The Role of Automation & AI in Retail

By Michael Judd

AI RetailWhen consumers are consistently looking for personalized products and services in the digital age, AI-powered retail solutions allow retailers to align their offerings with customer expectations. Even though the industry hasn't changed much in recent years, AI in the retail sector can alter the traditional retail experience and take it to the next level through automation, greater efficiency, and customization. Artificial intelligence and machine learning solutions can help your retail business grow, and your teams improve the efficiency of their workflows.

It is clear that artificial intelligence will considerably impact the industry over the next decade. In 2019, the total funding allocated to machine learning worldwide was approximately USD 30 billion. By 2024, global retailer spending on AI is expected to reach $110 billion, with budgets for ML programs calculated to grow by more than 25 percent. Furthermore, advantages of AI in retail such as enhanced customer experience, effectual promotion and merchandising, and lower cost-to-serve are projected to present lucrative opportunities to the market soon. The rising advent of new business models and advancements in data science are predicted to further the expansion of the market. Therefore, retailers are adopting AI-integrated automation systems to transform how they do business. As retailers continually implement new strategies to keep up, many companies incorporate artificial intelligence technology into their workflows. For example, we can now see AI in retail stores through retail robots and AI-powered purchasing systems. AI also plays a behind-the-scenes role in retail analytics and warehouse automation. By combining data analytics, machine learning, and quality learning data, AI systems are helping retailers meet customer needs, provide better recommendations, and improve and optimize inventory management.

What It Can Do For Your Business

Artificial intelligence can automate store operations and reduce retail store operating costs. While this primarily applies to retail areas that directly impact customers' shopping experience, retailers and suppliers can also benefit from automation in their retail intelligence tools and processes. Artificial intelligence in retail can simplify the store manager's job by automating back-office tasks and improving quality assurance with robotics. Automation helps retailers with their retail intelligence; it frees their employees to get more work done. Automation can take care of efficiency, give retail teams time to think creatively, and provide an incredible online and in-store experience. With the power of data, smart retail automation can completely change the way retail teams operate. 

Faced with disruptions and the potential for increased profitability, some traditional retailers invest in large-scale automation and artificial intelligence technologies to improve customer and employee experiences. Giant suppliers and global retailers like Walmart have already implemented an AI-powered system in their stores and online portals to improve customer experience and increase business value.

Technological innovation has pushed retailers and consumer goods companies to a new stage in intelligent automation. Consumers increasingly expect effective, safe, and fun online experiences to be replicated in-store. Progressive retailers are using automation and artificial intelligence to transform the retail experience by making sense of massive amounts of data, filtering out the noise of the millions of events generated in the retail store and beyond. Store, supply chain, and headquarters automation programs can generate 300 to 500 basis points of additional profit, and retailers can reinvest in their growth opportunities. An evaluation of available automation technology shows that they can already run a typical grocery store in 55-65% less time.

Retailers are also investing in technology to assist shoppers in the shopping process and assist store staff. One example of retail automation is apparel giant Uniqlo, whose automated checkout counters require no personnel. Amazon's advertised physical addresses, known as Amazon Go, use a no-checkout technology that allows shoppers to shop in and out. Customers use the Amazon Go app to sign up, but the entire shopping process is automated. As you can see, all facets of the retail supply chain, including inventory, personnel, distribution, and delivery, can be managed in real-time using artificial intelligence.

The fusion of AI in the retail sector could revolutionize by helping e-commerce companies sell their products based on recent consumer purchases and search habits. Companies can easily collect and organize vast customer behavioral data using artificial intelligence in retail. Companies can use machine learning to create personalized offers to identify typical customer purchase patterns.

AI applications for retail stores can help companies set prices for their products by visualizing the likely outcomes of multiple pricing strategies. AI can also help determine price in the retail sector by determining various pricing strategies' results to choose the best one. Additionally, AI-based algorithms can help predict demand patterns, find proprietary products and cross-elasticities, identify real competitors stealing retail sales, and more.

Inventory management is considered one of the most critical processes in retail. Many retailers have already implemented comprehensive artificial intelligence-based inventory management systems that can collect, integrate and process input from cameras, ERP systems, sensors, and other data sources to ensure optimal inventory levels are maintained in the warehouse.

Why It Matters

Artificial intelligence in retail is being used to improve demand forecasting, create optimal prices, improve customer service, and improve inventory and supply chain management. AI can holistically influence retail at all stages, from customer acquisition using reliable data to catalog and manage inventory to after-sales service. AI can automate every step of the retail process to improve operations' accuracy, efficiency, and scalability.

If you're looking for a way to modernize your retail business and streamline it into profitability, then automation is the answer. A new trend in retail technology has emerged that allows companies to integrate AI-driven technologies with their systems of record, which results in efficiency gains across all aspects of operations while simultaneously increasing customer satisfaction. As more retailers embrace this trend, they see increased revenue without growing headcount or investing heavily in physical infrastructure. 

Do you want help figuring out how best to use these emerging trends? Drop us a note at Originate! We can work with you on developing an automated solution that meets your unique needs while also helping improve your bottom line.