Our attention spans are getting shorter. Propped up on the sofa keeping half an eye on the latest Netflix series while flitting between three or four tabs on the tablet, with your phone safely within reach lighting up with a steady stream of notifications.

It’s not just our friends and family having to compete that little bit harder to hold our attention – it’s retailers too.

These days, it’s one thing getting people to add to their basket. It’s quite another getting them to purchase – and then come back for more.

According to a recent Barclaycard survey, British shoppers abandon baskets worth almost £30 a month, potentially resulting in more than £18bn in lost sales to retailers every year. The same study found that a huge 41% of users abandoned a transaction during checkout in the past year, compared to just 24% who walked away from a purchase in a physical store.

How can this be tackled?

Coupled with the proliferation of data, technological advancements such as (real) AI are presenting new opportunities for savvy retailers to get ahead of their competitors and offer a more personalised experience. This means more repeat business – and less abandoned baskets.

Of course, capitalising on customer data isn’t exactly a new concept. But using data efficiently has always been one of those ‘easier said than done’ endeavours.

Traditionally, retailers have used rule-based decision models to try and make it happen. This allows them to run tests across various segments and personalise accordingly. Though, this takes time – and manpower. It’s no surprise then that personalisation experiences get diluted or cut completely. The sheer amount of data to make sense of often proves overwhelming to retailers.

Advances in AI have changed all this. Now largely self-sufficient, AI tools can collate insights into consumers’ unique behaviours – and develop online experiences in real time to ensure each browse, scroll and notification is relevant to the shopper themselves.

This AI powered personalisation can be the difference between flighty browser and repeat buyer. According to a survey by Pure360 published in econsultancy, 44% of buyers say they are “more likely to become repeat buyers following a personalised shopping experience with a retailer”. Interestingly, in the same survey, just 22% said they are “generally happy with current personalisation online”. Room to improve then.

Some sectors are further along the track than others. Currently it’s fintech companies like Monzo and Loot leading the way, with sophisticated AI analytics powering their highly personalised apps and comms. Provoked into life, the established banks are following suit.

Now retailers are making personalization a priority too. According to another Pure360 survey, 24% of organisations questioned were making personalisation their digital focus in 2018, while 55% planned on increasing their budgets in this area.

After recent high-profile news stories, some retailers may be uncomfortable with the prospect of further utilising their customers’ data. However, research from SalesForce, involving 7,000 consumers, found that 57% were willing to share personal data in exchange for personalised offers or discounts. Nothing beats a bargain.

So, with our ever decreasing attention spans and consumers’ ever increasing online expectations, the personal touch goes along way. The huge troves of customer data out there are now simply too much for humans to sift through, but with AI, it can all be properly put to work.