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What Are The Benefits AI Could Bring To Retail? 22 Experts Share Their Insights

  • 29 September 2019
  • Sam Mire

Retailers and consumers won't see AI's impact on retail operations immediately. First, there are substantial challenges to be dealt with. But once AI finds its niche within the retail sector, we have some idea of what benefits it could deliver. We know this because a few retail professionals dropped in to give their insights. Here's what they said:

1. Vidyuth Srinivasan, CEO of Entrupy

AI opens up the whole world of data-driven opportunity, whether its for marketing personalization, insight-based production, smarter merchandising or product authentication. People simply can’t process all of the data that we have available. AI makes it understandable and actionable.”


2. Julian Fisher, CEO of jisp

“Besides additional sales, the number 1 benefit is a reduction in waste and the cost associated. If we consider the extraordinary losses recently reported in one notable brand, whose products were previously destroyed to retain their price, AI can be used to identify and efficiently predict upcoming trends.”


3. Shep Hyken, Customer Service & Experience Expert, NY Times Bestselling Author of Amaze Every Customer Every Time 

Shep Hyken“There is an internal and external benefit to AI in retail. While most of my work focuses on the external, as in how AI is being used to manage and improve the customer experience, I believe one of the biggest benefits in AI is in logistics; managing inventory levels, distribution and more.”


4. Brian Walker, Chief Strategy Officer at Bloomreach

From a business point-of-view, it is simple, more revenue and better margins. Certainly, there are other benefits to focus on, such as great customer experience, but that also drives better business results.”

 


5. Michelle Bacharach, founder and CEO of FINDMINE

“Number one benefit of AI in retails is finding efficiencies and improving on them at all stages of the shopping experience. For example, AI and machine learning allow brands to really scale their merchandising and style guidance they provide to customers. All brands and retailers want to provide guidance to their customers about how to use a product 100% of the time, but in practice on average they only manage to do that 10% of the time because the process is manual. When using AI-powered solutions such as FINDMINE, retailers can cover 90%+ of their catalog while reducing time spent by 95%.”


6. Joe Skorupa, Editorial Director at RIS News

AI will drive a stake through the heart of linear retail processes and managing by averages. Why? Because retailers simply cannot keep up with the speed of omnichannel consumers and competitors using traditional methods. For example, in a chain of 200 stores, it will take more than 18 hours just to open each store plan for five minutes and make a few rapid-fire adjustments. How much can be done in five minutes? Not much. But those five minutes per store takes more than two days of work. If the stores need 10 minutes of work then the job will take nearly a week. And that’s just for 200 stores. In a chain of 500 stores it will take more than 45 hours to work five-minutes per store and in a chain of 1,200 stores it will take more than 100 hours.

To get around these excessive labor hours retailers manage core activities by store groups and the problem with this approach is that no two stores are exactly alike. Treating them alike creates a systematic financial loss even when sales goals are met.

The reason is that in every group of stores roughly half will over perform and half under perform. The under-performing stores leave money on the table because adjustments are not made to account for different customer bases, location characteristics, physical sizes and shapes, employees and planograms. Using AI engines will address this problem because AI has the ability to manage each store individually, simultaneously and holistically.”


7. Brian Kilcourse, Managing Partner at RSR Research

Brian Kilcourse“Ultimately, AI's benefit to retail will be enabling personalization of the offer at scale.  This means that increasingly, retailers will rely on the ability to automate decisions to enable very fast response to realtime conditions.”

 


8. Sean Byrnes, CEO of Outlier

“The biggest benefit AI offers for retailers is agility. AI can detect changes that impact how retail marketing teams optimize actions on a daily basis. Finding these behavioral changes in mountains of data is too difficult for human analysis but automated analysis, using AI, is designed to do just that.”

 


9. Alexandra Sheehan, B2B Retail Copywriter for Shopify, Vend POS, and Stitch Labs

“AI brings to retail the option to get to know your customers on a deeper level and proactively help them fix the pain points they came to you to address in the first place.

Personalization is increasingly important, and AI makes a significant impact in analyzing customer data to make smart, insight-driven product
recommendations. It adds an online component to the in-store experience for the modern-day connected shopper.”


10. Amanda Nichols, Senior Manager for Retail, Hospitality, and Food Service Practice at Kronos 

“Work-life balance. It’s one of the most important factors in employee satisfaction, which of course fuels positive customer experiences. In addition to unburdening management of tasks that are easy to delegate and automate, the goal of AI should be to grant more autonomy to associates. One arena this makes sense is in leveraging AI to build accurate forecasts for scheduling, and then give employees the ability to self-schedule to those hours. Owning one’s work schedule is a powerful tool, and it’s even better if a retailer can open up opportunities within multiple stores in a given location to offer associates even more flexibility to maintain a healthy work-life balance.”


11. Sanjeev Sularia, CEO of Intelligence Node

As in many industries, there is more data available to retailers than ever before – much more than any price analyst or supply chain analyst could review in their lifetime. AI based on adaptive, thoughtful algorithms enables business leaders to make real-time merchandising and pricing decisions that could mean the difference between a product being one of their greatest hits vs. another item on the sale rack.”


12. Jeff Hunt, founder of Snap36

“From the retailer’s perspective, the biggest benefit is optimized supply chains, meaning they save time and money. This is huge when it comes to competing with Amazon’s two-day shipping model. Because if my customers have to wait longer, there’s a good chance they will change their mind. From a customer perspective, one huge benefit is that if a part falls off my dishwasher, and I don’t know what that part is called, I can visually search for it. I can identify the part, shop around for the best price, order it right away, and get on with my life. My dishes aren’t piling up, and I didn’t spend a lot of money on a repairman to come and tell me that I need to order that part.”


