. And in Want to improve your online store? Here’s what consumers say, we looked at what consumers were saying they wanted, one of which was increased use of voice-enabled intelligent digital assistants. 

Putting these together, we get the obvious — the voice-enabled intelligent digital assistants can add strong personalization to the online shopping experience. 

The Expectation Gap: Retailers vs. Shoppers

Two years ago, Gartner’s customer experience survey found that more than two-thirds of marketers responsible for customer experience say that they compete mostly on the basis of that customer experience. Furthermore, over 80% said that, by today, they expect to be competing mostly or completely on the basis of customer experience.

But, unfortunately, brands are struggling to deliver on the expectations of their customers. 

The graph above from a Segment survey showed that customer expectations of their major online retailers far exceed the actual delivery. 77% of shoppers expect personalization from major online retailers, only 23% reported receiving that experience.

Current State of Personalized Shopping

For the past decade, AI technology has been used to bring personalization to the online shopping experience. Companies including BloomReach, Reflektion, Evergage (now part of Salesforce), and RichRelevance, to name a few, use AI techniques on the retailer’s customer data to personalize recommendations, content, and search. 

And the results show that customer satisfaction and other metrics definitely improve. Could it improve even more?

To date, the personalization offered by these companies primarily work “behind the scenes”. When a shopper does an onsite search, the results of the search query reflect the knowledge of the shopper in the customer data platform (CDP) combined with the shopper’s actions in the current shopping session. For a webpage, the layout and order of items on a webpage reflect shopper preferences. Recommendations may appear on the page or in a pop-up window.

Responsive, reactive actions. Good, but not a conversation.

Which brings us to the next step in personalized shopping — an engaging conversation.

The New Generation of Personalized Conversational Shopping 

The next generation of online shopping is combining personalization technology with intelligent digital assistants. Beyond simply being responsive to the shopper. Beyond a smart onsite search. Beyond “featured recommendations” and “customers who bought items in your recent history also bought….”. This is collaborating with the shopper.

The intelligent digital assistants engage each shopper in a personalized conversation. Listening to what the shopper is saying, determining intent using a knowledge base of past purchases, preferences, and data from the current session to find the most relevant items, as well as help navigate the store and make recommendations. 

The components are all ready. The data, the personalization technology, the intelligent digital assistants, the natural language technology to engage in conversation. 

The hard work is to take the components, integrate with each retailer’s CDP, add the retailer’s brand image to the intelligent digital assistant’s persona.

And in closing…

The expectation gap is clear — retailers know that they do compete on the basis of the shopping experience and their customers do expect a great personalized experience. But customers are definitely finding that the current reality falls short of their expectations.  

Fortunately, the technology is ready for retailers to create and deploy enterprise-scale personalized shopping experiences that meet the expectations of your shoppers —  consistency of access, personalization, brand image, etc. for every one of your channels.

The current surge of “Covid-19 online shoppers” is a huge opportunity for retailers. The challenge is to turn those new shoppers into long-term loyal customers. It will be those retailers who invest in their customer experience now who will be successful.

Vioby Personalized Conversational Shopping

Vioby has been working with retailers to develop branded personalized conversational shopping that deliver great shopping experiences for their customers. The intelligent interactive conversations with shoppers use voice and text modalities and integrate our client’s retail data. We leverage our long experience in enterprise-scale voice-interactive systems coupled with our e-commerce marketing automation technology. Our video of voice shopping shows how a shopper can browse large retailer catalogs to find and purchase the items they want.

Are you a retailer or agency working with retailers? We’d be glad to explore partnering with you and your team to define, create and deploy a great brand-centric voice shopping experience for your customers.

Mike Krasner is a co-founder of Vioby, a Boston-area developer of AI-based marketing automation tools for e-commerce retailers and their agencies. 

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