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Friday, December 1, 2023

Are Retailers Ready for GenAI This Holiday Season?

Co-authored by Molly Higgins and Lisa Richardson
Man looking at folded clothing items on a shelf in clothing store
Are Retailers Ready for GenAI This Holiday Season?Senior Director, Strategic Growth — Molly Higgins
Man looking at folded clothing items on a shelf in clothing store

Less than 12 months ago, generative artificial intelligence, or genAI burst onto the scene. Over the last year, we’ve seen incredible applications and experienced strong growing pains. Soon, genAI will hit a major milestone: its first holiday season.

Initial conversations around genAI focused on creativity, content creation, and copyrights. But more recently, that talk has shifted to business impact, efficiency, personalization, service, and experience. Consumers and retailers alike have expanded their view of how genAI can transform the total experience.

As genAI improves, customer expectations increase. Customers can see the potential of genAI and how it has evolved throughout 2023. Now, retailers must integrate genAI into their total experience to meet those expectations through smarter support, chats, and service — the most effective places to alleviate pain through automation in order to improve the overall experience for customers and employees.

GenAI has incredible potential to streamline operations, improve personalized service, reimagine self-service options, increase cross-sell and upsell opportunities, and empower employees with real-time tools and information. With technology advancing rapidly, the possibilities are endless. In the 2023 holiday season, we’ll see this new technology in action.

How Important Is GenAI This Holiday?

With such rapid adoption, retailers may feel pressure this holiday season. Although customer expectations are at an all-time high regarding intelligent service, personalization, and connected digital experiences, there’s a chance retailers will get a pass this year.

With rising inflation, many consumers are more concerned with deals, meaning they may tolerate “dumb” bots or sub-par services to save money. With that in mind, retailers don’t need a full genAI rollout this year. But that doesn’t mean customers won’t get frustrated with antiquated service loops. They’ve seen AI's vast applications so frustration will likely be higher but that may not necessarily impact their purchasing decisions.

With the current price sensitivity, retailers can use this year for learning and experimentation with genAI. They are able to test what does and doesn’t work in the customer and employee experience, how agents and in-store employees actually use it, and the use cases with the biggest impact. Consider 2023 the year of testing and experimentation to set you up for long-term growth and AI transformation.

Prioritizing GenAI This Holiday Season and Beyond

Even though today's savvy customers want genAI-powered answers and services, retailers shouldn't rush genAI adoption. Retailers that launch ineffective AI tools this holiday season could open themselves up to unnecessary risks and undermine future advancements.

GenAI is a must moving forward, but it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. This holiday season is an excellent opportunity for retailers to test genAI and set the foundation for future growth. A key consideration is creating a reliable internal content repository to ensure a smooth and reliable rollout. GenAI succeeds and fails based on the information it is fed, so taking time to ensure the data and prompts are accurate and relevant can prevent future headaches and a loss of credibility from clunky AI tools.

To lead with genAI this year, retailers should choose the use case with the biggest impact, which will likely be returns or service issues. Improving these high-traffic and often frustrating issues can dramatically improve the experience. Any implantation of genAI this year will go far in building goodwill and establishing your company as a forward-focused, experience-centric retailer. The brands that find ways to adopt genAI in 2023 through content creation, sales and service, or frontline support will have a major leg up on the competition going into 2024 and beyond.

2023 is genAI's inaugural holiday season, and it will be a defining moment for the future of retail and the total experience. Correctly leveraging this powerful tool can transform the experience for customers and employees.

Rightpoint is your trusted partner for adopting genAI and boosting the total experience. Click here to learn more.