How AI is Reshaping the Future of Retail


Further to my recent article which gave a steer to retailers about how they might start their AI journey in a fuss-free wayincluding leveraging Proof of Concepts and discovery workshopsa few readers asked me what are some of the best use cases for AI in retail. 

While I’d personally like to answer that the best use case is a completely new and innovative one that no one has done beforethere are a plethora of areas in which AI is proving invaluable – and profitable.  In no particular order, here are some thoughts to get you thinking: 

VoiceAlexa and Siri are household names, they’ve more than proven the value of AI. If the future may indeed be ‘no screens’, then retailers who don’t have a voice strategy don’t really have a rounded future-roadmap at all. 

Recommendations: pleasing customers by delivering relevant, timely and highly personalised recommendations has been the bedrock of success for Netflix.  Whether you want to lock-in, cross-sell, upsell or take customers somewhere new, AI-powered personalisation is key. 

Predictive analyticsthis is a common use case today covering everything from monitoring consumer trends through smarter supply chain management, to using weather forecasting to support predictive buying. 

Connected storeshelping improve customer experience and satisfaction using advanced analytics for real-time insights is increasingly a retail differentiator. 

Fraud identification and preventionas cyber-threats become more sophisticated and more agile, AI has a big role to play in delivering innovative and securing identification a world away from names, PINs and passwords. 

Chatbots: are seeing a golden age – all AI powered. AI ensures these applications ‘learn’ from each conversation in order to provide increasingly accurate, relevant and helpful responses. 

Facial recognitionon the one hand, this can guard against known shoplifters, but on a more positive note, it can track customer sentiment and identify (albeit with the right permissions) specific customers to push relevant offers and recommendations. 

Behavioural profiling: linked to fraud detection and (optionally) to facial recognition, using AI to track behaviour in-store can be a surprisingly potent tool in the ever-present tussle with shoplifting and fraud. 

Robotics: perhaps still seen by many retailers as a bit ‘sci-fi’, the fact is an explosion of robotics in retail is imminent. AI is key to the manageability and safety of robotics, particularly when robots might interact with shoppers or be on the floor at the same timee.g. checking stock. Similarly, drones and delivery ‘droids’ need AI to guarantee safety. 

Inventory managementthe key to retail harmony is getting your stock right, and right on time. AI is playing a central role for many retailers already in helping them keep their inventory and merchandising running at the same speed as consumers want. 

Logistics and Deliverydrones and delivery robots aside for one moment, the application of AI in logistics is invaluable for ensuring cargos are kept safe (for example, at the right temperature) and helping with delivery speed, i.e., real time route optimisation. 

IoT: as the world gets more and more connected, the opportunities for retailers to sell through the connected car and the connected home will multiply exponentially. 

CRM and sales: some retailers have started to use Natural Language Processing-driven applications to log and listen back to customer calls into call centres, which can then be used smartly to ensure smoother customer calls in future – both for specific customers and all. 

Augmented Reality: while the application of AI in Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality has been much discussed (and it does indeed necessitate colossal big data processing), it hasn’t yet seen a broad retail uptake. But I wouldn’t bet against it. Watch this space. 

Automated checkouts: countless thousands of people have seen the example of ‘Amazon Go’ where shoppers leave without having to physically checkout and asked, “how does it work?”  The answer is: it ain’t easy, but AI is at the heart of making it possible. 

Personalisation: this isn’t just about making the right recommendationsit’s about proving your depth of empathy with your customers and staying engaged with them as their lives change. 

All in all, we here at are excited that retail is proving to be “society’s petri dish for AI experimentation.”  At the risk of launching a cliché: the possibilities are endless. 

To learn more about how helps leading retailers embrace AI-powered transformation, get in touch with us here.