Padma Hari from Bloomingdale’s shared some exciting insights into how a retailer that has existed for over 150 years have embedded AI, and how they see it transforming customer relations, during her presentation at the AI Summit in New York 1st December.

Hari started off by looking at how AI is used extensively to offer real-time, hyper-personalised recommendations to customers. AI is being perceived as a game changer due to its potential to integrate online and offline customer experiences, providing 360-degree view of a customer, Hari explained.

“If you look at AI, it is an extreme game changer in the world of retail, and specifically of how customers interact with retail”, Hari said. “You have online stores, you have these customer groups that give product recommendation that give product reviews, that you have on your mobile device, which has grown extensively over the past years”.

“Understanding that customer behaviour, from the store experience to the online, that is a very pivotal point for all of retailers. A customer today who walks into the store expects that I should know what they have browsed, their preferences and their likes and dislikes”, Hari said. “That’s where AI comes to play”.

“Retailers are trying, and are making huge progresses in trying to understand how to tie this online-offline data” – Padma Hari about how retailers are working with AI.

Hari explains how AI has revolutionised the customer service too, as it now is significantly easier for the consumer to go through the medium they want, have an experience that respects their time and have issues resolved quickly. “Customer relations have come a long way”, she says.

Despite AI revolutionising the retail industry, Hari also emphasises the importance of considering all of their customers. “Coming from a company that has existed for more than 150 years, we still have customers who are old school, who expect the customer service representative to call them. Hari explains how they argue that they have been their customer for thirty years, and expects a treatment that reflects that relationship.

“Then you have the millennials, per se, who are like: don’t bother me, don’t talk to me, I’ll tell you what I want, and you’ll be ready to service me exactly the way I want”, Hari says, highlighting the variety of challenges that retailers face when trying to please all of their customers.

“With all the technology advancement has the customer relation improved?”, Hari asks. The answer is yes, and particularly in the retail industry as there is a massive initiative about “capturing the millennials”, Hari says.

“There is a dilemma between serving your long-lasting customers, or the millennials” – Padma Hari, Bloomingdale’s.

Hari shares a proactive outlook on the future, outlining three areas that she believes is important in shaping the customer relationship of the future. She believes that it is essential that retailers have a very proactive targeting of their customers

“Before you can even think that you want this, how can I sell this to you better? That’s where all the retailers will see huge revolutions in the next ten-fifteen years”.

According to Hari, this is what the customer wants now: Phenomenal Customer Engagement – the right channel, with the right time, the right data, the right person and the right message and it has to be relatable to their personal life.

“They want it now, not tomorrow, not yesterday, they want it now, and that’s something that AI has to establish”.

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