Artificial Intelligence has brought our society and economy on the brim of a revolution. A positive one, as we now enjoy perks and advantages which makes us more productive, and enable us to answer to the latest challenges and dynamics in the market.
All industries feel the changes brought by AI, and retail is no exception. In retail teams, AI has multiple applications helping them to carry their duties. Robots assist inventory, they identify customer traffic patterns, and they are helping managers to solve staffing challenges. In retail businesses, AI is reshaping how they function and it drives success.
Could 2019 be the year of full AI adoption in retail?
AI adoption rates have grown over the past few years. Globally, the AI industry is expected to boom in 2019. According to this study, the global revenue generated by AI will reach $36.8 billion, by 2025.
Artificial intelligence applications like image recognition, healthcare data management, and pattern recognition are great services that can be leveraged across a series of industries. They are due to ease workflow, reduce costs, boost productivity, and answer to some of the most severe challenges faced by players in multiple sectors.
In retail, the perks offered by AI are equally valuable and numerous, and below are some of them.
Better customer experience
Maybe one of the highest advantages offered by AI in retail is the improved capability to enhance the customer experience. Below are some of the most promising applications of AI in enhancing the customer experience:
- 24/7 customer support. AI chatbots are available 24/7. They have convenient response times for the customer. They have taken over call-center employees, over the past few years and, in 2019, the trend will continue to grow.
- Higher levels of customer retention. When customers can access the desired information in a matter of seconds, they are more likely to be pleased by the retailer.
- Client attraction. When existing customers are pleased with your company’s services, they are more likely to recommend your establishment to their friends and family. According to this report, over 80% of Americans are more likely to buy a product or interact with a business if friends or family recommend it.
- Marketing personalization. In the Big Data and Automated Processing era, personalization has reached new levels. To improve the overall customer experience, retail businesses can use that information for marketing purposes. They can make highly personalized offers, depending on those particularities identified by AI.
Related read: What is a Chatbot and How to Use It for Your Business
Business process automation
AI has been already used for a while, for business process automation purposes. In manufacturing sectors, it can coordinate and automate both production and delivery operations. For businesses in retail, it can be used for automation purposes as well. AI can help retail businesses automate redundant and demanding tasks like inventory and stock-related tasks, payment processing tasks, register and service customer request, and so on:
- Robotic process automation (RPA). This is one of the most powerful AI applications for retail businesses. Those unfamiliar with the concept should think of it as an orchestrator. It coordinates different tasks and successfully replaces the human employee who was in charge of dealing with multiple repetitive tasks. RPA systems also perform wonderfully at compiling data from multiple digital sources and using it as standardized data input. Until now, RPA systems have been adopted by over 50% of the respondents of this Deloitte survey.
The AI applications in retail don’t stop at workflow automation:
- They are due to replace human computational abilities. Humans are prone to making mistakes. This can hurdle important strategies, like sales and pricing strategies.
- With the help of AI and Machine Learning, retailers can now optimize their strategies and leverage predictive forecasts. By combining predictive capabilities, historical data sales and external data insights supplied by these technologies, retailers increase their ability to make more informed and accurate decisions.
- Sensors and strategic partnerships can also boost retailers’ ability to make informed decisions and adjust their strategies accordingly. External events can influence the status of key-processes. For instance, a strategic partnership with weather forecast agencies can offer insights if shipments will be delayed by weather events. The same scenario is applicable in case retail businesses adopt dedicated sensors.
- Data-driven insights powered by AI can also offer retail businesses alternatives to ineffective scenarios and processes. They can make accurate estimations, based on the data gathered from multiple sources.
- AI-powered data mining can also contribute to boosting the profitability of retail businesses. Cloud-based AI is able to discover relevant details that were overlooked previously during the data processing step.
