Smart cookie: Firm uses artificial intelligence to help retailers engage customers
Like red Mary Jane pumps? You might also like a strappy ebony wedge. And if you're shopping online, the website you're on probably already knows that.
The technology to make those kinds of predictions – artificial intelligence, or AI – is being used by Lancaster County-based digital marketing firm Listrak Ltd., and it’s changing the world of retail, according to Brian Iovino, vice president of product for the company.
Based in Warwick Township, Listrak takes a retailer’s data, browser activity, order activity and customer measures, and assists the merchant in making better decisions about engaging customers, Iovino said.
By using AI, merchants are better able to predict what products a customer may or may not like based on the information it’s collecting. In turn, the predictions can help Listrak provide merchants with more relevant product recommendations that are targeted at individuals for a more customized online shopping experience.
The recommendations can come in the form of personalized programmatic ads or automatically generated messages that are linked to a consumer’s behavior and designed to trigger a response, like a price-drop or back-in-stock alert.
“For example, a message through email or text may say: ‘You liked this style of blouse based on your past purchase, you might also like this other, similar blouse’,” Iovino said. “Artificial intelligence helps to collect all of that data.”
AI, by Iovino’s definition, is an agent that collects input from its environment, recalls what has happened in the past and makes a decision. It also can understand where it is on a map, know where it wants to go, plot a course and move.
The company also utilizes a subfield of AI - machine learning. It allows an AI agent to learn with little to no human intervention by identifying patterns and making decisions.
In addition to recommendations, Listrak also works with predictive content, which involves sending customers content they may want to read based on their purchase histories and behaviors. The content, pulled from online blogs, tutorials and articles, is designed to offer a consumer more than a product.
One of Listrak’s clients, for example, sells skincare products. The company starting using predictive content to not only recommend products to its customers, but to also feed them content, said Shane M. Swisher, senior director of corporate communications for Listrak.
For Listrak though, human interaction is still valuable.
The company rolled out a resource last year called AI2, which combines computer AI with the actual intelligence of its human strategists. It kicks in when issues arise that may require a person’s intervention – like an order not processing. Using AI2, the issue can be intercepted more quickly and action taken quickly, preventing service interruptions for consumers.
“It’s not just about the software,” Swisher said. “It’s about the software and the people coming together to bring the optimal results.”