Consumers are cautious and somewhat “on watch” when it comes to AI, but they know they’ll need to reconcile their reservations. According to Morning Consult, 52% of consumers are convinced that AI is here to stay. As a matter of fact, as accessibility becomes a more prevalent concern in the retail sector, the interplay between new technology and AI represents some good news.
Features that improve accessibility have the power to help legitimize AI-powered tools and services and lead to more trust around the new technology. The rapid expansion of AI is propelling the retail sector to prioritize and enhance digital and virtual accessibility for consumers with different capabilities or limitations, addressing a longstanding need.
We see this in the example of OpenAI, the creator of GPT-4 that partnered with Be My Eyes to integrate AI into virtual assistance tools. It connects sighted volunteers and professionals with those in need of visual assistance. The increased support of using AI to build a more accessible and inclusive digital world will help more consumers feel safer in exploring these new methods of engagement. Driven by these developing technologies, signs point to more digitally immersive shopping and social commerce experiences that will be easier for people with different abilities to navigate.
So what’s at play here and where might we go next?
Increased focus on personalization: A cornerstone of the ideal consumer experience, especially as we see deeper engagement with digital platforms, social search and social shopping, have become normal channels for consumers to discover, explore and buy. According to Deloitte’s 2022 Global Marketing Trends, 68% of consumers said they found it helpful when a brand they regularly shopped with provided them with alerts when items go on sale. Imagining extensions of functionalities such as sale push alerts to a cellphone for the visually impaired stand as yet another manner by which to make truly relevant connections with a highly specific subset of the population. This will drive engagement and loyal customers who find such functionality to be critical acknowledgment of their needs.
First-party data sources: Hyper-personalization efforts will need to be informed and powered by first-party data. With the forthcoming absence of cookies, retailers won’t be able to spy the purchasing interest of their user base. Instead, they’ll need to weave developing an understanding of each customer into the whole of their customer lifecycle and user interfaces. According to Deloitte’s 2022 Global Marketing Trends, 61% of high-growth brands reported shifting to a first-party data strategy. Be they augmented reality or AI-based ecommerce experiences, focusing on building a comprehensive and business-specific user data practice will be critical in maximizing revenue potential.
The path forward: Brands also will continue to include more video- and image-based shopping feeds as well as social tools that integrate AR-based trials, and develop the ability to engage and shop via live and virtual content with more AI-driven, human-like customer service. A host of brands have already launched immersive fashion experiences in the metaverse, including Gucci, Adidas, Nike, Prada, Balenciaga and Louis Vuitton. In 2022, Walmart entered the metaverse through its Roblox gaming and retail experiences and Nike introduced Swoosh, the brand’s metaverse plan.
Immersive digital technologies will only continue to expand both in reach and accessibility in the coming years. Brands should use the shift as an opportunity to consider and prioritize consumers with different abilities to deepen their inclusion in the industry, while using the science and tech at hand to push for greater, more effective solutions to meet their needs.
Anna Otieno is Head of Research, Strategy and Insights at New Engen. She is a cultural trends analyst and behavioral economist with 15+ years of experience in topics including demographic trends, human behaviors and attitudes, socio-economic shifts and pop culture. She is a dedicated researcher and ethnographer with a commitment to developing innovative research structures and creative brand strategies. Otieno leads New Engen’s Research and Insights division, which is responsible for transforming qualitative and quantitative research into actionable insights and strategies.