Better recruitment processes
Retail businesses can also use AI to streamline the recruitment process. AI-powered recruitment systems can now filter through applications and automatically dismiss unfit ones. This helps companies lower operational costs and save time. Besides, it helps them ensure the recruitment process is unbiased, not influenced by any recruiter’s personal beliefs or preferences. Today, retailers can leverage AI for different tasks of the recruitment process:
- AI recruitment tools for candidate screening. This valuable AI use can lower the volume of job applications business owners must review in the initial recruitment step. This helps retail businesses save time and money, by carrying this step in-house.
- Rediscovering previous candidates. Candidate rediscovery tools powered by AI and ML will gain more traction in 2019.
- Recruitment chatbots. Recruitment chatbots are used today to streamline communication with candidates on demand. Some basic functions of these chatbots include answering basic FAQs about job openings, scheduling follow-up interviews and offering candidates feedback on their interview performance.
- De-biasing recruitment tools. Humans have biased views. This can influence the recruitment process, especially if it is carried by human recruiters exclusively. These tools are now used to de-bias job descriptions, resume screening, and sourcing protocols. This will lead to higher inclusion rates and more diverse retail businesses.
Staff training and job preparation is a dealmaker or deal breaker in retail. Even small gaps in training can generate enormous losses for the company. In competitive sectors like retail, employers spend time and money to perfect their employees’ skills and knowledge base. AI has recently revolutionized staff training. Retail shop managers can improve their training by paying attention to the following:
- Feedback from trainees. AI-powered staff training tools can increase training courses’ efficiency. They can analyze the feedback from multiple employees and can identify common points where the company has to bring improvements. AI training interfaces can evaluate the success of training programs in force.
- Training adaptivity. Employees have different skills and backgrounds, which often makes standardized training programs inefficient. This can end in two of the following scenarios: skilled employees find the training redundant, or less agile ones find it too complex. AI can personalize training programs, based on each employee’s abilities and skills.
- Smart development and training interfaces. AI will be soon used in intuitive interface development. This will help employees use software systems and tools more efficiently.
- On-demand training resources. Employees are very likely to need extra information on using different tools and applications in retail businesses. AI-powered interfaces can allow them to ask for additional information and details, whenever they need it.
Accurate business predictions based on data analytics
AI can leverage information and data analytics. This can help retail businesses predict with higher levels of accuracy sale and pricing trends, patterns, and make recommendations. While predictive analytics is already used for some time now, real-time analytics and predictions are novel. Retail businesses can use this technology to find out when the next shipment will arrive when the product will reach the customer, and how to organize and distribute their stocks monthly. All this, based on historical trends and isolated events. To enjoy the perks of this technology, retail businesses have to enjoy the following:
- An advanced interval database and efficient data extraction systems.
- Advanced and diverse data sources. This will help AI compile and use the information better and faster.
- Data extraction and analysis can be handled internally, by professionals, or externally. Specialized software can help retailers make those predictions in house. Real-time analytics allow businesses to make decisions faster and more accurately. Although this technology isn’t embraced by all players in the sector, it can make a real difference in reinforcing a retailer’s position in the market.
All the perks presented until now lead to one of the biggest advantages of using AI in retail businesses. AI is more than a tool to boost process automation and reduce repetitive tasks. It is a tool to grow business effectiveness. It can reduce costs and enhance profits. AI opens the gates to new, useful applications, like the one presented below:
- Predictive maintenance.
- Process monitoring.
- Data processing and automation.
- Reduce downtime.
- Employee scheduling and task assignment.
AI is the technology of tomorrow. It has unlimited applications, valuable features, and a huge potential. It can make a real difference in terms of market positioning and competitiveness because it enhances some of the most important areas of retail businesses.
This is a guest post by Estelle Liotard. Estelle is a seasoned content writer and a blogger, with years of experience in different fields of marketing. She is a content editor at Trust My Paper and loves every second of it. Her passion is teaching people how to overcome digital marketing obstacles and help businesses communicate their messages to their customers.