We all have that one Facebook friend. You know the one. She posted in early October that she’s finished all her holiday shopping before the rest of us have even decided on a Halloween costume. While these eager (and ambitious!) shoppers may be part of the minority, it won’t be long before holiday shopping is in full swing.

RetailMeNot recently issued its holiday forecast predicting that holiday shopping and browsing will really kick into gear during the first week of November. The company’s prediction is in line with those from retail analysts at eMarketer, who agree that the buying season for deal seekers (RetailMeNot’s target audience) has already started, but will ramp up after Halloween with consumers in full shopping mode the week before Thanksgiving.




AI Powered Holiday Shopping



Retailers are responding to these patterns in holiday shopping behaviors with planned promotions hitting well before the Thanksgiving holiday. But early promotions are just one way retailers will take advantage of what is expected to be a banner year for holiday ecommerce (eMarketer anticipates a more than 17% increase in holiday ecommerce since last year – the highest rate increase since 2011).

Another way that retailers are upping the ante this season is by leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) to create more personalized experiences for shoppers. By using AI-powered recommendations engines (like Genie), retailers are able to leverage first- and third-party shopping data to create profiles for each shopper, rather than segments of shoppers. The retailer is informed in real time what will spark a shopper’s interest in a purchase – a certain price break, a particular type of deal, the channel they favor, or maybe it’s as simple as the language used in the offer. Retailers are sitting on mountains of data and this year we’ll start to see them get creative with how they can use it to bond with their consumers.

We’ll also start to see AI being used in what is referred to as “conversational commerce” – or, commerce embedded within conversations enhanced by Natural Language Processing, a subsection of AI allowing for machines to understand conversational language and reply in a way that comes closer to mimicking a conversation with a human. Offerings such as Facebook Messenger and Amazon’s Echo speaker (using the Alexa Voice Service) are already conditioning consumers to interact with bots, and it will only be a matter of time before commerce-enabled bots will be used by a wide range of retailers.

While many retailers are waiting on the sidelines to see how bot technology catches on, we’ve already seen some, including 1-800-Flowers and Macy’s, use AI-powered bots to personalize the customer experience across channels.

It’s the most exciting time of the year both for retailers and consumers. We’re looking forward to seeing all the ways retailers will use AI this holiday season to capture their share of the projected $94+ billion in ecommerce sales.





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