4 Ways You Can Use AI to Enhance Every Step of the Customer Journey For artificial intelligence to work effectively, you need to have a strong data foundation.

By Nandini Rathi

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Dong Wenjie | Getty Images

AI has disrupted the retail industry, and that's a good thing. Consumer behavior is increasingly managed by AI, leading to an unparalleled online shopping experience. AI-powered tools have made it easier for even non-techie CMO's to deliver a highly personalized experience by anticipating consumer needs and making real-time predictions. AI-powered marketing is helping marketers to satisfy increasing customer expectations. It's with the help of artificial intelligence that even small- and mid-scale retailers are able to provide an exceptional one-to-one customer experience like Amazon, Walmart and Nordstrom.

To engage your customers in the right way at any contact point along their journey, consider these four techniques.

1. Look for out-of-the-box possibilities.

Give them something they haven't even thought of. Targeted communications that are relevant and useful can create lasting customer loyalty, as well as an upswing in conversions.

The customer lifecycle is non-linear. One of the most effective ways to win them over is by touching them at the right stage in their customer journey. For example, a shopper who has browsed but didn't purchase anything will appreciate getting an email with personalized recommendations based on his behavior.

Related: 5 Ways Artificial Intelligence Is Shaping the Future of Ecommerce

Now, product recommendations are nothing new, but recommendation engines were not as intelligent earlier as they are now. These tailored product recommendations are powered by deep learning and advanced machine learning frameworks that take into account the product-data along with unique user behavior and preferences.

Companies like Amazon and Netflix have become pioneers at using powerful machine learning algorithms to create an out-of-the-box experience to delight their shoppers, thus converting them into customers and loyal shoppers thereafter.

2. Map your customer journey across touch points.

Customers now have endless online and off-line touch points. Marketers need a single customer view to acknowledge all touch points rather than a series of snapshots.

Marketers who deny the importance of a centralized customer repository are fundamentally wrong in their approach. In the absence of a unified customer view, it is tough to send personalized messaging. To provide a seamless customer experience across channels and deliver real-time personalization, AI has to be built-in at the core of the system.

AI helps in providing a wholesome customer experience throughout the customer journey, from the first touch to the final sale. For instance, the traditional approach to predicting customer lifetime value is based solely on customer's historical data. But the CLTV models powered by machine intelligence take a lot of use cases into consideration to make better predictions, including the purchasing behavior. For example, how recently and frequently they have purchased, monetary value of the purchase and soon, to infer their future actions.

3. Identify key steps in the customer journey.

Be consistent. It's all about in-the-moment personalization. Marketers are swamped with tons of data with almost no actionable insights. But, data alone won't lead you anywhere. With artificial intelligence, marketers can get deep and powerful insights to identify key moments in the customer journey to automatically send the right message to the right person on the right channel, making the customer most likely to convert.

Related: Aggregate Data to Grasp the Whole Customer Journey

For example, AI-driven intelligence can determine which step in a customer journey had the biggest impact, when a customer is going to make his next purchase. All these predictions are made automatically and in real-time, based on a lot of past data, and machine-learning wizardry.

4. Transform customer experience with chatbots.

Most customer journey communication is flawed at some point. Most marketers target particular segments instead of one-to-one personalization. This leads to sending the same marketing communication to all customers in a segment.

Leveraging artificial intelligence to identify your customer needs is the key to "humanizing" your customer experience. Chatbots are AI-powered virtual assistants. They are the most significant example of how retailers are transforming their customer experience by making it proactive and interactive. Modern chatbots no longer frustrate customers with canned messages and delayed responses; they are data-driven to assist the customers in real-time.

Some of the world's smartest chatbot technology offers automation with contextual data to power AI systems. The advanced chatbots also enable speech-to-text translation by using natural language processing to engage the shoppers with a human dialogue-like interaction, thus speeding the discovery process in online shopping. Shoppers simply state their needs, and a chatbot presents a selection of items to match it. Companies like 1-800-Flowers and The North Face have leveraged AI-powered chatbots to transform the customer experience throughout the buying journey.

Retailers are also using AI-driven chatbots to enable online shoppers to ask questions in natural language to understand their intent and shopping preferences.

Related: Chatbots Are the Next Big Platform. Here's How Entrepreneurs Can Stay on Top of It

The customer journey is more than the total of events a customer has done in his quest to purchase. An AI-driven customer journey facilitates a deeper understanding of the customer that enables meaningful interactions.

Nandini Rathi

CMO of Betaout

Nandini Rathi is the CMO of Betaout, a marketing automation & customer intelligence platform for ecommerce companies. She helps marketers personalize their marketing and increase conversions. Previously she founded Bornrich, an online luxury magazine that was acquired in 2013.  Connect with her on TwitterLinkedIn and Facebook.

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