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Artificial intelligence, an Aldi ad and selling on social

 

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This week I was lucky enough to attend the WGSN Futures event held at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. It was all about how innovation in technology, stores and digital marketing are changing the way shoppers interact with retailers and brands.

WGSN head of insight, Lorna Hall, spoke about the possibility of artificial intelligence (AI) altering the way people shop as consumers become more reliant on virtual assistants like Google Home and Amazon Echo. These assistants will become the gateway between customers and businesses, meaning the customer’s field of vision will become a lot smaller.

Find this stuff as fascinating as I do? Check out this video to see the Amazon Echo in action.

We can see the impact of AI already. Data shows that in the US, owners of the Echo device are spending on average 10 per cent more than they did prior to owning it. Specifically, they are spending more at Amazon.

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“AI will shift from enhancing the customer journey to controlling it, becoming the gatekeeper of the entire process,” said Hall. “It will become more challenging for businesses to break into our lifestyles… The old ways of retailing are changing really fast. Retailers need to find routes to AI.”

Although Hall said she thinks AI represents a challenge for retailers, it also opens up new avenues. “AI offers really interesting back-end stuff,” she said. “It can be a friend and a foe. Retailers have to look at AI as a positive.” She pointed to British online supermarket, Ocado, which uses machine learning or AI technology to filter customer emails and pick out the most urgent inquiries.

Here are a few other things I’ve been interested in this week:

I’m watching... a lot of Christmas ads! UK retailer John Lewis always generates a lot of hype with its Christmas advertising, and this year is no different. Its 2016 offering, which stars Buster the Boxer, has generated well over 15 million views in a week.

Closer to home, there’s this slightly creepy ad from Aldi Australia.

I’m reading…this piece from Forbes about how retailers, and particularly small businesses, can use social media to boost sales. Author Shama Hayer writes that selling on social is more about your customer’s brand than your own. “Social media has lead to a greater emergence and emphasis on the individual consumer’s brand and how it intersects with the company brand,” Hayer writes. “The question becomes: what does doing business with us allow our customers to say about their personal brand?”

I’m thinking about... the instore experience. With the rise and rise (and rise) of online shopping, do retailers need to offer more to entice customers through their doors? Does the effort of creating something different actually pay off? We took a look at five retailers creating amazing instore experiences that are less about selling and more about brand promotion and marketing. Check it out here.

Have you spotted a great Christmas ad or a retailer that does things differently instore? Let me know in the comments below.

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