Shopper expectations have changed dramatically in recent years, driven by increased demand for personalisation and convenience.
Retailers that fail to adapt to the shifting landscape risk falling behind. And many have invested heavily in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies to meet these expectations – and will continue to do so in the years ahead.
But this raises an interesting question. Does AI provide the competitive edge retailers are looking for? Or is it the latest in a long line of technological red herrings?
To answer this, we partnered with DJS Research on an in-depth report charting the current state of AI in retail and its future uses.
The benefits and challenges of AI
Almost 75% of the retailers we interviewed already use some form of AI in their processes, citing a range of benefits.
By automating basic tasks, staff can refocus their efforts into more productive avenues, improving efficiency and driving business growth. AI and machine learning technology also underpin personalisation in eCommerce, which remains a key differentiator across the sector.
More than anything else, it emerged that AI’s ability to process huge volumes of customer data was the chief benefit. This provides the insights retailers need to identify emerging trends and capitalise on them before their competitors.
But universal implementation is still some way off.
Many retailers struggle to justify investment in AI, often due to a lack of proven business cases to support their arguments. Insufficient technical knowledge among internal teams and the relatively low number of viable partners is also holding them back.
Whatever the reason, it’s clear that decision-makers have many obstacles to overcome when obtaining executive buy-in. They need support from third-party AI consulting firms and other experts to achieve that buy-in and start seeing results.
AI in retail: key findings
Aside from the main benefits and challenges, several other key findings emerged from our report. We split these findings into four main categories, to make them easier to digest:
- Current levels of AI maturity among UK retailers
- Where strategic responsibility lies for implementation
- Plans and opportunities for investment
- Barriers to implementation and success
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