Received a favorite Mother’s Day gift? Thank a chatbot
This year, consumer spending for Mother's Day was on pace to reach a record high.
According to the National Retail Federation's annual study, shoppers were set to spend $23.6 billion, spending an average of $186 per mom. And everything from flowers, gift cards and clothing to jewelry, personal services and consumer electronics were on shopping lists.
But did all that shopping land the perfect gift?
Gift-giving has become all about personalization — a trend that’s created real pressure for retailers. Time-pressed shoppers who search online quickly realize the sheer volume of gift choices available and may abandon their shopping carts — or the retailer completely — if the experience is too frustrating.
That's where chatbots can help. Playing matchmaker between retailers and their customers, artificial intelligence-based chatbots sift through retailers’ troves of products to find the best fit based on the customer's individual real-time needs. This technology also picks up on shifts in data, helping retailers and shoppers alike jump on hot emerging trends. Even during high traffic times like Mother's Day this past weekend, retailers are still able to provide the one-on-one, engaging experiences customers demand — and shoppers can leave feeling confident they found the best gift.
The global market for chatbots already reached $88.3 million last year, and is on its way to becoming a $1 billion market by 2023, according to Credence Research. Within the retail sector, chatbots are already successfully walking the virtual shop floor to deliver a more engaging consumer experience.
Here are three examples how:
• RareCarat's "Rocky the Artificial Intelligence Jeweler" guides buyers through the buying process for the perfect gem. Rocky, which uses IBM Watson Tradeoff Analytics and Conversation services to offer informed recommendations, taps into a deep trove of data that includes 10 million data points on diamond prices and parameters, and more than 500,000 user searches. The process has helped the company exchange more than 50,000 messages with users.
• The majority of the traffic for 1-800-Flowers.com is online. To replicate an engaging in-store shopping experience with e-commerce shoppers, the retailer features GWYN (gifts when you need). GWYN is a Watson-powered gift concierge that converses with shoppers and then makes personalized recommendations. According to early results, customers answer an average of five questions per session and interact with the bot for more than two minutes. To date, 80% of customers had a positive experience with GWYN and want to use it again.
• Harry & David, which offers gift baskets, baked goods, fruit and food gifts, will be the next beneficiary of the capabilities of GWYN. This means that consumers can type in something as simple as, "I'm looking for a Mother's Day gift,” and will be guided through questions to the item that best suits their idea of the ideal Mother's Day gift. According to data based on thousands of GWYN users shopping for Mom, chocolates (11%), were a top pick.
For retailers, cognitive technology offers several benefits along the path to purchase. Cognitive technology is capable of continuous learning, so it can become increasingly smart about the customer's unique needs over time. It can enhance the shopping experience specific to each customer. And its ability to understand natural language lets it learn from the vast amounts of unstructured data being generated each day, such as the 50,000 messages that RareCarat exchanged with its clients.
There are many potential uses of AI-powered technology beyond understanding and interpreting customer preferences, such as making more accurate product recommendations. AI-powered technology also has the ability to do tasks like managing inventory based on predictive modeling or identifying ideal locations for a future store.
Retailers know that customers are not going to get any less demanding in the future, especially when it comes to their loved ones, and that there are disruptors with unique business models always ready to try to capitalize on unmet consumer needs. Using cognitive technology — whether it's a chatbot or other applications — will help retailers deliver a personalized shopping experience and tailor future interactions in ways that will keep shoppers returning to your site, long after they've found that perfect Mother's Day gift.
Lisa Seacat DeLuca is a technology strategist, Cognitive Incubation Lab, for IBM Watson Customer Engagement, which powers a full spectrum of solutions including cognitive engagement offerings that are delivered as a service and on premise.
Lidl to make U.S. debut June 15—with low, low prices
German discount grocer Lidl is set to shake up the competition with prices that promise to turn up the heat on its U.S. competitors, who are already engaged in a price war.
Lidl on Wednesday revealed the locations of the first 20 stores it will open this summer in the United States, starting on June 15. (See end of story for listing). The stores — in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia — are the first of up to 100 locations the grocer plans to open across the East Coast by next summer.
