Shop Direct boss Alex Baldock has said that the etailer will match a Bond Street level of customer service, through its use of AI.

The etailer is at the forefront of artificial intelligence in UK retail and has invested heavily in the technology.

Commenting on its Christmas trading today, Baldock said: “The ultimate aim is for every customer to have their own expert personal shopper and service assistant.

“We want to match the quality and intimacy of service that is the preserve of the rich who go to Bond Street.

“We want to understand every one of our millions of customers more, the more we deal with them. We want to become better and better, until we’re suggesting items she hasn’t even thought to ask for.

“There is a big democratisation angle to our personalisation.”

Shop Direct said that AI will enable it to “super-charge” personalisation via developments like its ‘conversational user interface’, which lets customers chat to an AI assistant.

Its “customer management engine” automatically intervenes in individual customer journeys at opportune moments, in an attempt to prompt certain behaviours.

The etailer also uses AI to help it make decisions on customer credit, resulting in more personalised outcomes for customer and better risk and credit decisions for the business.

Christmas boost

Shop Direct’s sales rose 9% over the seven weeks to December 23 this Christmas. Growth engine Very led that growth, with sales up 19% although sister brand Littlewoods failed to grow.

Despite Littlewoods’ lack of growth, Baldock said he was “pleased” with the etailer’s performance.

He added: “Littlewoods is not growing, but that’s not its role. It is a big, stable, profitable organisation and we were happy with the performance. We are very disciplined in how we run it internally.”

Baldock refused to be drawn into speculation on Shop Direct’s future ownership. It is currently owned by the Barclay Brothers.

He said: “We think an inevitable part of being a successful business is speculation of this kind. That’s very flattering but I am focused on realising the full potential of this business and we are nowhere near that yet.

“We have a lot to keep us busy in 2017.”

Alex Baldock will be on stage at Retail Week Live, the UK’s premier festival of retail and consumer commerce, taking place in London on March 8-9, 2017. The event attracts over 1,200 retail chiefs and leading business personalities who gather to experience the unique combination of networking, inspiring content, strategic thinking and innovation. To book your ticket visit: