Powering the customer journey through AI and ML

By Leslie Weller on October 27, 2020

Understand, activate, and engage

In Session AI’s Thought Leadership Interview series, we sit down with experts from across industries to discuss the latest movements and technologies transforming the customer experience.

Over the years, retail has evolved from being merchant driven to customer specific. Where once if a customer came to a store looking for a blue shirt, and the store only had black, they had no options, online shopping places the power in a customer’s hands. Beyond this ability to choose exactly what they want, customers now expect websites to cater to them specifically. If, for instance, they added a blue shirt to their cart, they would expect the website to display a pair of white pants that matches nicely with their selected shirt.

Today’s consumers are looking for retailers to not only understand them but to meet their specific needs through 1:1 personalization. Joel Layton, the Vice President of ecommerce & Digital Marketing with ADP, recently sat down with Debjani Deb, CEO and Co-founder of Session AI, to discuss how to add value to the customer journey with personalization and data-informed AI and ML models. In the discussion, he covered:

  • Understanding who your customer is and how you can reach them 
  • How to intelligently activate customer data  
  • How to use AI and ML to automate and personalize the customer journey

Knowing your customer

Digital channels have provided customers more power than ever before. In order to engage the empowered customer, retailers must understand exactly who their customer is and what their needs and desires are in a given moment.

Online channels allow retailers to target customer more effectively in two key ways. First, the Internet provides the single greatest testing environment for retailers. Where brick and mortar stores must be customized for the masses, an online storefront can be changed to appeal to each individual customer. Second, online channels have become the single greatest discount bazaar available. Through tabular browsing, customers can find the best prices and offers across sites. 

This requires sites to differentiate themselves on more than price alone, instead understanding a customer’s particular desires to serve up content that can engage and captivate them. To do so, retailers must use data gathered at every stage of the customer journey to understand exactly how to reach them and tailor content to their real-time needs.

Activating customer data 

While the need to collect data has been around for the better part of a decade, the ways in which retailers put data to use has changed dramatically over the years. Historically, retailers had a single view of a customer and would use data mining on top of SQL databases to try to understand who a customer is. Today, customer data platforms (CDPs) provide more insight into the individual, as they create a unified customer database that’s accessible to other systems. This allows retailers to activate data and unlock customer intelligence faster.

Before selecting a CDP, retailers must ensure that high-quality data is being pulled. By applying artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) models to this data, retailers can then make sense of disparate data sources to trigger outreach based on customer’s behaviors and learned interests and patterns.

Applying AI and ML to the customer journey 

Understanding how a particular customer set activates both online and traditionally in brick and mortar stores is important. After setting the foundation with a CDP, AI and ML can be utilized to automate and personalize the customer experience. Retailers can piece together data points from across channels—whether at the store POS, the website, in-app, chat, email, or more—to personalize the experience based on a customer’s actions. These omnichannel customers are often three times as valuable in terms of revenue generation for a brand than customers that interact on a single channel.

By automating and personalizing the customer experience through AI and ML, retailers are able to better understand their customers and activate 1:1 insight to deliver more relevant, memorable, and timely engagements.

Interested in learning more? Check out the full interview with Joel Layton to learn firsthand how to reach customers more effectively through personalization.

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