13. Chris McCullough, CEO and co-founder at Rotageek

Broadly, the biggest benefit is allowing machines to learn for us and supply us with recommendations we need, to enable us to make more informed decisions that will positively contribute to the growth of our companies. 

Over the past few years, we’ve seen a fundamental shift in consumer demand that retailers need to keep up with. In order to meet customer demand, retailers need to rely on and trust that technology will provide valuable insight into industry trends, understand their customer preferences and shopping behavior, not to mention the capabilities to help improve operations and increase revenue growth.

More and more retailers are finding ways to use AI and adopt intelligent automation technologies to fuel their digital transformation efforts. AI, effectively, provides companies with the power of insight, through gathering data, to be used to enhance customer experience, create more engaged B2C interactions, and invest in the right products and processes.

One thing is important to note and to remember: AI brings a lot of new and exciting things, but crucial, AI helps us leverage data and insight to improve what we already have.”


14. Oz Etzioni, CEO of Clinch

“Most retailers that have both online (eCommerce) and physical (Stores) presence lack the tech stack to support their 5-10 years roadmap. In order to compete with the likes of Amazon and Walmart, etailers need to start implementing AI and automation in every aspect of the process-  from identifying new potential consumers, all the way to making them long-time loyal customers. AI can accelerate and revolutionize every aspect in which a retailer can be smarter, faster and more cost-efficient, without increasing headcount linearly.”


15. Kerry Liu, co-founder and CEO of Rubikloud

“Creating a personalized customer experience is achievable through the
successful application of AI, which utilizes predictive analytics in order to improve the overall customer experience and drive greater efficiencies through intelligent automation. While AI software has the opportunity to give businesses the insights they need to remain competitive, these solutions should be seen as the intelligence layer that lies between data and those who interpret and action it. Coupled with human intelligence, AI software empowers retail leaders with information and insights that help
them to make better, more efficient, and financially lucrative business
decisions.”


16. Gil Larsen, Vice President of Americas at Blis

“Beyond keeping customers engaged and building loyalty with personalized experiences, AI-driven automation enables a cost-effective way to help customers and the larger business save time and money. Our research shows that consumers’ preference for automated shopping online and in-store is growing, pointing to the need for continued investment in tools that enable automatic delivery and bespoke shopping experiences. Additionally, Lowes, for example, uses robots to monitor inventory, scan shelves for missing items and even help customers find their desired product. This automates time intensive tasks for employees, while also identifying opportunities to cut costs by eliminating unwanted inventory and reducing storage space.”


17. Mike Callender, Executive Chairman at REPL Group

“1. Frees staff up to do more value add things

2. Removes bias from manager decisions

3. Allows more data to be taken in to account for decisions than the
human brain can process

4. Looks for non-obvious data patterns

5. Increased profits

6. Advantage in competitive market

Smarter decisions around:

1. Pricing

2. Discounting

3. Range planning by store based on store specific data andexpected customers

4. Ordering lower cost of stock on hand = lower working capital =
lower finance costs”


18. Akhilesh Tripathi, Global Head of Digitate

“AI and cognitive automation provide retail organizations with the ability to conduct rapid and proactive detection and resolution of anomalies. This supports a resilient and reliable supply chain and ensures that those anomalies will have minimal impact on timeliness and information flow. Costs of operations are reduced, and customer satisfaction is improved as a result.”


19. Allan Kronfeld, Chief Operating Officer at 24ttl

“AI helps retailers keep items always available in stock. It also helps retailers optimize shipping to consumers and supply chain operations (e.g. Amazon bought Whole Foods to collect data. Knowing what people buy at a local grocery store helps Amazon better understand customer profiles in the area. This eventually helps them optimize the inventory at the nearby Amazon warehouse).”


20. Carol Spieckerman, President of Spieckerman Retail

“The ability to parse large amounts of data from multiple sources, particularly to enable better demand forecasting. Productivity is every retailer’s end game these days and AI also holds the greatest promise for driving enterprise-wide productivity. From a brick and mortar perspective, with a few exceptions, most retailers are attempting to operate fewer more productive stores run by fewer more productive people. AI is key to making that happen.”


21. Trey Courtney, Chief Product & Partnerships Officer at Mood Media

“From a customer experience perspective, I think AI allows retailers to truly create a customized and personalized experience for their customers. I imagine a place where a customer walks in and the entire store feels like it’s catering to them.”

 


22. Kevin Sterneckert, CMO, Symphony RetailAI

Retail is an incredibly data-rich industry with nearly limitless customer, product, competitor and external factors influencing trends and customer decisions. No single person can possibly understand it all. The right answer to every decision lies in the data – retailers just need help sorting through it in a more efficient way. Business intelligence (BI) tools can inform an analyst if they spend enough time with them, but even then, no senior executive has time to understand the nitty-gritty. They need narrative overviews with the option to explore every last detail as needed. 

That’s where AI steps in. It sorts through the chaos to find the information each user needs. It can understand causality, context, and influences of outcomes. It presents a single story quickly and coherently so that users can make informed decisions that deliver greater value to the business. It allows retailers to move on from planning based on historical outcomes and instead lets them take decisive action about what is yet to come.”

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About Sam Mire

Sam is a Market Research Analyst at Disruptor Daily. He's a trained journalist with experience in the field of disruptive technology. He’s versed in the impact that blockchain technology is having on industries of today, from healthcare to cannabis. He’s written extensively on the individuals and companies shaping the future of tech, working directly with many of them to advance their vision. Sam is known for writing work that brings value to industry professionals and the generally curious – as well as an occasional smile to the face.

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