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Posted on December 11, 2018 by staff

Retailers turn to AI technology as high street struggles

Retailers are investing in AI technology to attract online shoppers this Christmas as in-store sales plummet to their lowest levels in 10 years.

A new study by managed cloud communications provider Olive Communications found that 71 per cent of retailers are investing in artificial intelligence in the call centre.

The research comes after November was reported to have the lowest shopper footfall since the 2008 recession, with in-store sales predicted to get worse in December.

The latest figures show that 14 high street stores are closing each day with the possibility of further stores collapsing in January 2019.

John Lewis, Marks and Spencer and Primark recently posted a fall in like-for-like sales, House of Fraser has closed more stores, while the boss of M&S warns of “challenging” trading conditions for the remainder of the financial year.

Olive Communications interviewed 500 call centre operators, 1,000 consumers and 500 heads of customer service in retail and eCommerce. It found that 59 per cent of retailers have invested in chatbots to transform their customer service and productivity.

Meanwhile, 42 per cent use virtual agent-led live chat and 22 use agent assist technology.

“We’re all part of a ‘now’ society, in which consumers expect a personalised, instant and frictionless experience in which we buy on demand at our convenience,” said Dr Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance.

“Retail is constantly pursuing new initiatives to push the envelope, from grocery deliveries within the hour to chatbot technology opening up a smarter, rapid-response  communication channel between consumer and retailer.

“We cannot underestimate the future importance of AI to improving customer service and experience, particularly for fielding on-line shopping queries.”

Martin Flick, CEO of Olive Communications, added: “With customer experience predicted to overtake price and product by 2020, retailers must be prepared to evolve to offer a more personalised experience, which our research has proved must be quick and convenient for the customer across all channels.”

The research found that more than a third of retailers surveyed saved over £100,000 a year by investing in AI-enabled cloud contact centre solutions.