AI Transformation of Retail

Jun 17, 2024 | by EastBanc Technologies

With retail, the main focus is on customer convenience. Recent advancements in generative AI, ML, and IoT provide opportunities to make the customer experience more convenient, leading to more streamlined customer journeys and higher profits. The range of possibilities is wide, from personalization and supply chain optimizations to walk-out technology. Let’s look at what the future holds.

Welcome to the AI-Driven Innovation series, a comprehensive exploration of how the current wave of innovation in AI, ML, and other crucial technologies like IoT will shape the future of every industry worldwide. This article focuses on the potential of AI-driven innovations in the retail sector and is based on the book AI Driven.

Customer online experience

The online shopping experience is one of the most critical drivers of success in the retail space. And, Generative AI has much to offer in this area. From smarter chatbots and more knowledgeable support to smart search and product summary reviews - everything that can be made by summarizing product knowledge and talking to the customer about it - is made faster and more human-like. Imagine asking a clothing website to build you an outfit for a weekend with your friends in Cabo Verde and receiving several color-coordinated sets that you can later virtually “try” on a photo of yourself. Or ask a specific question to 5476 Amazon reviews about a fishing rod in regular language and get an answer. In general, there are three main ways we can augment the retail customer online experience with AI:

  1. Personalized Shopping Experiences: AI algorithms analyze customer data to provide customized product recommendations, increasing the likelihood of conversion as customers are shown items that align with their preferences and purchase history.
  2. AI-powered Search and Navigation: AI-powered search engines and chatbots help customers find products quickly. Natural language processing (NLP) enables a better understanding of customer queries, enhancing the search experience.
  3. AI-generated Content: AI allows online search engines to act as smart shopping assistants. For instance, once you have identified a subset of candidate products matching your needs, you can ask AI to highlight the main differences among the products or to sort them based on a specific combination of criteria.

Store Operations and Store Experience

For store operation optimization, AI, often combined with IoT, can be used to enhance inventory management, provide data-driven insights, automate tasks, and predict customer behavior and supply and demand. Think of better stock management, based on the store analytics - like moving the kombucha stand closer to the counter or having milk stock for late-night parents’ visits.

  1. Inventory Management: AI-powered “smart shelves” can monitor inventory levels in real-time, automatically triggering reorders to prevent stockouts and ensure shelves are always stocked, providing a hassle-free shopping experience for customers.
  2. In-Store Analytics: AI can provide insights into customer movements, behaviors, and preferences within the physical store, allowing retailers to optimize product placements, queue management, and overall in-store experiences.
  3. Automated Assistance: AI-powered robots and virtual assistants can help with customer service tasks, such as providing product information, guiding customers, assisting with checkout, and streamlining in-store operations.

Supply Chains

The next big thing to modernize in retail is one of the most complex - the supply chains are the core of retail; with them, things are possible on a current scale. Every item you see in the store has its own fascinating journey through the supply chain. But what if you can optimize this? Maybe the best plates to sell in your local household goods store are from your local pottery village. Maybe one big chain store needs to be transformed into five smaller ones.

  1. Demand Forecasting: AI algorithms analyze historical sales data, market trends, and other factors to generate more accurate demand forecasts, enabling retailers to manage inventory levels better and reduce waste.
  2. Inventory Optimization: AI helps optimize inventory levels by analyzing sales patterns, lead times, and other factors to ensure that the right products are stocked in the right quantities at the right time, reducing stockouts and overstocking.
  3. Route Planning and Logistics Optimization: AI can optimize routes for delivery trucks and logistics operations, reducing transportation costs and improving delivery times.
  4. Autonomous Vehicles and Drones: AI-powered autonomous vehicles and drones can streamline supply chain operations, reduce logistics costs, and improve delivery times.
  5. Predictive Maintenance: AI-powered predictive maintenance can help retailers anticipate and prevent equipment failures, reducing downtime and improving overall operational efficiency.
  6. Supplier Relationship Management: AI can help retailers better manage supplier relationships by analyzing supplier performance, identifying areas for improvement, and optimizing procurement processes.
  7. Financial Planning: AI can empower consumers with better financial planning tools, enabling them to make more informed purchasing decisions and ultimately improving the overall retail experience.

The future of retail holds many interesting experiments. As we look for better and more environmentally friendly consumption and logistics, AI predictive capabilities, anomaly detection, and better customer support may lead us to rethink how we consume, help distribute goods better, aid food supply safety, and promote things like a shared economy. With its transformative potential, AI is set to revolutionize the retail sector, making it more efficient, personalized, and sustainable than ever before.