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The Retail Revolution: How AI is Disrupting the Industry

"... algorithm-generating tools have cemented themselves as the way of the future."

Imagine being able to access data showing you how your target groups interact with your physical products in real time. Automatically.

This may sound like the stuff of science fiction, but it is in fact the reality many retailers are facing. Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) is changing the market, and with it, the needs of customers are changing as well.

So, what could this mean for the future of retail?

To answer that question we need to ask another one: What is Generative AI? If you don’t know yet, you better make sure to learn fast, because the algorithm-generating tools have already cemented themselves as the way of the future.

Generative AI describes algorithms that can be used to create new content, be it audio, code, images, text, simulations, and videos, according to McKinsey.

Chatbot or not

Maybe you’ve tried the generative AI without knowing it, nonetheless, it’s been difficult to avoid global phenomena such as ChatGPT or DALL-E. Nearly a million people signed up to use the AI chatbot within five days of its release in November 2022, according to McKinsey.

Whether you want ChatGPT to solve an equation, solely use it for entertainment, or - as my colleague put it the other day - you are in desperate need of solid inspiration for your copywriting, generative AI has your back.

The fun doesn’t stop there. Recently, the AI-powered image generator Interior AI was launched, showing users different ways of redesigning their homes. Simply by uploading an image, browsing through a series of preselected styles and picking the one that feels most like you, everyone can now act as interior designers.

The same goes for the emerging image-generating DALL-E. Enter 5 five words and 15 seconds later, you have a ready-made series of images that you can integrate in your article concerning generative AI. You guessed right - all images shown in this article were sourced from the software.

Services similar to these are on the rise and gaining great popularity right now. Generative AI is a gamechanger, especially if you’re working within the creative field. It allows both consumers and businesses to get creative whilst removing some steps on the way.

These are just a few out of the many new creative AI tools that have potential to take over the world… and maybe your job.

Is generative AI a true co-pilot in our day-to-day work?

AI has made its way into most industries, and retail is no exception. Several companies are already using the game changing technology. Maybe you’ve also stumbled upon a dozen LinkedIn posts commenting on the phenomenon yourself. At least we have.

An eager member of the Board of Innovation in New York made a point out of asking his LinkedIn network whether we can use Generative AI as a true co-pilot in our day-to-day work as an innovator, designer, strategist or retailer in a post.

This query kick started a heated debate.

Most of the LinkedIn respondents felt that we need to be cautious with the data-driven tools. One person argued that AI could never replace the authenticity and originality of real human-with-pen-and-paper creativity and innovation. Another person stated that AI and innovation aren’t opposites and shouldn’t be seen as contradictory. “Since innovation equals improvement, they’re rather complimenting each other,” they continued.

There is reason to be excited by the awe-inspiring outcomes of generative AI, but caution is required. Now, what does this mean for the future of retail? Will the future bear no sight of creativity and innovation? Will AI shortcuts get you further in innovation than without?

Your emotions are the key to a good shopping experience

The short answer is no. However, retailers are finding ways to reap rewards from this AI revolution. By applying AI-powered tools, retailers are transforming the online and physical shopping experience for customers and easing everyone’s lives. Not to mention the improvement in time management. And nothing is as precious as time, right?

In a Forbes article from December 2022, Tyler Weitzman, President and Head of AI at Speechify, listed four ways AI will change the customer experience and save us all time in the coming years.

  1. AI-powered checkouts for better in-store shopping experience
  2. Personalized customer service and engagement
  3. Tracking different in-store activities
  4. Identifying the right product placements

This means we won’t have to wait in line for ages at the cashier. Instead, we’ll simply enter the store, add our selected items to the cart and pay by exiting the store again. And this won’t be the only superpower provided by AI.

Additionally, retailers of the future will track a customer's dwell or gaze time at a given product - even analyzing their emotions - allowing them to tailor store layouts to maximize sales. Harvesting this kind of metrics will help retailers understand their customer’s emotions and reaction patterns. Some might call that the ultimate goal for business intelligence.

DALL-E generated image

Are we losing our jobs to AI?

The purpose of this blog is not to scare anyone. Don’t worry, you’re not in the midst of losing your job. At least not yet. But you do need to be aware of the fact that generative AI will be an integrated part of all businesses in the future. So, if you are in it for the long run, you better prepare yourself and invest the time in finding out how to stay in the game with the use of AI.

Luckily for us, generative AI is neither perfect nor able to delve into long thought experimentations. Although, with the creative touch of a human, it does come pretty damn close. We can extract a lot of information and simplify tasks using AI, but in the end, the technology is still flawed.

What's next, you may ask? We’ve merely scratched the surface of what AI has to offer in the world (of retail), so you better get on the train, or you’ll risk an AI doing it for you.