Luxury may be synonymous with exclusivity and rarity. However, as many of today’s high-end brands fall behind in an era of global e-commerce, the question is how can they not only catch up, but also get ahead to deliver those special experiences on the scale they need to survive?
Organisations in other markets are deploying chatbots, computer programs that allow customers to converse with an automated system, responding with set messages based on pre-defined rules, such as keywords in their text. Some are taking things a step further and offering a live chat function on their website.
But luxe products – with price tags to match – must be sold online with the same tailored approach a shopper would expect in store. It’s an approach that chatbots simply cannot provide. On the other hand, live chat is expensive to maintain, governed in part by the emotions of the agent behind the screen, and almost impossible to run all day, 365 days a year. A different tactic is needed to lure the affluent out of shops and on to their devices.
That’s where artificial intelligence (AI) comes in. The industry’s pioneers are already injecting their web presence with AI and the future-savvy are following suit. In fact, Forrester predicts that across all businesses, there will be a greater than 300 per cent increase in investment in the methodology this year.
The analyst firm has not only identified an imminent rise in AI spend, but also one of its interestingly predominant use cases; it says that 57 per cent of businesses expect it to help improve customer experience and support.
As consumers demand choice, convenience and personal attention – an expectation born from the instant gratification our smartphones, wearables and the internet of things provide – is this the new way to supply it?
Global customer experience company Volume certainly believes so. Chris Sykes, chief executive and head of AI and robotics, says: “What we’re seeing now is that price, ease of purchase, consistency of service and on-demand support are the key drivers for loyalty and spend. You can have the coolest bricks-and-mortar store at the most popular shopping centre, but standing out doesn’t necessarily mean profitable trading.
“By deploying a conversational AI platform, you can create that wow factor while also giving customers what they need, when they need it, whenever and wherever they want.”
A conversational AI platform is, in layman’s terms, an online chat service with a virtual brain. It asks for your name and requirements when you log on, using these details throughout the conversation It answers almost any question you may have for it, on any topic, with little training and it learns from every interaction, constantly offering up better, more personalised responses.
You’d be forgiven for believing that AI platforms are expensive to build and implement. It’s true that they require investment, but most of the time our clients are surprised at how affordable they are
Unlike a rep, though, it’s available from anywhere, at any time, 24/7 – and it doesn’t have bad days. With no mood or feeling, and a personality that you can develop and control, it’ll always speak in your brand tone of voice, politely, consistently. It’s no wonder that another analyst firm, IDC, says that by 2018, 20 per cent of major retailers will use AI to personalise the brand experience from awareness through to purchase.
Volume has not only developed conversational AI platforms for some of the world’s biggest brands already, with more luxury clients on the waiting list, but it also replaced its own traditional web presence with one six months ago.
Volume’s platform, its aptly named Digital Concierge® application, is called LUSY. She can tell visitors all about the company, put them in touch with staff where relevant and direct them to collateral, such as white papers and videos, for more information.
Mr Sykes’ team is currently investigating ways they can develop LUSY further, and say that soon she’ll be able to recognise faces to establish mood and produce content that complements this.
“We’re even looking into technologies that will allow LUSY to pick up on personality,” he says. “She can then provide information in a format that appeals based on the way users communicate. For example, if a user is more outgoing and talkative, they might prefer friendlier interaction; if they’re more subdued, they’d probably rather receive just the facts than conversation loaded with wit and banter.”
As well as offering the tailored experience shoppers want and the sales acceleration businesses need, AI solutions such as LUSY bring myriad other benefits for companies, employees and customers alike.
Mr Sykes explains: “You’d be forgiven for believing that AI platforms are expensive to build and implement. It’s true that they require investment, but most of the time our clients are surprised at how affordable they are.
“Part of this is because they can dramatically reduce the cost to serve, negating the need for you to hire, develop and train staff to perform tasks that are, in all honesty, mundane. Removing this element of service roles also enables your people to focus on strategy and innovation. So you become more profitable, your employees become more productive and your customers feel more cared for online. It’s win-win-win.”
Though there’s been talk of AI taking jobs, Mr Sykes is right about employees’ shift, not replacement. According to a survey conducted by technology enterprise Narrative Science, 80 per cent of executives say AI boosts productivity and creates new positions, while IDC estimates that by 2018 at least 20 per cent of all workers will use automated assistance technologies to make decisions and get work done.
If your business is looking for a pioneering way to meet the needs of the truly modern consumer, there’s no doubt about it, it’s time to move towards AI. There’s never been a better time – new AI vendors are emerging fast. By combining services from several, you can build a platform that can deliver the service benefits you’d like today and continue to exceed expectation tomorrow.
Mr Sykes’ final word of advice? “Think big, but start small. By beginning your AI journey now, you can make a head-start and earn that coveted loyalty luxury brands require.”
Chat with LUSY at volume.ai to learn more