Digital devices will play an even bigger role in shopping experiences by 2026.

As consumer spending increasingly shifts to mobile, retailers are being charged to finally embrace new technologies — especially artificial intelligence. Retailers are deploying the software to enhance the customer journey that’s being realized in shipment tracking, e-commerce personalization and live chatbots.

A new survey conducted by Linc and Brand Garage polled senior-level marketers and executives of top retailers and brands to understand their approaches for implementing artificial intelligence. The survey found that 87 percent of retailers are planning to improve consumer experiences with AI, marking customer service is a main area in need of updating.

Retailers and brands have folded e-mail and phone accessibility for customer service platforms. The research found that over 95 percent of the executives use e-mail as a main customer service platform and more than 94 percent offer phone services for shopper support. Most notably perhaps is that 66 percent of executives are using web site live chat as customer service, over 57 percent are tapping their Facebook page for the service — thirty-two percent are using Facebook Messenger for customer support.

“As customers ask more questions across more channels, delivering timely and quality support becomes, consequently, more complex, especially when relying solely on human intervention. AI presents an easily programmed solution for these new omnipresent consumers and their uncomplicated requests,” the report said.

Improved customer support comes with a price tag, especially as the platforms to multiply. “More than half the retailers surveyed (55 percent) attested their customer service costs have been rising. Furthermore, 55 percent of those retailers seeing cost increases attribute them to human resources, and 38 percent to shipping and logistics/reverse logistics problems,” said the report. What’s more, over 51 percent said that their customer service costs have been somewhat increasing.

But what retailers stand to gain after footing the bill is an even larger payoff. “The reward is indisputably worth the investment of resources, with customer service now being predominantly responsible for winning and, more importantly, retaining the ‘always on’ customer. Eighty-two percent of consumers will not give a brand another chance after just one bad experience and over 90 percent will look to other brands for a more satisfactory experience,” the report said.

As AI and automation become common procedure, retailers are looking to optimize the technology for chatbots to connect with shoppers. “Sixty five percent of respondents predict the rising importance of web site live chat in the next two years, and 51 percent predict the same for Facebook Messenger. And, it’s not just text chat that has the attention of retailers — 1 in 4 respondents believe voice will become an important channel within the next 24 months through platforms like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home.”

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