Accenture to support Bath & Body Works with AI experience

17 June 2024 Consultancy.uk 3 min. read

Bath & Body Works has selected Accenture to help plug AI technologies into its operations with the aim of driving customer experience and commercial growth.

Bath & Body Works is a US-headquartered retail store chain that sells soaps, lotions, fragrances, and candles. Founded in 1990 it has since expanded across six continents, and now operates more than 1,900 stores.

Recent times have seen the retailer suffer at the hands of headwinds impacting the entire sector. With persistent inflation and stagnant wages eating away at the disposable income of consumers, luxuries such as fragrances and soaps are often the first expense households cut back on to make ends meet. That has seen the company’s latest quarterly financial results disappoint, with net sales net sales down 1% compared to last year's first quarter.

Accenture to support Bath & Body Works with AI experience

Overall, it is expected that 2024 net sales will drop 2.5% to flat – taking the forecasted full-year profits of the firm below market estimates. In line with this, Bath & Body Works’ company shares have fallen by 10.7% – and left the company scrambling for ways to boost its prospects.

Amid the sustained hype around artificial technology, the retailer has inevitably plumped for that as the solution to its problems.

An announcement from the firm has declared that Bath & Body Works will now work with Accenture to create “new and innovative capabilities” with AI and generative AI, to help put consumers in contact with relevant products. This will include a “digital Fragrance Finder”, said to be “a gen AI-powered conversational experience to help customers find the perfect fragrance tailored to their individual preferences”.

“Our collaboration with Accenture is about having a strong technology foundation and scaling the power of digital, data, and AI to deliver new levels of customer experiences, agility and performance,” said Gina Boswell, CEO of Bath & Body Works. “This will help us accelerate profitable growth by enhancing our operations, elevating our brand and engaging our customers differently through personalised and seamless experiences that keep them coming back.”

Illustrating why Bath & Body Works might have such hopes, Accenture Song recently launched a report titled ‘Generative AI for Customer Growth’. The study suggested that companies applying gen AI to customer-related initiatives could expect to achieve 25% higher revenue after five years than companies that focused only on productivity. At the same time, though, gen AI technologies have not been applied by firms over the last five years, so that is still very much an estimate, rather than a quantifiable fact.

Whether investors will be re-assured by all this remains to be seen. However, with little sign of slowdown in the AI-feeding frenzy among capital firms looking to back the next big thing in AI, it may well prove a successful gambit – whether or not it actually improves the customer experience.

Julie Sweet, chair and CEO of Accenture, contended, “Our collaboration with Bath & Body Works on its continuous reinvention will help this beloved brand continue to raise the bar on the retail customer experience. Together, we will build a strong digital core of cloud, data and AI and innovative gen AI solutions that can help Bath & Body Works create value, foster growth and continually delight their customers in new ways.”