Remember when artificial intelligence existed only in the movies? Most depictions of AI were of smart machines run horribly amok: 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Terminator, The Matrix, I Robot, RoboCop, the list goes on. The reality today, of course, is that AI is an overwhelmingly positive, game-changing technology that is quickly working its way into every aspect of our lives.

The impact on the retail industry, in particular, is especially profound. AI is the number one way that retailers and brands can deliver personalized, relevant shopping experiences at every stage of the buying journey. And here’s the kicker: AI-powered personalization begins with a shoppers’ very first click.

Instead of spending hours guessing how to personalize content for select demographic groups, retailers and brands can leverage vast amounts of customer clicks to personalize the shopping experience – in real time.

Retailers are delivering on it today with automated product recommendations based on customers’ previous clicks. You set the rules, but you never have to worry about the complicated back-end algorithms, giving you time to focus on other priorities while AI does its job.

Here’s how:

Turn insights into action
AI uses what it learns with every customer’s click to help you improve their experience and thus create more loyal shoppers. Case in point: Commerce Cloud Einstein, which immediately starts gathering customer behavior data — what products they look at, what articles they read, and what they put in their shopping cart — then automatically captures changes in behavior, giving you far deeper insight into that customer’s interests in that moment, versus increasingly irrelevant data like age or where they live.

Get smarter over time
Shoppers are fickle. Their behaviors, tastes and needs constantly change. AI notices and acts on these changes and personalizes the experience based on real-time shopper clicks. For example, if a customer begins shopping for a swimsuit, the website may assume that she is going on a beach vacation, and can personalize the experience based on other items she may need: flip flops, a hat, or beach towel.

Make sense of your data
Raw data is, essentially, useless. It’s nearly impossible to sift through and hard to understand, which means you can’t put it to work. By gathering data, cleaning it, analyzing it, and giving you actionable insights to use both online and offline, AI empowers you to use that information immediately to individualize customer experiences. The more data the AI engine consumes, the smarter it becomes, and the better data-driven business insights it provides. One example: if you know which products are commonly purchased together, you can create product sets, bundles, and deals that drive conversion.

Eliminate manual tasks
AI has brought us closer to “personalization at scale” than ever before. Personalizing any aspect of the shopper journey (insofar as true personalization was possible before AI) took time,  manual effort and was often riddled with errors. The same goes for merchandising. Every store associate knows the rules: don’t put certain items next to other certain items due to a licensing agreement; place complementing items like a coat and accessories near each other, etc. AI lets retailers layer in contextual rules, and then algorithms take over and make sure that all customer experiences follow them. This saves retailers time on merchandising by automating those tasks that were once done by hand. An added bonus – AI doesn’t forget the rules like associates are prone to do.

What’s next?

Thanks to AI, it is far easier for retailers and brands to deliver an individually personalized shopping experience today. And while there are still challenges, AI is leading us in the right direction. Uses for AI will continue to expand rapidly as customers expect an even more sophisticated level of personalization.

It’s happening, and fast. That’s the power of one click.