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27 Jul, 2017

87% of Retailers to Increase Use of AI in Customer Engagement During Next 24 Months – Research study

SUNNYVALE, Calif., 26 July 2017, BUSINESS WIRE —Linc, the customer care automation platform that powers digital experiences to strengthen brand/shopper relationships, today announced the release of its new research study, How AI Technology Will Transform Customer Engagement.

In partnership with BrandGarage, this study highlights the overwhelming emphasis retail executives are placing on automated platforms to improve customer communication, with 87% of the 100 retailers surveyed planning an increase in the use of AI to service their customers moving forward.

In 2016, 82% of customers stopped doing business with a company after a bad experience, according to the Internet Trends 2017 Report by Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins. At the same time, customer service costs are rising dramatically. As a result, retailers are increasingly turning to customer service and engagement automation technologies that leverage AI, including chat on Facebook Messenger and voice through voice assistants such as Google Home and Amazon Alexa, to unlock new revenue, reduce costs and boost customer loyalty, satisfaction and lifetime value.

This study explores the increased value retailers are placing on AI to alleviate points of friction and improve margins and revenue through their customer service and engagement. Key findings include:

  • 55% of retailers report that their customer service costs are rising. Increased human resources are the number one factor for these swelling costs, followed by higher shipping, logistics and reverse logistics expenses. However, retailers cannot afford a slip in customer service, as over 80% of customers will look to other brands for a more satisfactory experience after just one bad encounter.
  • 87% of retailers plan to increase their use of AI in customer service, and 44% will use a conversational commerce interface. While only 7.7% of retailers have rolled out AI as a regular part of customer service to-date, adoption is growing rapidly. 34% of retailers surveyed reported they have begun experimenting with customer-facing AI trials or pilots. An overwhelming majority plan to embrace AI in the next 24 months, as they seek AI-powered solutions to improve customer service and engagement.
  • 1 in 5 retailers already believe voice will be an important channel along with chat within 2 years. Amazon’s record sales of Echo devices during Prime Day 2017 show consumer adoption is heating up rapidly. As voice-first platforms grow, 44% of retailers that are increasing their use of AI will do so through a conversational commerce interface such as Facebook Messenger and a voice platform like Google Home or Amazon Alexa.
  • Retailers’ use of AI will extend beyond routine customer service requests. Rapidly rising customer expectations mean that a wide range of questions need to be answered quickly across various channels of engagement. To answer these questions, 68% of retailers plan to use AI to route customer service requests, 52% will use AI to help track packages, 43.5% will use AI for product suggestions and 42% want AI to handle returns and exchanges in the next 2 years. The role of AI will not be limited to post-sale service, either. AI will also be used to answer pre-purchase questions (39%) and for marketing (38%).

“The data provided by this survey is a clear indicator that the time is now for retailers to take action,” said Luke Starbuck, VP of Marketing, Linc. “Sitting back and waiting to see what others do is not a defensible strategy and will not yield favorable results. Retailers need to act quickly to adopt AI technologies that will help them win and retain customers.”

Study Methodology

The 12-question online survey conducted by Brand Garage polled 104 senior level marketing and ecommerce executives from leading retail brands. Respondents represent the majority of retailer categories: 36.5% are retailers selling multiple brands; 22.4% are direct to consumer brands and wholesalers; and 25.9% are retailers that sell their own products and brand. Of the 104 participants, 4 were selected for follow-up phone interviews that deeply examined the impact of AI on their individual business structures.

Learn more at www.letslinc.com.