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August 22, 2017

AI in Retail: Is it the future?

Written By Pammy Alexander

Artificial Intelligence is not only shifting the digital landscape, but it is also entering our physical spaces by interacting with us as consumers and businesses.

Here at Roller, we have a real fascination with the fast paced journey which AI has undertaken in recent years. The retail industry is a direct example of the potential for growth and seemingly limitless uses of AI.

For the customer, key trends predict a shift to a more comfortable, intuitive and organic user experience. Meanwhile, the smartest brands will utilise AI to automate time-consuming mundane tasks and even customer service communication.

High Engagement, Low Scalability  

Brands like Ralph Lauren have already incorporated smart mirrored changing rooms, with key stores experiencing a 90% increase in engagement. Google Trips is analysing consumer footfall before they even approach a store. By creating offline maps, it collects the most popular stores, attractions and places in a conveniently packaged tour. This is predicted to result in increased engagement and acquisition for brands of all calibre.

“AI has been described by experts as difficult to scale, so translating data into sales will be a key challenge.”

However, businesses who are heavily investing in AI to increase conversion must pay attention to its limitations. Though it is good to collect data, knowing what to do with it is far more valuable and more complex to achieve.

AI has been described by experts as difficult to scale, so translating data into sales will be a key challenge. As a result, investing in AI with the purpose of increasing conversion rates may not be seeing the whole picture. The future of retail looks promising with regard to engagement, but smaller brands may struggle with scale.  

AI and Automation

At its core, AI automation in the retail sector will feed into the most basic of tasks such as inventory tracking, cutting costs and processes. Yet, the most exciting potential of Artificial Intelligence lies within user-centric data collection.

Customer experience will be measured, analysed and modified in real time, based on user behaviour. Meaning that the optimisation of websites and products can become an instantaneous automated process. This will help brands leverage feedback loops, which may even eradicate the need for A/B testing, saving precious time and manpower for busy retailers and stores.

So why is this important to the consumer? This not a marketing gimmick, designed to get you to spend. AI will give way to never-before-seen personalisation leading to tailored customer journeys in the digital and physical space.

AI in Communication

Advances in communication will benefit both shoppers and businesses, by providing responsive and self-developing chatbots who who recognise language and emotion. Cleo and Onward are just two examples of AI chatbots who offer a more authentic conversational experience than ever before. The former helping users manage their finances and the latter helping them manage social media overuse through direct messages and advice.

This is only a glimpse at the potential of AI. Machine learning has already enabled Facebook-created AI to produce its own coding language., meaning that it’s only a matter of time before we can program AI with human-like linguistic skills. This could transform customer service in the retail industry, allowing brands to help more customers at a faster rate.

We are yet to see AI develop emotional skills, but the fast paced world of tech may exceed our expectations quicker than anticipated.

What does the future hold?

With the continuous and unpredictable growth of AI, the retail space will be completely transformed by the end of 2017. One thing is certain, Artificial Intelligence will drive sweeping change in the retail sector, and then…who knows?

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