Lidl, which operates 10,000 stores in 27 countries, is known for its low prices. The company said Wednesday shoppers can expect grocery prices that are up to 50% less than other supermarkets in the United States. (Based upon a price comparison of comparable products sold at leading national retail grocery stores, the company said.)
The Lidl stores opening this summer are all newly constructed freestanding facilities that Lidl owns and developed. Each will have a footprint of 20,000 sq. ft. and feature only six aisles. About 90% of the high quality groceries available at Lidl will be exclusive brand products.
The merchandise mix will include standard grocery items, along with an on-site bakery, cheeses, fresh and frozen seafood, wines, organic foods and gluten-free options. Stores will also feature a selection of non-food products that will be in stores for a limited time. The selection will include fitness gear, small kitchen appliances, toys, and outdoor furniture and other non-food items.
In the United States, Lidl will find itself head to head with another German low-price grocer, Aldi. In February, Aldi announced an aggressive $1.6 billion investment in its stores, with plans to remodel and expand more than 1,300 of its locations by 2020. http://www.chainstoreage.com/article/supermarket-chain-investing-1-billion-store-remodels
"We are excited to open our first stores in the United States in a few short weeks," said Brendan Proctor, president and CEO of Lidl US. "Lidl is grocery shopping refreshed, retooled and rethought to make life better for all our customers. When customers shop at Lidl, they will experience less complexity, lower prices, better choices, and greater confidence."
Lidl established its U.S. headquarters in Arlington County, Virginia in June 2015. Since then, it has announced regional headquarters and distribution centers in Spotsylvania County, Virginia; Alamance County, North Carolina and Cecil County, Maryland.
Below is a list of the 20 stores that will open in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina during the summer of 2017:
|Kinston, N.C.||4050 W Vernon Ave|
|Greenville, N.C.||1800 East Fire Tower Rd|
|Wilson, N.C.||3520 Raleigh Rd Parkway West|
|Sanford, N.C.||3209 NC 87 South|
|Rocky Mount, N.C.||940 N Wesleyan Blvd|
|Winston-Salem, N.C.||3315 Sides Branch Rd|
|Havelock, N.C.||547 US Hwy 70 West|
|Rockingham, N.C.||705 US 74 Business East|
|Wake Forest, N.C.||1120 South Main St|
|Spartanburg, S.C.||8180 Warren H Abernathy Hwy|
|2037 Wade Hampton Boulevard|
|Virginia Beach, Va.||6196 Providence Rd|
|Hampton, Va.||2000 W Mercury Blvd|
15169 Brandy Road
|Chesapeake, Va.||4033 Portsmouth Blvd|
|Norfolk, Va.||6440 N Military Hwy|
|Newport News, Va.||11076 Warwick Blvd|
|Richmond, Va.||12151 W. Broad St|
North Chesterfield, Va.
1311 Mall Drive
5110 S Laburnum Ave
Chicago to be home to world’s first…
Nutella is setting up shop on Michigan Avenue.
Ferrero, the makers of the popular hazelnut spread, will open their first owned and operated restaurant, Nutella Café, on May 31. The two-level café is located one block from Millennium Park.
"We wanted to create a world of Nutella for our fans that could truly capture the essence of the brand – not just in the dishes that will be served, but in the full experience from the moment you step into the space." said Noah Szporn, head of marketing Nutella North America. "The Nutella Cafe offers something for everybody, and we encourage everyone to come in and try a dish or snack.”
Many folks prefer to eat Nutella straight out of the jar. But the menu at the new café incorporates the spread into a variety of different dishes, both savory and sweet. There are also a number of dishes available without the hazelnut spread.
As for the design of the restaurant, the Chicago Tribunedescribed it as like “walking into a jar of Nutella itself. The warm, creamy white color of the walls is complemented by the dripping Nutella-colored embellishments on the ceiling, accented by hanging lights in the shape of flowers of the hazelnut plant.”