Incorporating AI in Restaurant, Retail to Enhance CX (Customer Experience)

Retailers and Restaurants leveraging AI effectively are able to continually deliver service similar to that of their best salesperson.


The possibilities of using artificial intelligence (AI) for retail and restaurant applications seem endless, positioning these industries on the brink of significant change, much like the shift to e-commerce and omnichannel in 2020. IDC reports that the retail sector is second only to the banking industry in spending on AI. However, as David Vander Dussen, Product Manager at Epson America, Inc., explains, without the pressures of a pandemic and business shutdowns forcing immediate decisions, merchants have time to plan their AI strategies and solution implementations to ensure value. One particular area of focus is how to use AI to enhance customer experience (CX).

“AI helps businesses focus on the right things,” he says, “When retailers know customers well enough, they can configure systems so they are more personalized and impactful to specific customers. Using AI effectively is like receiving service from a great salesperson.”

With AI, retailers, restaurateurs, and other merchants can:

      • Analyze customer behavior to optimize experiences across channels
      • Enhance in-person experiences by delivering dynamic information, creating personalized experiences similar to what customers experience online
      • Upsell and cross-sell consistently by making recommendations and offering complementary products
      • Tailor promotions and loyalty rewards to specific customers for more effective marketing

AI also enhances back-office efficiencies, which provides a solid foundation for delivering optimal CX. “You can’t separate the backend from the front end,” Vander Dussen says.

It Starts with Quality Data

Vander Dussen stresses that the quality of insights from AI solutions depends on the quality of the data retailers collect. “A retailer can have the most sophisticated system in place, but if the data is bad, they’ll never get good insights,” he comments.

He points out that this is an area where merchants need help. They’re looking for expertise to help them learn how to tap into data at the source and when stored. He adds that merchants also need help determining which types of data to use in analyses. The data they currently collect from their point of sale (POS) systems or loyalty programs may not be enough to provide them with a complete picture of consumer behaviors, opportunities to enhance customer experiences, and how to grow revenue. Adding various types of AI solutions to the retail environment, for example, computer vision that shows customers’ behaviors in-store, can provide more data that leads to comprehensive analyses and better decision-making.

Keep in mind that data analysis enhanced with AI isn’t only for large enterprises, although smaller merchants won’t build their own solutions. Vander Dussen comments, “One of the beauties of data is that every business has it and can be doing something with it.”

He cautions ISVs, however, that it’s critical to understand data privacy and security standards for their markets and ensure their solutions support appropriate data governance. Vander Dussen also says ISVs need to recognize that “AI isn’t a magic wand or silver bullet to replace people. Some retailers have the idea that an AI self-checkout will eliminate the need to ever interact with a human, but the vast majority will start with AI systems working in concert with their staff. They want systems that provide insights and make them accessible.”

Learn, Then Teach

Because AI is relatively new to merchants, they’ll benefit from ISVs’ guidance to focus on how this technology can provide the greatest value. One of the challenges ISVs will face is showing ROI from solutions that have not yet been widely proven in the industry. Vander Dussen suggests that ISVs implement AI solutions in their own operations so they can provide real-world proof. Although an ISV’s business is different from a merchant’s, it’s possible to show, for example, how AI can streamline and automate labor and demand forecasting and deliver easy-to-understand insights on demand to employees throughout the organization.

Also, ISVs must research where the prospects in their markets can make gains with AI, such as personalizing experiences and upselling with restaurant kiosks or determining how to make the most of retail endcap space in high-traffic areas. Vander Dussen also advises monitoring consumer sentiment toward intelligent solutions that use their data to enhance CX. “In the future, consumers will expect stores to use advanced technologies. If they don’t sense that a merchant has those capabilities, customer experiences may be a disappointment,” he says.

“ISVs need to teach their customers about the critical actions AI can perform in their operations. Will AI change the world? Yes,” Vander Dussen says. “But ISVs have to figure out how it will work in their markets with their customers and perform proof of concepts rather than just going after the latest buzz words.”

“You have to start there,” he concludes.

Bernadette Wilson

Bernadette Wilson, a DevPro Journal contributor, has 19 years of experience as a journalist, writer, editor, and B2B marketer.

Zebra MC9400
Bernadette Wilson

Bernadette Wilson, a DevPro Journal contributor, has 19 years of experience as a journalist, writer, editor, and B2B marketer.