How AI Can Boost Business in Retail
Artificial intelligence (AI) is creating the store of the future. Find out which AI applications can drive the highest values and returns, and see how trailblazing retailers are leveraging AI to offer a heightened customer journey and experience.
Through artificial intelligence (AI), data-driven insights are boosting speed, accuracy, and efficiency across every sphere of the retail business. In this pandemic-induced e-commerce boom, these are all crucial advantages that companies must seize to stay relevant and resilient.
In this article, we will take a closer look at AI in retail: its role, uses, and benefits. We’ll also showcase businesses that are paving the way for a data-driven and dynamic retail industry.
The benefits and uses of AI in retail
An AI-powered logistics management system enables retailers to adjust their inventory, distribution, staffing, and delivery methods to optimize their supply chain while ensuring customer satisfaction.
With AI, retailers can offer seamless and personalized customer experiences through location-based predictions, tailored recommendations, and customer-facing AI. Being able to understand and predict customer demands, they can optimize their supply chain and improve their merchandising, marketing, and business strategies.
From creating the product, storing the inventory, distributing the goods, and making the product available for consumers, AI optimizes the retail value chain. Here are some ways how.
Leading the way with AI
According to a new study by Juniper Research, AI applications “will be critical in ensuring that retailers can deliver a compelling omnichannel experience to consumers.” This will lead to AI investments of over USD23 billion by retailers, up from over USD5 billion in 2020.
“To compete with eCommerce disruptors who heavily rely on AI, traditional retailers must adopt AI rapidly to boost efficiency,” said Juniper Research analyst Nick Maynard. “If they fail to do so, they will face a highly commoditized retail market with an outmoded, uncompetitive business model.”
Which companies are forging new paths in retail with AI? Here are some of them.
Using computer vision, deep learning, and sensor fusion, Amazon Go stores offer cashier-free shopping. First launched in 2018, the online retail giant now has stores in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Starbucks Deep Brew Initiative
With their technology initiative called Deep Brew, the coffeehouse chain is experimenting with artificial intelligence and machine learning to automate labor-intensive tasks and create a more personalized coffee experience.
It uses AI to customize menu boards, recommending food and beverage items based on different factors such as purchase history, the weather, time of day, popularity, and community preferences. Starbucks is also leveraging AI to automate backend retail operations such as inventory management and preventive equipment maintenance.
“We're using a lot of the business intelligence we're gaining from A.I. not only to accommodate directly the customer experience but even the partners' experience,” Starbucks COO and group president Roz Brewer told Yahoo Finance.
In a cafe in Shibuya, Tokyo, Pepper Robots designed by Softbank take your order and join you at your table to chat and play games. At the Pepper Parlor, robots deliver your orders and clean the cafe. A group of humanoid and programmable robots called NAO also dance to songs. All in all, it makes for a uniquely Japanese experience.
In 2016, the American hardware chain introduced LoweBot, an autonomous retail service robot. It uses a 3D scanner to detect people entering the store and is fluent in multiple languages. Shoppers can search for products by asking LoweBot a question or typing the item on a touch screen. Using computer vision, it scans shelves to send real-time inventory information.
In 2018, American clothing brand Guess collaborated with Chinese tech company Alibaba to pilot an AI-enabled store. It featured smart mirrors, smart racks, and a virtual shopping cart that lets you go to the fitting room hands-free.
Driving value: top high-value AI use cases
From the supply chain to the customer experience, AI adds value to retail operations. Google Cloud recently commissioned a survey of 100 global retail executives to determine which AI applications drive the highest value in their business. Analyzing 75 use cases across specialty and food, drug, and mass (FDM) retail, researchers identified the top 10 high-value use cases.
In FDM retail, the top 10 high-value use cases fall within merchandising and assortment, store operations, and logistics and fulfillment. According to the study, these use cases have the potential to drive between USD280 to USD650 billion in value by 2023.
Source: Google Cloud
In specialty retail, the top 10 high-value use cases fall within merchandising and assortment, product lifecycle management, and logistics and fulfillment. According to the study, these use cases have the potential to drive between USD190 to USD425 billion in value by 2023.
Source: Google Cloud
The store of the future
Retail is on the cusp of tremendous change: a new digitally fueled era. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated technological advancements in retail, pushing brands to rapidly expand and boost their e-commerce capabilities. When social distancing is no longer the norm, online shopping will likely remain a habit for most.
To maintain profitability in this new retail landscape, companies must leverage these technologies to transform both the customer experience and daily back-office business operations. Insights and intelligence from AI can transform every aspect of the retail business, driving innovation and giving business leaders a vision and roadmap for the future.
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