5 Ways Machine Learning is Disrupting the Retail Industry

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When you hear the word machine learning, lengthy algorithms may pop-up in thought bubbles around your head. Machine learning may start as “just” an algorithm but the benefits it has created for the retail world are monumental. From customer service to supply chain, machine learning has improved how retail operates.

1. Top Notch Recommendations

Long ago, shopkeepers were great at recommending the right products for every customer. As stores expanded in size and moved online, it increasingly became difficult to tailor recommendations for customers. Here’s the paradox: the larger stores get, the more necessary personalized product recommendations become. Until recently, many online retailers were attempting to hand curate all their product recommendations. I’ll let your mind wander to all the complications that can cause which includes but is not limited to, not being able to personalize recommendations for every visitor. Machine learning makes it easy for online retailers to personalize product recommendations in real-time for every customer. While hand curated product recommendations are still an option for retailers, machine learning streamlines the process and creates a positive customer experience.  

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2. Supply Supreme

If you’re even remotely familiar with inventories and supply chains, you know that they can be extremely complicated and involve a decent amount of risk. Issues with theft, mismanagement, or human error often fall under the category shrinkage. Machine learning can predict for these normal issues and reveal a more accurate estimate of final supply amounts needed. Adding machine learning tools into the management of the supply chain can significantly reduce shrinkage, saving companies time and money.

3. Search Party

If you can’t find an item in a physical retailer, you can always count on a sales associate to point you in the right direction. Search provides the same service when you shop online. But search capabilities can sometimes leave a lot to be desired. Just like the difference between a sales associate and a personal shopper, search can either be good enough or great. Sure, maybe it pointed you in the right direction but search powered by machine learning can predict what you want and tailor it’s recommendations to fit every individual. Machine learning takes search from decent customer service to excellent customer service.

4. Smart Shipping

Shipping is an ongoing obstacle for many retailers, especially now that Amazon has raised the stakes. While delivery services are one part of the equation, the other difficulty retailers face is uncertainty in the supply chain. Machine learning tools can now help retailers create better predictions in their supply chain, making their shipping estimates substantially more accurate.

5. Chatbots

Ecommerce has created a place for consumers to shop after normal business hours. But as much as customers like an element of self-service, they also want to know they can reach a customer service agent anytime they need. This has been a challenge for retailers as staffing customer service agents around the clock is no easy task. Not to mention expensive. Thus, this is why many online retailers have jumped at the chance to implement machine learning AI chatbots to their digital store. The machine learning chatbots learn about the customers over time, allowing them to provide the most likely answer. While arguments remain on whether this creates a truly personalized customer experience or not, it’s impressive what these smart chatbots can do.

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