The Future Of Retail: Four Ways For The Industry To Utilize AI

Tyler Weitzman, cofounder, President and Head of AI at Speechify.

Today, managing e-commerce stores has become easier than ever. Thanks to artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), retailers can now operate their brick-and-mortar and online stores more comfortably and efficiently. By combining AI and ML with traditional methods, I believe companies can best transform their physical and online shopping experiences for customers. In this new age of retail, this is how you can both retain your clientele and expand it. Computer Tower Cart

The Future Of Retail: Four Ways For The Industry To Utilize AI

Using my experience as the co-founder and head of AI at my company, I'd like to help those in retail stay relevant in the market through AI-powered tools that can assist you in keeping up with changing consumer behaviors, demands and expectations. Here are four ways I see AI changing the shopping experience in the coming years:

As Covid-19 struck, in-store shopping became almost obsolete. Retailers were forced to limit the number of in-store customers and staff to minimize in-person interactions. Many retailers began using AI-powered tools, such as chatbots, in-store apps and physical robots to adapt to these changes.

Researchers have continued to find methods for retailers to take advantage of AI, including computer vision and big data analytics, and enhance shopping experiences. One example is offering an AI-powered tool for checkouts. This method doesn’t require a cashier for the payment. Instead, the customer has to simply enter the store, add items to the cart, pay via an AI-powered mobile app and exit the store—all this with zero human interaction.

The two notable benefits of AI-powered checkouts are reduced customer waiting time and less effort from businesses in hiring shopping assistants.

With Amazon already being the talk of the town with its Amazon Go cashier-less stores, places like Walmart and Kroger are also looking forward to adopting AI-powered checkouts.

AI is helping retailers build interactive systems that streamline customer communication throughout the buying journey. This improves the quality of customer personalization and engagement. For example, AI-powered chatbots can speak with customers humanly and empathetically. In fact, they can even answer customer questions, recommend products and address their concerns—all in real time.

Chatbots can also help your business collect essential customer data during these interactions to build customer profiles. This way, the next time a particular customer interacts with the retailer, the bot knows how to better engage with them and offer a personalized experience.

Improved customer engagement and personalization can also build trustworthy relationships between customers and retailers. When utilized correctly, AI, ML and natural language processing (NLP) can help retailers boost online and offline sales.

With fewer shopping assistants, retailers often need help identifying different in-store activities. Although CCTV cameras help, it’s almost impossible to keep an eye on the footage all the time. Fortunately, AI can help retailers here too.

Efficient AI-integrated systems analyze the CCTV camera footage, identify suspicious activities and immediately notify staff members. The on-duty employee then reviews that particular camera footage and takes necessary measures.

Retailers can also use computer vision-based systems to track objects and recognize activities in real time. These methods help in proactively identifying in-store thefts and physical assaults. This, in turn, ensures the store’s reputation and customer safety.

Another critical use case of AI in retail is tracking the customer’s dwell time (minutes a person spends standing in front of a shelf) and gaze time (minutes a person spends looking at an item). Many high-end global retailers, including O2, already use video analytics and AI technology to measure these metrics.

Tracking dwell and gaze times allows retailers to understand their customers and find ways to boost engagement and conversion rates. By using this data, retailers can strategize how to convince their customers to add more products to their carts. Of course, the more the sales, the higher the store’s profitability.

Manual shelf audits have always been a headache for retailers. Not only is the process time-consuming, but it is never entirely accurate. The same applies to using a planogram. In my experience, the tool isn’t efficient enough to evaluate the correct quantity, placement and display of products in stores.

AI software can help retailers in two regards: planogram compliance and on-floor availability. First, the image recognition and object detection techniques will automate product placement. The software will instantly check product prices and locations, helping retailers understand the shelf conditions and make informed decisions.

When it comes to product availability, computer vision comes in handy. It analyzes which products are high in demand and which are not. Retailers can use this information to decide which products to continue with and which ones to discontinue.

Whenever planogram compliance and on-floor availability fall below par, the AI software informs the staff members. The best part of this: AI can even identify empty shelves.

Undoubtedly, we will see more AI-integrated tools in retail stores in the coming years. Retailers will rely on AI to research, price and manage their in-store products. Along with that, they will also use the technology to enhance in-store customer experiences.

AI is efficient, predictive and accurate. So it’s only a matter of time before AI-powered checkouts, improved planograms and enhanced in-store engagement will be widely adopted to enhance the shopping experiences of customers as well as retailers.

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I've been a reporter at Forbes since 2016. Before that, I spent a year on the road—driving for Uber in Cleveland, volcano climbing in Guatemala, cattle farming in Uruguay, and lots of stuff in between. I graduated from Tufts University with a dual degree in international relations and Arabic. Feel free to reach out at with any story ideas or tips, or follow me on Twitter @Noah_Kirsch.

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The Future Of Retail: Four Ways For The Industry To Utilize AI

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