First and foremost I would like to command the initiators of this highly needed platform in the middle east region to join the global conversation about Artificial Intelligence (AI).
The conversation of AI in retail has been around for a while; however in today’s world this discussion have been put on steroids. The Covid pandemic accelerated the rate of adoption or for the sake of clarity it has forced retailers to embrace and embed the use of advanced technologies in every aspect of our back and front end operations.
Efficiencies and productivity best illustrate the role of AI in retail.
Several SME’s sparked out of the current circumstances and many have been successful in delivering business value to the value chain.
The vast amount of data generated by the industry facilitated the use of AI technologies at an unprecedented value generation.
Use cases and applications spill across the sector. Below I illustrate the some of the benefits:
Robotization of cashiers - Allowing staff to focus on customer shopping experience and ultimately their satisfaction. This means significant savings in operational expenses and better customer service. Amazon Go is an advanced example, perhaps a better one which is being rolled out in the region the self exit checkouts across major mega markets.
In store assistance, digitizing price tags allowing brands retailors not just display prices but also sell ad spaces/videos to brands and therefore more profit generation.
Analytics for price predictions. Putting industry and customer data into work to better understand dynamics which in turn can facilitate price forecasting.
GREAT value around supply chain management and logistics. over or out of stock instances can be drastically reduced via AI and machine learning technologies.
Virtual fitting rooms - perhaps this is the most popular application among customers allowing them to try on and find best outfits in minutes. from retailers point of view this means rapid customer in and out, less traffic in changing rooms, faster decision making, more exposure on different designs and ultimately impact on sales.
Tracking customer satisfaction (instore cameras) - AI allows the detection of customer mood in real time which facilitates immediate intervention.
While retailers are busy figuring out their path through AI another discussion is taking place revolving around reassessment of talent readiness to take on AI. The obvious is training staff to be able to deal with the fast moving developments in the sector.
Employees have a great understating of the traditional retail practices but today upskilling current staff and hiring talent that can leverage the use of AI is a high priority.
To sum up everything that has been stated above. AI traction and opportunity is clear and imminent, my suggestion for retailers in the region is to scout and test different options that are inline with their organizational objectives.