AI-based solutions help meet increasing customer expectations

Numerous high-street retailers have closed down and been replaced by once up-start ecommerce firms that have now become household names in their own right. There are many reasons behind this shift, including rising overheads and poor management, but a considerably improved customer experience is the key factor that is driving consumers to innovative online shopping platforms.

“When you consider what is making these companies successful, the fact that they are constantly looking for ways to create strong relationships with their customers, through making their experience personalised and unique, stands as a clear strength,” says Ivan Mazour, founder and chief executive of Ometria, a retention marketing platform for retailers.

At a time of intense competition in the retail industry, it is vital for firms to offer a meaningful point of difference as it’s no longer enough to compete on commonplace benefits such as free delivery and returns. The only meaningful differentiator left is the customer experience, with customers who feel they have received a truly special and unique experience being far more likely to come back and buy from that retailer again.

Customer expectations have significantly increased over the past few years, directly due to the personalised experiences provided by tech giants such as Netflix, Amazon and Google.

But the true power of technology has yet to be harnessed by the vast majority of retailers that are on the whole still using generic marketing campaigns lacking the precision of artificial intelligence or AI-based solutions. The gulf between the experience that people are getting from innovative companies and slow-moving retailers is clear to see.

“The biggest shift in the way retailers market to potential customers is that they are urgently realising the need to match these improving experiences seen in other sectors. Many retailers are now actively looking to create experiences unique to every customer to meet these demanding consumers needs,” says Mr Mazour.

Machine-learning technologies and AI tools are playing a key role in the drive for more personalised customer communications. As the number of ecommerce customers around the world grows past two billion, the data points created by these  shoppers will become even more difficult to manage and effectively analyse.

Processing all types of customer data, and using them to create a meaningful and predictive understanding of customer behaviour in real-time, is simply not something a human can do without AI.

“The marketers we work with are excited about the creative side of data-driven solutions; they are actively looking for ways to create experiences customers value. A perfect AI system won’t be visible to the customer, but it will facilitate great experiences for shoppers,” says Mr Mazour.

Over the next couple of years, AI will continue to improve how retailers understand their customers interests and work in unison with machines to ensure the most personalised messages are being promoted.

Mr Mazour knows first hand that this innovation is happening now. “We are already many steps along the journey. We work with more than 150 retailers that have received approval from over 100 million customers to use their data to improve their experiences,” he adds.

Data-driven insights give retailers the power to understand deeply the communication preferences of each individual consumer, ensuring they remain engaged. Many of these preferences will shift over time, requiring retailers to update their customer profiles on an ongoing basis.

The end-goal is to get the customer profile to be as close as possible to the internal mindset of the consumer, as new customers are unlikely to become regular buyers if they have a bad experience with a brand.

With research commissioned by Ometria finding that 75 per cent of consumers do not feel brands fully understand their interests, retailers need to utilise innovative AI technologies to bridge this gap. The same research also indicated that customers are happy to see what improvements AI can bring to their shopping experience, with 62 per cent of consumers comfortable with the prospect of brands using AI to make marketing better.

Ometria’s customer intelligence layer applies AI technology to each individual customer and works out an individual’s affinity towards a category, brand or message and then enables the marketer to send the message only to that audience, safe in the knowledge they will be engaged.

“The results of our pilot project led to a 40 per cent increase in revenue from the targeted message, illustrating that a predictive understanding of customers not only improves engagement levels, but also increases sales,” says Mr Mazour.

The ability to personalise marketing messages is more than just valuable to retailers, it’s essential to their survival in an increasingly competitive marketplace. The traditional way of marketing has always been focused on the concept of a campaign, but retailers are now able to change this outdated approach and create unique messages that resonate with customers.

As the interactions between customers and brands continue to evolve, Ometria can help retailers to become better equipped to meet increasing consumer expectations.

“It all starts from understanding the customer. Without this, you can’t create a great experience for them or establish a long-term relationship. Without unifying all the data relating to each customer, it’s difficult to fully interpret what the customer wants,” explains Mr Mazour.

A retail-specific solution that connects every possible customer touch point, predicts their future behaviour and then powers all the marketing experiences can be a game-changer for forward-thinking retailers. Ometria have become the experts at building unique cross-channel marketing experiences in this new AI-powered retail space.

“We are not just the technology provider, but also a key partner to the retail brands we work with and help them transition from the old world of ineffective campaign-based marketing to a perfect world of marketing experiences that customers will love,” Mr Mazour concludes.

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