The way we buy and sell is changing at a rapid pace. This means the retail environment is also rapidly evolving. At NRF’s Big Show 2017, it was evident that the retail space is going through a massive transformation. This is reflected in the popular topics discussed; application of AR/VR, Robotics, Location Beacons, and IoT based applications.
The underlying impulse behind all these technologies was to improve customer experience using the data-driven strategies. Most retailers predict that AI will be needed to manage their data and leverage it to achieve actionable insights.
In a recent article Five Retail Tech Trends that Emerged at the ‘Big Show’, eMarketer listed Machine learning and artificial intelligence as the prominent trend. They cited the case of office supply giant, Staples, giving a makeover for its traditional Easy Button.
The article highlighted how the company is using IBM’s Watson conversation service to allow retail customers to order goods and track shipments. It quoted Faisal Masud, the CTO of Staples: “We are learning about our customers. It’s a discovery process for us. This gives us an insight about our customers.”
The big question that still stays unanswered is how exactly AI can transform the retail space. Within this article, we have consolidated the views of top retail experts on AI driving the future of retail.
1. Kimberly A. Whitler
In her interview with Michelle Peluso, the first CMO of IBM, K. A. Whitler, spoke to how IBM has employed AI for gift selection, stock management and, most importantly, for consumer insights.
Expanding on the idea of consumer insights, Peluso tells “Understanding things like social profiles, movement, weather, and behavior, AI can help marketers understand at a more granular level what consumers want and need”.
The article also highlights how consumer needs are dynamic and marketing must be customized, focusing more towards the individual.
2. Nicholas Ismail
Tech reporter at Information Age, Nicholas Ismail, depicts how AI, and associated technologies of NLP and machine learning will enable retail marketers to reach customers at personal level and tailor the brand experience accordingly.
He sheds light on the importance of user generated content in employing AI and affirms it can have a ‘huge impact’ on the online shopping experience. He says that “the challenge for e-commerce sites is how to make sense of the information and then use it wisely to power product recommendations.”
3. Laura Autumn Cox
Cox, Content Manager at iDisrupted, gives a holistic view on AI in Retail. She points out that AI can contribute to increased productivity in retail operations. It can help in detecting fraud and flagging anomalies in finances.
She argues that almost everyone has experienced AI in retail. She says that, “if you’ve ever submitted an online query to a retailer, then you’ve probably already spoken to an AI”.
See also: You already interact with retail AI
4. J. Skyler Fernandes
Fernandes who is investing in the future innovation of retail, highlights the importance of AI in connecting both online and offline data to achieve greater results in omnichannel marketing. His argument is that “omnichannel customers have a 30 percent higher lifetime value than single channel customers” and he advocates the importance of bridging data across all channels.
He predicts that the future of retail technology lies in solutions that are powered by machine learning, which can provide fast and intelligent automation as well as dynamic scalability.
See also: How A.I. is helping retailers
5. Matt Burgess
Burgess, staff writer at WIRED, highlights Google’s efforts to use AI and Machine learning to bring digital transformation. With the help of its Deepmind subsidiary, Google has remarkably reduced data center costs and introduced AI to the NHS foundation. The same efforts are now being brought into retail technology. Burgess believes that AI will be the next major technological change in the retail sector.
He suggests that simplification should be the primary goal of AI-driven retail. He talks about technologies like Vision API, Voice API, and Google’s efforts to help retailers handle customer queries.