Communicating With In-store Customers Intelligently

In mixing mobile channels with in-store purchases will retail forget customer service?

Gartner envisions (in their Me Marketing: Get Ready for the Promise of Real-Time, Context Aware Offers in Consumer Goods) a future in which you will walk into your grocery store and receive messages and offers via mobile devices based on your precise location in the store and customized to match your preferences and habits.

These offers will be generated by a complex technology and analytical ecosystem that draws from a wide assortment of data and insights contributed by you and a host of other unique individuals. Instead of the usual assault of thousands of messages, you could receive a limited number of offers that were specifically tailored for you based on preferences you established when opting into the network or based on your actual consumption.

But a one-way channel hardly projects that unique engaging experience. What if the customer wants to clarify something, has a query, wants to tweak…yes, even personalize the offer! How do customers interact with it? An “in-store, in the moment” offer deserves an instant response system.

Context offers are about impulse purchasing so it extremely unlikely a customer is going to ask a member of staff about the offer unless they are standing next to them. In addition, expecting staff to understand every offer that might be available isn’t realistic. If you’re a store that typically operates long hours or perhaps never close, the chances are – at least some of the time – that your customer call centre is also closed. In all scenarios, a potential purchase opportunity is lost.

Whether the offer is delivered to a mobile or in the future more probably some sort of ‘Google Glass/smart-watch’ style wearable device, there needs to be a mechanism for the customer to respond. And, if it’s not going to overburden current resources, it needs to be automated as far as possible.

This requires a powerful combination of understanding and intelligence, which is exactly what NLI offers – the ability to interact with the device carrying the offer – whatever that device may be – and get a truly personalized answer.

Whilst Garter says that it will be at least another 5 years before it becomes scalable, already a number of advanced technologies exist that have the potential to help manufacturers and their retail partners understand the “in the moment” context of their target audience.

Understanding customers’ intent and state of mind in order to deliver value in a precise location has the potential to increase engagement, loyalty and ultimately sales. But implementing it without considering an equally sophisticated customer service mechanism to support it and you’ll have consumers opting out faster than you can say ‘supermarket spam!’


Andy, who lives with his family in the UK, is Chief Marketing & Strategy Officer at Artificial Solutions. A regular speaker at industry conferences and events, Andy delivers insight on the rise of AI, the challenges businesses face and the future of intelligent conversational applications.

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