Cognitive Agents Can Enable New Retail Experiences Through Intelligent Kiosks

By Evan Dashevsky, Senior Writer
September 26, 2018 • 2 minute read

Conversational AI has changed the way users engage with businesses via voice, chat and beyond. AI is also becoming part of intelligent kiosks in retail.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is transforming how businesses engage with customers. Much of this transformation has occurred via digital channels (e.g. chat, mobile, smart speakers, etc.), but one physical channel stands particularly ripe for AI-fueled disruption: on-site kiosks.

As brick-and-mortar shops  struggle to redefine themselves in the digital era, many are pursuing physical kiosks to augment the customer experience. And consumers, for their part, have proven receptive to these enhancements. For example, automated self-checkout technologies have propagated in recent years (set to be a $4 billion dollar market by 2024) and studies have found that consumers haven’t only accepted these technologies as alternatives to human-guided checkouts, they’ve actually begun to prefer them for their convenience.

Kiosk-based assistants aren’t a trend of the far-off future – they can be found right now all around the world in movie theaters, amusement parks, casinos, banks, retail stores and beyond. This trend will only continue as interactive technologies become more capable. Most automations offered by today’s kiosks are transactional in nature (e.g. self-checkout or limited FAQs), but cognitive automation appears poised to be the next major trend, potentially offering consumers more versatile experiences with hyper-personalized service.

Information Plus

Consumers have demonstrated a strong affinity for AI-powered digital assistants such as Siri, Alexa, or the Google Assistant. One 2017 study found that these assistants were considered extremely valuable by users, with more than 74% of users accessing them at least once a day for multiple tasks. The same intelligent feature-sets that consumers value in their mobile devices can offer site- or brand-specific value via a “smart” AI-powered kiosk.

Kiosk-based assistants aren’t a trend of the far-off future – they can be found right now all around the world.

With an intelligent kiosk, customers would never have to wait to flag down a store employee to answer their questions. Instead, they could simply ask through a kiosk an always-available cognitive assistant such as Amelia, just as they would with a human employee. Amelia’s industry-leading Natural Language Interface (NLI) allows her to discern user intent from a spectrum of human phrases, even if she hasn’t been specifically programmed to process them. For example, a pharmacy customer could ask, “Where’s the shampoo?” or “So, which aisle has the shampoo?” or “Can you show me where the shampoos are?” and Amelia will be able to assist them.

Personal Concierge

An AI-powered kiosk could offer personalized information, assistance and services to consumers and shoppers. Once a customer’s identity had been confirmed, the kiosk could securely tap into back-end databases to bring up past orders (e.g. a box store customer who previously purchased a kiddie pool could be alerted to a sale on inflatable pool toys for kids). An intelligent kiosk’s versatility makes it the perfect point of service (POS) for specialized experiences, such as picking-up an online order, or scheduling the delivery of a larger item just purchased in a store. These kiosks could also provide information on award program status, or offer special on-site deals – such as a fast food restaurant offering a free drink upgrade for every third visit.

AI is opening up a world of versatility in the way that employees or customers engage with enterprise systems; an intelligent kiosk, powered by a cognitive agent, can do the same for the on-site, brick-and-mortar shopping experience.

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