Retailers getting serious about artificial intelligence
Source: Marianne Wilson
A new survey suggests that retailers are ready to invest in artificial intelligence and other new technologies.
Forty-five percent (45%) of retailers plan to utilize artificial intelligence within three years to enhance the customer experience, according to the BRP (Boston Retail Partners) 2017 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Benchmark Survey.    Virtual reality is also in retailers' sights, with 34% of respondents saying they plan to deploy it within the next three years. Another 34% of retailers plan to implement augmented reality within the same time frame.
Additionally, 55% of retailers are focused on optimizing the customer experience to increase customer loyalty by improving the mobile shopping experience and creating a unified experience across channels.
"Stores must now encompass both worlds – the sensory experience generally available in the physical world, such as touching and feeling merchandise and personally interacting with a knowledgeable associate – whether simply human or a combination of AI and human characteristics – married with the unique and personalized shopping experience common in the digital world," according to the report. "The physical and digital worlds are forever intertwined as we look to the future."
In other key findings from the report:
•Most retailers have plans to implement new technologies to identify customers via their smartphones, mobile apps and other emerging technologies. Within three years, 59% of retailers plan to use Wi-Fi and 63% plan to use mobile apps to identify customers in their stores.
*Eighty-nine percent (89%) of retailers are now using social media comments as a critical customer satisfaction measurement.
*Sixty-seven percent (67%) of retailers are offering a consistent product offering across channels. But many are still struggling with manual processes, with 43% indicating the process needs improvement.
•Enhanced networks are a key requirement for a unified commerce environment, with 76%    of retailers planning to enhance or replace their network within the next three years.