The holidays are critical for retailers, and many believe that by mid-October, the window has already closed to test new technology. Yet according to Purva Gupta, Co-founder and CEO of Lily AI, the truth is “it’s never too late, especially with AI!”
Lily AI’s co-founders Purva Gupta and Sowmiya Chocka Narayanan recently sat down with Alicia Esposito, VP of Content at Retail TouchPoints, to discuss the quick wins that can have a big impact this holiday season. In this webinar, Purva and Sowmiya discuss the low hanging fruits that represent immediate ways AI can drive more traffic, higher sales, and happier customers. The best part? The same investment can set retailers up for 2024 success too.
Read on for the top 6 takeaways from the AI for the Holidays webinar.
1. It’s Not Too Late to Impact Q4 2023
Even with a holiday forecast that seems less than optimistic, Bain & Company still recommends that retailers “act fast on AI to personalize offerings and improve customer service,” in order to maximize sales. Retailers might be hesitant, concerned that introducing new technology would require overhauling current systems. The good news is that this isn’t the case; Lily AI can be rapidly integrated into existing tech stacks going live in less than four weeks. This swift deployment means retailers can start experiencing tangible impacts and improvements within Q4, a crucial period that can determine a retailer’s annual success.
2. Bridging the Merchant-Consumer Language Gap
A pivotal challenge in retail is the disconnect between how merchants describe their products and how consumers talk about them and search for them. For instance, merchants, focusing on technical details, might describe a product based on its material, such as ‘organza,’ or use terms like ‘multicolor.’ On the other hand, consumers often use more situational and descriptive terms, like searching for a “floral wide v-neck dress for a bridal shower.” This disconnect isn’t a mere nuance; it’s a chasm that often leads to lost sales. If a person doesn’t find what they’re looking for because of language disconnects, they’re likely to leave the website, leading to reduced conversions for the retailer.
Lily AI tackles this problem head-on by leveraging computer vision and natural language processing to extract attributes from images and merchant-assigned text and then assign more consumer oriented, common words to the products. By translating merchant speak into consumer speak, retailers can present products in a way that aligns with consumer expectations, leading to improved browsing experiences and increased sales.
3. Making Onsite Search a Revenue Driver
Another realm where AI can make an immediate impact is onsite search. Shoppers who use the search function are showcasing high intent, and they’re 2-3 times more likely to convert. However, if their search yields irrelevant results, it can be off-putting. Imagine searching for a “New Year’s Eve dress” and getting results showing ornaments or other unrelated items. By integrating consumer language into algorithms for search, personalization engines, and filters and facets, the eCommerce experience can become more responsive, understanding shopping intent and showing the most relevant products.
Because Lily AI augments a retailer’s existing technology, our partners can keep using their existing onsite search provider, but infuse it with more relevant attributes in the language of the consumer for massive impact.
4. Capitalizing On Trends As They Emerge
Retail is dynamic, heavily influenced by rapidly changing trends. Platforms like TikTok have the power to amplify a trend almost instantaneously, presenting retailers with a dual challenge: first, to spot emerging trends, and second, to swiftly operationalize curated collections and campaigns to capitalize on the sales potential of these new trends. This is another area where AI can play a pivotal role in operationalizing trends.
For instance, “Barbiecore.” While it became notably popular this past Summer, searches for the term began trending as early as March 2023. The key to successfully capitalizing on trends like these is to identify and engage with them at an early stage in their lifecycle. This early engagement allows companies to maximize the potential of the entire trend cycle. With solutions like Lily AI, retailers are equipped to do just that. One of the standout benefits of Lily AI, especially during crucial periods like the holiday season, is its seamless integration. “Today’s AI doesn’t require rip and replace—purpose-built solutions can be implemented in just days, and a retailer could be positively improving consumer experiences the following week,” says Purva. Retailers can effortlessly augment their existing technologies, making them more responsive to the latest trends.
5. The AI Maturity Curve
Technology, like retail, has an endless cycle of new and emerging trends. AI, and at this moment Generative AI, has captivated the attention of consumers and retailers alike. As Sowmiya says, “AI is the defining technology of our time, but AI for retail is not necessarily new.” The AI maturity curve provides a roadmap for retailers looking to harness the power of this diverse and quickly evolving technology. AI in retail has evolved from “behind the scenes” data-driven analytics and inventory planning applications to encompass a broader range, including consumer experiences, virtual assistance, and anomaly detection. The list is expansive and ever-growing.
Understanding the AI maturity curve aligns with a retailer’s business needs, highlighting a path forward. While the world is undeniably having its AI moment, the key for retailers is not to get lost in the dazzle. As Sowmiya advises, “Start at the source, what is the use case that we are trying to solve? Do we deeply understand the problem that we have in hand?.” While it’s tempting to chase every new AI trend, the key is finding a trusted and experienced AI partner who understands the nuanced demands of the retail space, ensuring a balance between short-term gains and long-term strategy.
6. Trust and Accuracy are Paramount
In the fast-paced world of technology, where new advancements emerge at lightning speed, the success of these initiatives hinges on trust. A recurring theme in boardroom discussions is can the AI be trusted–is the accuracy, quality, and relevance of AI-driven predictions and recommendations reliable? And rightly so. The foundation of retail lies in the sacred bond between a brand and its customers. Making, marketing, or selling products based on inaccurate or dubious AI predictions can wreak havoc on a business.
Understanding this crucial need for pinpoint accuracy, Lily AI takes robust measures to ensure the reliability of its predictions. Beyond employing advanced algorithms, Lily AI brings in the human touch, leveraging the expertise of retail domain specialists in the fashion, home, and beauty sectors. These style and fashion experts oversee all AI processes, bringing their industry-specific insights to the table. This combination of cutting-edge technology and human oversight ensures that the AI’s outputs align perfectly with real-world retail scenarios, minimizing errors and maximizing relevance.
In a domain where the stakes are high, and the margin for error is minimal, it’s not just about embracing the latest AI trend. It’s about ensuring that this AI is both reliable and accurate. With experts at the helm, Lily AI ensures that brands can confidently rely on AI-driven insights without compromising on the trust and loyalty of their consumers.
A Vision for The Future
While the immediate gains of AI are evident, it’s essential to see the broader picture. AI can transform the entire retail value chain, and according to Sowmiya, it also presents “the opportunity to go beyond just productivity gains and create new transformative experiences for both consumers and our customers in a responsible way.” The vision is to place the consumer at the center of this chain, ensuring every aspect of the retail process, from production to purchase, resonates with their needs and desires.
By embracing a holistic approach to AI, retailers can improve every facet of their operations. For instance, in demand forecasting, incorporating consumer attributes can lead to more accurate predictions, potentially reducing issues like stockouts or overstock. Furthermore, in today’s digital world, being discoverable is half the battle. AI can play a crucial role in optimizing for search, ensuring products are easily findable on major platforms. Finally, e-commerce benefits immensely from AI. From improved product recommendations to personalized shopping experiences, the possibilities are vast.
Improve Sales For Holiday 2023 & Beyond
As AI continues to evolve, so do its applications in retail. Companies like Lily AI are at the forefront, not just riding the wave, but shaping the future. For retailers, the message is clear: AI is not just a tool for the future; it’s a transformative force for the present.
While the holiday season represents a significant sales opportunity, the potential of AI extends far beyond. Whether you’re a retailer looking for immediate gains or one planning a strategic overhaul, AI promises a path to greater success.