How AI and Automation Can Help Retailers Survive 2021
With the retail apocalypse showing no signs of slowing down, brands hoping to survive need to harness intelligent technologies to ensure they thrive. Retailers must look at ways to integrate innovative solutions and accept that infusing artificial intelligence (AI) through a chatbot on your website, while important, is no longer enough. Instead, retailers should use AI and automation more broadly to ensure they can delight customers, which will future proof their business.
Brands need to integrate AI more widely to provide the intelligence they need to help understand more about their customers and ensure they can meet their demands exactly when, where and how they want. However, making this mantra a reality remains elusive for many.
By integrating AI and automation, retailers will be able to solve some of the immediate challenges they face, including:
1. Address Supply Chain Challenges
With the pandemic now entering its second-year supply chain, challenges remain a significant hurdle. These inefficiencies result in lost revenue and dissatisfied customers. Inefficient inventory management is the Achilles heel of many retailers that need to connect their digital apps directly with their back-office logistics and supply chain management systems to give users up-to-date, accurate information. This reduces friction and will ensure that customers remain on your digital sites rather than turning to a competitor. With AI, the entire supply chain, including stock, logistics, staffing and distribution, can now be managed in real time so that every customer-facing digital interface conveys precise information. With AI, brands can predict and understand demand fluctuations and trends.
2. Improve Personalization to Drive Sales
AI is critical in helping deliver a personalized and seamless customer experience. It provides retailers with the intelligence they need to understand customers' shopping habits and preferences. This enables retailers to align their offerings with customer expectations. For example, AI can recommend promotions and products tailored to a customer based on the individual’s social footprint, demographic data, and a variety of other data points. Those brands that have delivered personalized experiences have seen revenues increase. Retailers can't afford to mismanage customer expectations in the current economic climate. With AI, brands now have the power to offer personal shopping at scale.
3. Increase Contactless Retail Within Physical Stores
It’s clear that contactless retail has now moved from fad to fact, and retailers need to adjust the in-store experience to reflect this shift. By integrating AI, retailers can automate many traditional high-touch processes, including incorporating cashier-less payments that help to reduce in-store lines, setting up contactless returns, and deploying voice-activated digital displays. In addition to supporting the shift to contactless retail, this will positively impact the bottom line by lowering in-store operating costs.
AI is a lifeline for retailers as they fight to survive. It provides the flexibility retailers need to meet changing demands and deliver operational efficiencies. By infusing intelligent automation across operations, retailers will survive 2021 and set themselves up for long-term success. Put simply, when it comes to AI in the retail sector, fortune favors the brave.
Gareth Smith is the general manager at Eggplant, a test automation and monitoring platform that features deep learning and artificial intelligence.
Related story: 4 Key E-Commerce Personalization Trends to Expect in 2021
Gareth is a proven leader of product marketing, product management solutions, and pre-sales teams. Prior experience includes Progress Software, where he held several positions, including Director of Product Management and Principal Software Architect. He was also part of the founding team of Apama, where he was Director of Pre Sales & Principal Architect before its acquisition by Progress Software. Smith has a doctorate in computer science, focusing on collaborative user interface design, and spent over a decade in academia.