The National Retail Federation (NRF) is the world’s largest retail trade association. In January, it held its NRF ‘24 event, where industry leaders shared their insights into which trends would shape the future of retail.
Not surprisingly, artificial intelligence (AI) was the star of the show. In customer service, for example, experts predict that AI will power 95% of interactions by 2025.
Three large corporations stood out at NRF ‘24 for adopting AI to improve their customer experience: Amazon, Walmart, and BMW. The thing is, nothing that they’re doing is out of reach for businesses with fewer resources. Their use of AI is a powerful model for companies of any shape and size looking to take advantage of this tech.
Here’s how these major organizations are leveraging AI to elevate the customer experience — and how you can, too.
Three industry leaders that are leveraging AI
1. Amazon: personalizing at scale
Ecommerce giant Amazon has launched a generative AI chatbot, Rufus, to assist shoppers looking to make a purchase in their app. Rufus does a phenomenal job of organically placing Amazon’s well-known product recommendations into customer conversations.
Thanks to Rufus' engaging, customized answers, customers can ask for personalized product advice, discover new products, and find the exact item that fits their needs. Possible questions/prompts shoppers can enter include:
- What are some eco-friendly T-shirts?
- What do I need for cross-country skiing?
- What’s the difference between lip gloss and lip balm?
- Compare different printers for me.
Why is this so important? By being able to easily ask questions and compare products, shoppers find out everything they need to know to make an informed decision. With Rufus, they get this info instantly and are more likely to make a purchase.
This is also a simple way for Amazon to cross-sell products that are related to a user’s questions. Product recommendations generate 35% of Amazon’s revenue, so getting them in front of shoppers is an effective way to drive more sales via customer support.
How can you personalize at scale today?
Thankfully, you don’t have to be an ecommerce titan to engage with customers using generative AI. In fact, you don’t even have to make your own chatbot from scratch.
Leading customer service platforms offer no-code generative AI solutions that can be added to your website in under an hour. By integrating with your tech stack, plugging into your FAQ page, and accessing your product catalog, these chatbots can deliver personalized answers with advice tailored to each customer's needs.
Better still, today’s top tools have generative AI guardrails in place to stay fully under your control. Along with knowing your products and knowledge base, they learn your brand’s style and stick to it.
In short, you can have a chatbot on your website that's just as powerful as Amazon’s Rufus — giving yours a better name shouldn’t be too tough, either.
2. Walmart: simplifying complex order requests
Walmart might not be grabbing as many headlines as Amazon, but 12% growth in ecommerce sales helped the traditionally brick-and-mortar retailer outperform its online-first counterpart in 2023. Walmart earned $611B in revenue, while Amazon failed to crack the $575B mark.
Now, Walmart is looking to increase ecommerce sales even further by adding generative AI to its online shopping experience.
Walmart’s experimental generative AI works a little differently from Amazon’s — instead of recommending a single soft drink or T-shirt, Walmart wants its tools to assist customers with more time-consuming, complex orders.
For example, customers can type that they’re shopping for a “unicorn-themed toddler birthday party,” and Walmart’s AI will deliver a curated shopping list with all the items needed to prepare the perfect party. Shoppers don’t need to search for each product individually and instead add the entire AI-generated list to their shopping cart.
Yes, this saves customers heaps of time, but it also benefits Walmart. The AI seamlessly cross-sells products shoppers may not have initially searched for, meaning average order value (AOV) can significantly increase without any added investment needed to complete a sale.
How can you streamline requests today?
Like Amazon’s AI, Walmart’s AI isn’t unique and is already being replicated by other tools available on the market.
Generative AI customer service chatbots use natural language processing (NLP) to understand shoppers’ questions, meaning customers can use whatever wording they want and still get the answers they’re looking for.
With buying intent detection, AI chatbots can also spot which users are most likely to make a purchase. This means these tools won’t simply answer a customer’s question, but they’ll automatically take the next step and recommend relevant products — even multiple items — based on what’s been asked.
This can all be accomplished inside the chat widget with interactive product carousels. Chatbots can present products — complete with images and prices — directly in the chat window. Instead of sifting through different product pages one by one, shoppers see every item they’re looking for — even complementary ones — on their screen, enabling time-saving, one-click checkout.
For those complex cases that require a personal touch, a chatbot can still help. AI tools are able to connect shoppers to the right product experts when human support is needed. These platforms assist human reps by placing the relevant product and customer data at their fingertips, letting them recommend products and answer questions as quickly as possible.
3. BMW: empowering customers to make smarter decisions
AI-powered personalization can also play a major role in guiding customers to making better-informed decisions.
BMW has partnered with Amazon to introduce voice recognition technology — similar to Alexa — in its automobiles. This new voice assistant gives drivers a smoother, more natural way to learn vital information that could previously only be found in the car manual.
By simply speaking, drivers can ask for instructions on drive modes, parking assistance, and car features — and get instant, easy-to-understand answers that enable them to take the best actions for whatever scenario they’re in.
And it’s not just about learning new info. Drivers can also give voice commands through the user interface, like “Turn on my seat heaters” or “Lock the car doors,” to make their driving experience more comfortable — without lifting a finger.
How can you empower customers today?
Any business can use AI to make the potentially challenging task of educating customers easy and enjoyable. By feeding your knowledge base into an AI chatbot, visitors to your website can receive instant, engaging responses to information that would otherwise be buried in technical manuals, how-to guides, or tutorials.
Through generative AI, a chatbot trained on your data can even translate technical language into more accessible text. AI tools can modify any text to suit a specific audience while maintaining a business’s distinct brand tone and style, enabling automated messages that are understandable, engaging, and actionable.
And AI does all this while keeping the customer experience fully personalized. Just like it helps BMW passengers with their specific car, it can assist each unique shoppers with their particular order.
Stay ahead of the curve
The businesses that succeed in the years to come — in ecommerce and beyond — are those that adopt AI early and use it to make their CX stand out from the field.
This technology isn’t some advanced, expensive resource reserved for big players. Any company can take advantage of AI to craft next-level experiences for its customers.
Zowie is an AI-powered customer service platform that helps ecommerce brands bring customers personalized communication, smoother shopping, and helpful information.