AI-powered research helps rethink the purchase journey at the physical-digital border to ensure retail resilience.
To react to this forum and chat live with the Yext teams about the search experience and the usefulness of AI, come meet them on Technology for retail fair November 28th and 29th in Paris.
The serious disruptions currently affecting the global economy are confronting the retail sector with the need to innovate and transform. The pandemic has profoundly changed consumer habits and shopkeepers cannot ignore the lessons of the shopping experience.
The key to success in this new era of retail is, in large part, the ability to rethink the entire shopping journey. And that means breaking down the barriers between digital and physical to create a whole new dimension of omnichannel shopping focused on the search experience powered by artificial intelligence and natural language processing.
the answer problem
One of the main challenges is acquiring the technological means to adequately respond to the sometimes complex questions of online customers. While in-store shoppers can easily obtain reliable information from sellers, merchants have not always been able to extend this added value to their digital selling space.
The problem is that information is often stored in unstructured databases, making it inaccessible to traditional search engines. Many e-commerce sites, therefore, require users to search using exact terms, meaning that a user searching for a fridge or fridge will not see a product labeled fridge.
However, consumers who cannot find the information they need on the brand or on the e-commerce site naturally turn to Google, social networks or other online directories, which lengthens the purchase funnel and reduces conversion rates.
By pushing their potential customers to third-party sources, companies therefore lose control of their product and brand information.
AI to optimize the search experience
Fortunately, technologies based on artificial intelligence (AI) allow us to efficiently process these masses of data and deliver information in a more relevant and efficient way.
It starts with knowledge graphs, which structure complex data in a way that allows a natural language processing (NLP) solution to make useful associations to understand the deeper meaning of a query. Like a human brain, the search engine can process complex queries, establish associations between the terms used and provide relevant results in real time.
Combining knowledge graphs and NLP solutions also makes it possible to process unstructured data, such as white papers or product descriptions, and thereby reveal previously inaccessible information to customers and prospects.
Tech giants such as Google and Amazon have long used AI to power their search technology, but it has only recently become mainstream, with third-party solutions now available to everyone.
Take advantage of local searches
And while it’s tough for merchants to compete with Amazon, they have a secret weapon: the in-store shopping experience. Amazon doesn’t offer large-scale physical stores, which means it still can’t take advantage of local searches, which include things like “near me”.
By creating pages optimized for the most popular local search terms, merchants can engage local customers using an advanced search tool and provide them with a seamless store-to-digital experience.
For example, a shopper searching for “furniture stores near me” will land on a brand page, where they can use the advanced search function to gather relevant information and find the product they need. They can then buy directly online or go to the store to speak with a salesperson and examine the product in person.
Provide customization at scale
Although the term personalization is frequently used in the retail industry, there is a fundamental misunderstanding about its meaning. Personalizing a shopping experience isn’t just about offering automated “you might like it too” or “frequently purchased” offers that are often used as a crutch to overcome poor search technology. But a query must provide a specific answer.
Today’s consumers are smart enough to ask the right questions, brands just need to be smart enough to answer them. Whether in-store or online, true personalization is about providing the exact information needed to make a purchase decision.
By providing the right answers at the right time, AI-powered research breaks down the traditional barriers between the store and the digital world to deliver a consistent and efficient omnichannel experience.