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How AllSaints, L’Oreal and Deliveroo are using AI to improve CX

From fuelling chatbots and digital assistants, to helping with retail media targeting, retailers continue to announce ways artificial intelligence is helping them boost customer experiences online

Shelley Bransten, Microsoft’s corporate vice-president for retail, consumer goods and gaming industries, opened her conference session at NRF’s Big Show in January saying: “You can’t spell retail without AI. It really is in our blood.”

t might have been a slightly cheesy way of making the point, but it allowed her to highlight the vast potential of artificial intelligence (AI) for retail and underline the rapid advancements it is already supporting in the sector, many of which were on show in the show’s expo hall.

Every week, a new deployment of AI in retail emerges, with several specifically focused on boosting the customer experience (CX) online.

At The Delivery Conference in London on 6 February, AllSaints’ head of CX and payments, SJ Grabiec, said her “expectations have been surpassed”, talking about using AI-enabled online customer support.

After re-platforming its entire e-commerce system at the end of 2022 to replace a custom-coded website, AllSaints embraced AI to provide a better customer service. It started working with Digital Genius, which provides an e-commerce ‘concierge’ service. This has helped to automate circa 30% of AllSaints’ chatbot traffic so far, Grabiec said.

“We had to put in time, effort and planning; the devil was in the detail in terms of the process mapping,” she said, adding that the tech investment has resulted in plugging the gap it had in dealing with ‘Where is my order?’ requests from customers.

Grabiec also noted the tech deployment means CX and customer service staff are now given more complex topics to tackle. “In our business, our CEO calls it a ‘talent utopia’ – making everyone enjoy their job a little bit more, removing that repetitive low hanging fruit kind of task,” she said.

As well as launching the chatbot, AllSaints implemented email automation for some customer queries, which has “helped us through peak period”, according to Grabiec.

“We’ve seen a 50% reduction in our backlogs – and that isn’t just the percentage of what was automated or resolutions provided, it was also the lack of duplication,” she said.

“If a customer doesn’t hear back from you in a certain amount of time, they are going to get nervous and reach out to you again. Then they are going to come to you on Instagram and then come to you somewhere else.”

Essentially, the use of the tech has boosted customer confidence in AllSaints’ ability to solve their issues.

“As soon as we strengthened our [tech and e-commerce] foundations, that’s when we jumped straight on the AI bandwagon,” Grabiec said. “Pre-Covid, we were a 24-7/365 service. We had a global team that supported global service, but after Covid that wasn’t efficient for us any further. AI and Digital Genius have helped us to have 24-7 availability again, marrying human expertise and service with AI technology.”

AI-enabled consultancy

Also in February, beauty conglomerate L’Oreal unveiled Lore, a virtual digital assistant created by tech company NTT DATA, which has been designed “to disrupt customer service through AI bot functionality”.

L’Oreal and NTT DATA recognise bots are usually programmed to provide limited answers, which means they tend to become less efficient as customer queries increase in complexity. Lore uses generative AI (GenAI) which the organisations say offer even more personalised communication based on natural language.

“We trained the virtual beauty consultant for months to ensure that it would achieve its goal to provide consistent and responsive answers, even in the most complex situations,” said Santiago Santa María, director of conversational AI at NTT DATA.

Lore makes recommendations to customers based on their needs, redirecting them to the brand’s online store, and even letting consumers shop within the same application.

“From the Lore development, we know that we can offer a hyper-personalised customer experience that allows us to train it on new products and enhance its knowledge and sensitivity to interacting with humans,” Santa María adds.

And because it’s AI, L’Oreal is confident the tool will only improve the more it is used.

It also allows businesses to manage thousands of users in multiple languages and different business areas. NTT DATA said it can also be deployed across WhatsApp, Instagram, call centres, mobile and website – as well in chatbot platforms.

Risk and relevance

We’ve covered the revenue-driving potential for retailers exploring retail media on these pages before, with GroupM forecasting brands will spend £6.5bn on retail media in the UK by 2027, or 16% of digital ad spend. Essentially, retail media is about finding ways to commercialise data and help brand partners market to the most relevant consumers. And AI is playing a part in supporting this growth area of retail.

Rokt, an e-commerce technology business which says it uses advanced machine learning and AI to serve relevant offers to shoppers, is being plugged into several retail websites and marketplaces looking to grow via retail media. Rokt announced in January that its tech was being used on the Deliveroo order tracker page, helping to ensure each advertising message is relevant to online shoppers. Asos, Boohoo, and Morrisons are among the other retailers leveraging Rokt’s AI technology

As with any new technology deployment, there’s risk surrounding AI, particularly GenAI, which has accelerated to prominence in 18 months. The manipulation of DPD’s customer chatbot in January is a case in point. Following what the delivery company described as an internal tech update, the platform interacted with one customer’s questions by calling DPD “useless” before criticising the firm via a poem.

More broadly speaking, the risks for retailers exist in the way AI projects are approached and how staff are using the technology to undertake their jobs, according to Grabiec.

“If you go from not using AI – especially from a customer-facing perspective – and then go big bang and do everything on AI, it’s going to really freak [customers] out,” she said, adding that AllSaints has an AI steering committee to monitor the market and internal usage of AI.

“AI is happening – it’s here and it’s now,” she said. “If you’re not thinking about it or considering how to work in harmony with it, that’s a risk in itself. It seems boundless. I’m so fascinated by AI, but I can understand why people see it as terrifying too.

“You don’t need to do it on your own – it could be part of the tech stack, or you could find an expert partner, someone who is mature in the space. Know what your user case is rather than try to achieve absolutely everything – do it in a phased way.”

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