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Article 4 min read

The role of artificial intelligence in enhancing the festive season shopping experience in the UK

Discover how UK customers plan on using AI for their online festive shopping experiences.

By Lilia Krauser, Staff Writer

Last updated December 12, 2023

It’s no secret that the festive holidays are one of the busiest times for most retailers in the world, especially in terms of customer service requests. In fact, according to a study led by Shopify, service requests increase by 65 percent during the holiday season. So, handling requests is definitely one of the hardest challenges for many retailers during the this time

On one hand, recent advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) has helped many retailers become more efficient with their customer service. On the other, customers seem to be getting more and more comfortable interacting with AI–the majority of them actually expect companies to implement AI to improve their customer service.

With both customers and companies wanting better use of AI when it comes to customer service experiences, discover how exactly customers are planning to use AI for their holiday shopping, and how companies can respond to these behaviours.

AI is key to gift buying

According to a survey conducted by Pollfish and commissioned by Zendesk based on 800 UK participants, customers are interacting with AI in a unique way. In fact, the majority of respondents (38 per cent) claim to use AI for price comparisons, and another 23 per cent want to use AI to find the best deals and discounts.

With UK customers planning to spend more this holiday season than last year according to Deloitte, many customers want to ensure they can find the best value for their purchase. As such, ensuring that product pages are up to date with the correct prices can ensure that retailers’ chatbots can pull and communicate the right information to customers.

Shoppers are recognising the benefits of AI

While some shoppers still have some spectism around AI, the majority of respondents believe it offers faster service than a human agent ever could, especially for younger respondents aged between 16 and 44 years old. For instance, generative AI capabilities can enable chatbots to pull information from knowledge articles faster to customers, as well as provide them with additional links and resources to ensure customers are empowered to solve queries themselves.

However, as much as some customers are starting to see the benefits of AI, many of them (68 per cent) want to be made aware of when they are interacting with AI. So, retailers should focus on transparent communication to customers.

Room for improvement

While an increasing amount of shoppers see the benefits of AI mainly around speed, half of respondents don’t believe AI is capable of understanding and adjusting to their emotions. Interestingly, investing in other areas of AI, such as generative AI, can help companies ensure their chatbots can demonstrate empathy, and meet customer’s expectations.

In fact, with over half of consumers expecting AI to provide more empathetic experiences if it can understand their emotions, investments in generative AI are crucial. By leveraging aspects of generative AI, chatbots can understand customer context, and generate a reply based on the emotions communicated by customers. In turn, this allows customers to feel understood by a company without ever speaking to a human agent, ultimately enhancing their experience.

Human agents remain a critical part of the customer experience

While some customers feel more comfortable using AI, it is important to note that this is not the case for all customers—the key is to ensure that companies accommodate all customers. In fact, the majority of the customers above 44 years old do not see the benefits of using AI, and as such, would rather speak to a human agent.

Arguably, these customers might need more time to adapt to industry changes, but it does not mean that they should be neglected. Human agents should still be available to customers who feel more comfortable speaking to an agent, or for elevated scenarios. In fact, human agents add an element of trust in the customer journey, as over half of survey respondents would feel more comfortable doing a purchase through AI if they knew they could still talk to a human agent if anything goes wrong.

As such, human agents are an integral part of the customer experience. The key factor will lie in enhancing the customer service experience with artificial intelligence, instead of replacing human agents, as it would most likely result in customer frustration.

The future of AI for holiday shopping

Generative AI provides some great ways for retailers to address customer concerns and therefore, reduce the need for human agents, allowing these agents to focus on complex requests. In fact, by demonstrating empathy, effectiveness and speed, generative AI can help meet customer needs, while ensuring that older generations and consumers who have not yet adapted to AI can be assisted by human agents.

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