Artificial intelligence is a very old concept, but recently used and properly applied. Alan Turing was the first to talk about it in 1950 when he formulated the question “Can Machines think?
Multiple Studies and Use cases can reply now: Yes, they can! or at least they can imitate characteristics of the verb “thinking” which is only related to human beings by definition.
The Cambridge Dictionary defines AI as “the study of how to produce machines or computer programs that have some of the qualities that the human mind has, such as the ability to understand language, recognize pictures, solve problems, and learn”
AI has been recently applied to solve problems all industries have in common but precisely it has leveraged Retails to innovate predominantly to respond to our new contact and purchasing habits which dramatically changed towards digital adoption due to the pandemic pushing this type of business to adapt quickly to changing regulations in stores:
- Stock Outages
- Labor Shortage
- Tracking orders
- Delivery times
- Shift to e-commerce
- New Payment and Verification Methods
- Managing Returns
- Cybersecurity and Data Privacy
On top of the operational complexities, Retails need to keep consumers close to the brands, close to the points of sale, either physical, Phygital or fully digital, attending all their needs through their preferred contact channels. Therefore, Loyalty and advocacy have as shapes and flavors as the different type of retails that have emerged.
This new dynamic world more difficult to manage can be simplified with AI.
Although most of use cases in retail industry are focusing on commerce retail, the most powerful weapon is integrating physical store experience insights to online experience using data.
Imagine a customer walks by, ask for a product but does not purchase and you could recommend him after to come back or purchase it online. How can it be possible if you do not even know his name? AI can do it!
Here is a high-level list of use cases by area
Implementing any project without impacting the business as usual requires experience but when it comes to transformation projects applying complex technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, is not an easy task. There are two main reasons why AI is reshaping Retail business:
Organizational changes need to happen
Promoting highly-skilled areas (IT Departments) to understand business requirements, translate into solutions and then implement them. Hiring experts would be the first step and assessing the organization maturity level to initiate a robust “change management program” would be second. Lets be honest! Making everybody be on the same page and understand fully where the company is moving and what it implies takes a very rigorous process.
Process improvements need to be carefully implemented
Considering now the technology’s role, End to end processes need to be perfectly mapped (as is vs to be) and cascaded to all areas of the company. So people’s training plays a key role.
People, Processes, and Technology need to be aligned and in synch when implementing AI.
Consequently, such an implementation in the companies causes a restructuring process, a re-shape a disruption. But it is all worth it and necessary.
Although AI and any technology implementation reshapes and disrupts the business, it is completely worth it! Retail business leaders need to understand that without technology companies will not evolve as fast as they need to evolve now. Business cases need to be evaluated prior to implementation and strict project management for short and long-term results need to be in place.