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How AI can Help Retailers Strategize Holiday Season Sales AI gives retailers deeper insights into customer behavior and make accurate, real-time predictions and recommendations for sales and marketing strategies

By Suhale Kapoor

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After record sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, retailers should now start gearing up for Christmas and New Year holiday season sales. To avoid scrambling last minute, it will be a good idea to implement a strategic framework now that takes you through to the end of the year and into the next.

In fact, planning promotions and engagement initiatives post massive sale events, such as Black Friday is a great way for retailers to extend the benefits and keep consumer interest in the lead-up to the next sales cycle. Recently, held its "Pink Friday' sale and drove immense consumer traffic. Now, after the sale has ended, it is continuing to engage customers with promotions to tell them not to worry in case they missed the big sale because they "still have these top discounts on offer'.

With so many variables in play, it can get increasingly difficult for retailers to work towards improving their own strategies to cater to consumers, while simultaneously staying ahead of the cut-throat competition. This is where the rise of new and emerging technologies, with artificial intelligence (AI), in particular, has opened up several opportunities for retailers to automate tasks from end-to-end.

Related Read: What Every Entrepreneur Must Know About Artificial Intelligence

AI is giving retailers deeper insights into customer behavior, as well as making accurate, real-time predictions and recommendations for sales and marketing strategies, helping them to enhance consumer engagement manifold while unlocking revenue across several touchpoints.

As per a recent study by Gartner, 55% of established companies have already begun investing in utilizing AI tools and systems or have plans in place to do so by 2020.

By implementing AI for a proactive approach, retailers can ensure that they stay on top of consumer's minds and make their way into their shopping carts. With this, the brand stays relevant and meets expectations through targeted experiences, thereby resulting in more purchases both pre- and post- larger sales periods.

Here are some of the areas where AI can help retailers boost their efforts.

Related Read: How to Get the Best Deals on Festive Sales


Maintain Consistency Across Channels

In order to ensure the brand is consistent across multiple channels, both online and offline, it is essential for retailers to get a clear picture of how the consumer journey takes place across devices. For this, they can implement simulations of the customer journey where employees can gain insights into the entire purchase cycle from the customer's perspective. This also includes making sure that payment methods are consistent and seamless across every channel.

Frontline sales employees, in particular, must also be trained to facilitate a standardized delivery of customer service, be it FAQs or other relevant information that is provided to fuel purchase decisions and consumer satisfaction.


Focus on Personalized, Relevant and Engaging Content

Content is at the heart of all brand communication – but what also matters is how, when, where and why it is delivered. While each brand may have a distinct approach to content, what it contains must evolve with time and trends, be accurate as well as tailor-made for customers based on personal preferences and various demographic factors. With this, brands can ensure that the right customer segment is targeted with content, product and service offerings that are relevant to them.

In addition to their own websites, to grab a significant percentage of consumer mindshare and ensure that they are engaging with the brand, retailers should put out content that resonates with consumers at different levels.

While articles and blogs are informative and insightful, giving customers another reason to come back to you is always a good option. This could range from implementing gamification on your app/website, or giving them an "insider view' into the products/services through videos and guides, or starting a campaign centered on user-generated content.


Look at Your Brand from the Consumer’s Perspective

The key to delivering elevated experiences for customers is by actively collecting their feedback and implementing/realigning strategies and approaches based on the insights gathered.

Retailers should also look at customer conversations across all social media channels, which can help them gauge problems and their extent, in order to take proactive measures to address them. There are several tools available to track and monitor your brand and how consumers perceive it based on various data points.


Enhance Delivery and Fulfillment Capabilities

If your customer is left waiting for their product and/or service for longer than they expect, it is more likely that they will not be satisfied with the experience, and may look for alternatives henceforth. The holiday season, in particular, brings in a sense of urgency with all the planning people are doing, as well as last-minute orders. As per reports, last-minute shoppers account for close to 30% of holiday sales.

Therefore, retailers are increasingly looking at enhancing their shipping and delivery fulfillment processes, even extending the options to two-day delivery during the holiday season. Another great option for retailers to implement is click-and-collect, which enables consumers to buy products online and collect them in-store or at a collection point, thereby significantly cutting down the time for fulfillment.

Though the holiday season is usually centered on a few big sales, it is essential that retailers remember to keep consumers constantly engaged (and in the festive spirit) even on the other "regular' days during this period. With its extensive capabilities, smartly implementing AI into existing operations can help enterprises gain valuable insights, identify several new opportunities and empower them to implement strategies accordingly for this holiday season and beyond.

Suhale Kapoor

EVP & Co-founder, Absolutdata Analytics

Suhale helped build Absolutdata from a startup to its current status as a robust delivery centre for analytics and research. In addition to growing our business in the US and other developed markets, currently, he is deeply involved in developing business with clients across APAC and the Middle East where we are witnessing consumer and business landscapes develop in very interesting ways, and the adoption of analytics across both MNCs and regional/local players. He is also closely involved with the firm’s Finance and Technology functions.

Suhale has over 20 years of experience in operations, marketing, logistics, and information management systems. Before co-founding Absolutdata, he spent 5 years with Mitsubishi Corporation in international trade, investments, and reengineering. Suhale is an alumnus of the Mitsubishi President’s Global Leadership Program.

He holds an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management at Ahmedabad and an undergraduate degree in Economics from Delhi University.

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