The festive season—or the largest shopping period for Indian consumers, as touted—is round the corner!While the excitement and enjoyment of this season remain unparalleled, it is also thebusiest and most grueling, yet the most anticipated and most lucrative time for brands. According toresearch, holiday sales account for 20-30% of annual revenue on an average. But while the volume of consumers looking to make purchases goes up significantly, so does the intensity of competition among brands. Considering how a surge of over 40% is projected in consumer traffic during the festive season,the marketing and sales teams need an additional boost not just to maximize their outreach and sales efforts but also to minimize the chances of human error.

This is where AI and advanced analytics tools are stepping in.These tools help businesses identify unique opportunities and trends to effectively target consumers with the right offerings, drive successful marketing and sales strategies from end-to-end, achieve more sales, and enable a superior customer experience. Let us look into some of the ways in which this is being applied:

Real-time insights for a proactive approach:

AI tools have the ability to examine vast amounts of data, delivering important insights and recommendations for brands in real-time. They can also unearth and present a large amount of valuable information which, given the vastness and complexity, is much beyond the bandwidth of human teams and, hence, tends to get left out in traditional setups.

Using tools like machine learning and predictive analytics, marketing and sales teams can study customer behavior and preferences throughout the sales cycle. This includes information such as demographics and feedback related to a specific purchase. With such information, AI integrates the results to identify various patterns that allow marketers to refine and optimize their campaigns to target the right consumer at the right place and time.

In this way, businesses can present offerings with pricing and promotions that are tailor-made in real-time for specific consumers and/or segments who are most likely to make a purchase. Flipkart is one company that is predicting traffic and consumption patterns of customers on its website using real-time analytics and insights. This is helping it to enhance and alter the systems on-the-go with the information gathered. Based on this, it then provides users with different experiences based on its identification of whether the customer is just browsing or intends to go on to make a purchase.

Enhanced strategies and campaigns with historical data:

When working towards a strategy for the festive season, businesses must take campaigns and activities from the past years into account. This includes a deep comparison of factors such as which sales promotions and ads drew in most consumers and helped aid purchases. Given the extensive data, AI can help marketers identify what worked and what could do with improvements, and action can then be taken accordingly to follow the positives for the new campaign.

Not only does this produce greater insights pertaining to consumer’s characteristics, but it also helps with understanding the existing models of the brand, product and channel that a company is employing. Usually, each of these elements includes a different strategy, and this is where the information provided by AI tools can aid marketing and sales professionals with the strategic decisions about various permutations and combinations of each one.

Greater engagement throughself-learning technology:

Systems and tools powered by AI have the ability to learn and become smarter with every bit of data that they process over time, i.e. they are self-learning. This means that the more relevant data that is fed into them, the more detailed are the analysis and insights that AI and ML algorithms can produce. One extremely popular tool to carry out first-hand collection and analysis of data about consumer behavior and preferences is conversational AI or ‘chatbots’.

Backed by MLand natural language processing, chatbots are programmed with predetermined data and can interact with consumers in a human-like manner over chat. Based on the historical data, they can instantly answer basic customer queries, take feedback and provide relevant recommendations.

For instance, if a customer wants to buy an outfit during the festive season, an AI shopping assistant (bot), can ask them questions based on which it will learn their preference and provide options that are according to the specifications. It can also prompt them to upload a picture whereby they can try out the outfit virtually, along with any other “You may also like…” type of additions.This level of personalization helps to enhance engagement and makes for better overall customer experience. For instance, renowned fashion brand H&Mhas launched a chatbot of messaging app called Kik, where it allows customers to see, share, and purchase products from the catalogue. Along with this, it also offers a personalized comprehensive style profilebased on photo options and relevant questions. This profile is then used to recommend style options based on the preferences, thus enabling an enhanced shopping experience. And many retail brands around the world are adopting similar strategies by leveraging AI for end-customer interactions. According to a Gartner report, it is expected that AI will manage 85% of customer relations by 2020.

The key to successful sales and marketing initiatives for businesses today is strategically employing AI-backed systemswith a robust foundation, thereby effectively reaping their benefits and driving better, scalable outcomes. The intelligent systems are able to offer tailor-made solutions to each customer, which further enhances the quality of information that is gathered about prospective buyers. With deeper insights, real-time analysis and higher engagement, AI is revolutionizing the way brands today carry out their marketing and sales activities and proving to be especially helpful during the busy festive season!

The article has been penned down by Suhale Kapoor, Executive Vice President & Co-Founder, Absolutdata