More people are shopping online than ever before, and consumers are demanding much more from their online experiences.
That has created a race by retailers and their tech partners to build smarter, more seamless, more personalized, digitally-enhanced shopping experiences.
Adobe Unveils New AI Tools For Retailers
At the National Retail Federation’s annual expo, (held virtually this year, from January 12 to 21) tech giant Adobe ADBE +0.9% unveiled its newest entries in that race, with tools designed to use artificial intelligence and data to alert retailers when something goes wrong in the digital experience, and to offer personalized experiences and promotions to the right customers.
One of the tools, Customer Journey Analytics, adds new AI capabilities to “help retail businesses manage and navigate in this incredibly complex environment they have to operate in,” said John Bates, director of product management for Adobe Analytics.
Customer Journey Analytics, Bates said, is designed to work with the new realities of retail, where a consumer might browse on a website, make the purchase on a mobile phone, and pick up the merchandise in person in the curbside lane at the store.
This holiday season, one out of every four online orders, or 25%, were picked up at curbside, or in-store, in November and December, according to Adobe Analytics data culled from 80 of the top 100 U.S. online retailers.
Adobe also measured massive growth in mobile purchases. On Christmas Day, the mobile share of revenue exceeded desktop for the first time, at 52%.
While earlier Adobe customer experience tools focused heavily on website interactions, Customer Journey Analytics “goes well beyond the website and it brings together the mobile app, the offline interactions, such as curbside delivery—so brands can better understand the holistic experiences their consumers are having with their brand,” Bates said.
The Customer Journey Analytics tool can alert retailers if problems on their website or mobile app are causing cart abandonment or shopper navigation problems, but also if lines and wait times are becoming a problem at curbside.
For example, Bates said, if the AI detects a sudden increase in average wait times curbside, “it will immediately identify that, alert the brand, and auto-analyze all of their data across devices and channels to then help them understand why that’s occurring.”
The Customer Journey tool works with the Adobe Experience Platform, which Adobe launched previously to help brands manage digital customer experiences and digital content.
Another new tool for the platform, also unveiled at the NRF expo, is “Offer Decisioning,” which analyzes data to create personalized offers for customers.
Personalization can mean anything from content or products tailored to a customer, or discounts or other special offers said Kevin Lindsay, director of product marketing at Adobe. The tool serves as a decision engine, Lindsay said, that can analyze different data inputs “then deliver the offer that seems most appropriate in this moment for this consumer.”
It also can create an “offering library,” with a list of possible promotions or discounts the decision engine can choose for a customer.
While retailers and tech companies have been talking about personalization for a long time, “the bar continually gets raised in terms of consumer expectations for that personalization,” Lindsay said.
“You probably won’t hear a single consumer say ‘I want that retailer to do this kind of personalization for me.’ They just want a great experience,” he said.
Consumers are shopping in all of the different channels—physical stores, mobile, website—and they expect that their experience is going to be stellar, no matter how they are shopping, Lindsay said.
The expectations of today’s digital shoppers “are just as high as if they were walking into a store – into Nordstrom JWN +3.6% and dealing with an associate who gave them great service and had helped them before,” he said.
While Adobe began working on these tools before the pandemic hit, the events of 2020, and the rapid acceleration in online shopping, have caused retailers to become much more aggressive about seeking out and adopting new digital technologies, Lindsay and Bates said.
Many of the tech companies at the NRF expo this year were pitching AI, machine learning, and analytics advances in their sales talks with retail clients. Microsoft MSFT -1%, Oracle ORCL +1.8%, and SAS also announced upgrades to their e-commerce support platforms.
For the past decade, the e-commerce race that got the most attention was who had the fastest delivery. Now that same-day delivery and in-store pickup are becoming standard, the next race to watch maybe which e-commerce AI gets the smartest, the fastest.