Procurement · 7 June 2019

Five major non-tech companies that are embracing AI

AI DATA

People often ask me how they can use artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance the experience of their customers. I notice that many companies are still nervous to jump in the AI pool, because it seems like such a high-level, costly and daunting solution for a non-tech organisation. But it shouldn’t be.

Non-tech companies can embrace what AI has to offer

AI solutions are all about solving the little problems that people struggle with.

AI is not always about the giant leaps, like brain-computer interfaces or tools that beat the most difficult games in the world. AI is at its best when it just makes the lives of customers and employees better, in a sequence of small but meaningful steps.

Here are five nice cases of companies that use AI to boost customer experience:

1. The ‘always available’ shop assistant at Macy’s

Macy’s is an iconic department store brand that’s unafraid to embrace AI. Source: wusfnews

One of the major retail trends of recent years is that customers want their shopping to be done in a fast, frictionless and efficient manner. Yet in store, it often seems there’s no assistant around when you need help when you need one.

Department store chain Macy’s is now testing IBM Watson cognitive AI technology to help guide shoppers within their stores.

The smartphone-based assistant named ‘Macy’s On Call’ is designed to answer customer questions with relevant responses, with interactions varying according to where specific departments, products, services, facilities or brands are located.

This is AI-driven customer experience at its best: a simple and convenient solution to a common problem. It allows human shop assistants to focus on more complex questions, where they can add much more human value.

2. KFC is using AI to know what you want to eat

KFC have been collaborating with ‘China’s Google’ Baidu to create a more experimental use of AI in customer experience. They use facial recognition to predict what a customer might want to eat, based on time of day, estimated age, gender and mood.

KFC also claims that the system will remember what you ate, ready for the next time you go into their restaurant. It’s not surprising that such an experiment is running in China.

Chinese consumers are big on speed, efficiency, and personalisation and this merger between the offline and online world is right up their street.

They are also a lot more comfortable with digital ordering and the use of facial recognition. In fact, one of KFC’s customers was quoted as saying “In China, you don’t have any privacy anyway”!

3. What you see is what you get at ASOS

ASOS may have been at the forefront of e-commerce culture, but it’s still ready to adopt new technologies. Source: MoreySmith

E-commerce clothing retailer ASOS is using computer vision, so when you see a film star or influencer wearing something that you like, you can take or upload a photo in the ASOS app.

They then scan their huge database of clothes for something that is similar, and likely more affordable. This is, of course, a great way to keep customers happy. But more importantly, it is how to get them to come back and buy more.

Users of ASOS’ visual search view 48% more products than other consumers and are 75% more likely to make a return visit. They even place orders that are worth 9% more.

4. Embracing AI means no more broken-down Volvos

Volvo’s Early Warning System analyses over one million events every week to predict which car parts will need to be changed or repaired, when.

The idea is that you would never again need to call a recovery vehicle because your car broke down, and you would never be in danger of your brakes deciding to give up.

Volvo has also been testing cars with sensors that report on driving conditions, so when roads get icy this data is delivered direct to the Swedish highway authorities.

This goes beyond just a great customer experience to offer safety for the driver and their family. It could mean cheaper insurance, a longer lifespan for a car and, of course, it will lead to plenty more valuable learnings for Volvo as they permanently monitor the data of their cars.

5. No need to buy from Boxed

Boxed is an online retailer that’s using AI to get smarter about their customers buying patterns. Source: Forbes

Boxed is an American online and mobile retailer, and it created an AI tool called Smart StockUp.

This service predicts when you are running low on the day-to-day products you regularly purchase, like toilet paper, detergent or milk. It looks at both the shopping history of individuals as well as more general re-stocking patterns to make the recommendations.

As a user, you will receive “Need These Now” and “Need These Soon” product recommendations, and shoppers can click to add them to their cart.

The genius thing about it is of course that the more you buy at Boxed (instead of a competitor), the smarter the system will become and the better it will get to know your restocking patterns.

Though it’s not fully automated yet, Boxed is experimenting in that direction with a test group of business customers: these automatically receive regular shipments of products from Boxed. This could be the start of fully automated buying, in a subscription-based commodity product model.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Prof. Steven Van Bellegham is an expert in customer focus in the digital world. He’s an award-winning author and his new book Customers The Day After Tomorrow is out now.

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