Bring Joy to the Shopping Experience and Unlock Customer-Centricity with AI

Produced by

Kevin Gleason

Sr. Director of Global Brand and Marketing, Leatherman

Kathleen Mitford

Corporate VP, Global Industry Marketing, Microsoft

Ilana Santone

SVP of Digital & Connected Retail
Canadian Tire Corporation

This engaging discussion focused on the transformative impact of AI on the retail shopping experience, featuring insights from industry leaders at Microsoft, Leatherman, and Canadian Tire Corporation. This session was not just about technological advancements but a deeper exploration of how AI fosters customer-centricity and reintroduces joy into retail experiences, a sentiment echoed across all presentations.

The Pursuit of Retail Joy with AI:
Kathleen Mitford, Corporate VP of Global Industry Marketing at Microsoft, opened the session by addressing a fundamental concept: retail joy. Kathleen reminisced about her own joyful shopping experiences as a child and as a mother, juxtaposing these with the friction she now often encounters due to size constraints or impersonalized service. Her narrative set the stage for a discussion on the critical role of AI in recapturing this elusive retail joy. She highlighted, "We need to bring the joy back to retail. But how? Generative AI technology is the how." Kathleen stressed the economic incentive behind this push, citing a McKinsey report that generative AI solutions could generate over $600 billion in retail and consumer goods revenue.

Leatherman's AI-Driven Customer Centricity:
Kevin Gleason, Sr. Director of Global Brand and Marketing at Leatherman, shared compelling insights into how Leatherman leverages Microsoft's Dynamics 365 Customer Insights to enhance customer journeys despite the brand's relatively small size. Kevin described Leatherman as "the biggest little brand you've ever met," emphasizing the challenge and opportunity in reaching a broad, diverse audience with personalized journeys. The use of AI allows Leatherman to "punch above its weight," enabling a lean team to deliver highly targeted marketing campaigns and product development insights. Kevin shared an example of a successful product launch, the Arc, demonstrating how data-driven strategies can exceed expectations in targeted segments.

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Canadian Tire's AI Empowerment in Retail:
Ilana Santone, SVP of Digital & Connected Retail at Canadian Tire Corporation, provided an in-depth look at Canadian Tire's innovative use of AI to enhance both customer and staff experiences. Contrary to the initial assumption that Canadian Tire focuses solely on automotive products, Ilana illuminated the company's broad retail spectrum and its centennial legacy. She shared an example of "Tetris," an AI tool designed to help franchisees localize store assortments based on customer data, leading to increased sales and improved customer experiences. Further, Ilana discussed the potential of AI copilots in assisting with complex purchases, such as buying tires or outdoor decor, highlighting the dual benefit of aiding customers directly and empowering staff with knowledge at their fingertips.

The Path Forward with AI in Retail:
The session underscored a collective vision: leveraging AI not merely as a tool for efficiency but as a catalyst for joy, personalization, and connection in the retail experience. The speakers highlighted ongoing and future initiatives, such as the launch of the Retail Media Creative Studio and copilot capabilities for store operations, aiming to provide more personalized and responsive customer care.

As retailers navigate the evolving landscape, the insights shared by Kathleen, Kevin, and Ilana offer valuable lessons on integrating AI to not only meet customer demand but to do so in a way that brings joy back to shopping. This pursuit of retail joy, underpinned by sophisticated AI applications, presents a forward-looking vision where technology and human-centric design converge to create more meaningful, personalized shopping experiences.

APRIL 2024