The Future of Retail is All About Artificial Intelligence

Azadeh Yazdan

Artificial Intelligence is an engine that is poised to drive the future of retail to all-new destinations. We live in an era where a tremendous amount of data is being generated online and offline. However, access to larger datasets doesn’t lead to improved business results. The key to success is the ability to extract meaning from big data to solve problems and increase productivity – and that’s what Artificial Intelligence will enable.

AI is already making significant headway into the retail industry, but we are still seeing only early glimpses of the way the industry will change. Intel is collaborating with industry leaders to apply AI across the entire product and service cycles, both online and offline, to unlock new opportunities in personalization, inventory management, conversational commerce, loss prevention and a host of other applications.

Let’s look at some of the industry’s leading use cases in more detail.

Customer Behavior Tracking and the insights generated from it are invaluable in retail. Retailers always look for more ways to understand a customer’s path to purchase, and it’s no news that they have the ability to observe our buying behavior online. With the rise of AI, retailers are also starting to track shoppers’ journey in stores the same way they do on the web. Using cameras and sensors, they can understand how shoppers are interacting with their store. For example, AI can inform retailers of how many times an item was picked up from the shelf, put in the shopping cart, back on the shelf or purchased, therefore better understanding the shopper’s mentality.

Inventory Management is another area that can benefit greatly from the use of AI. In physical stores, one of the top factors in customer frustration is an out of stock product. Utilizing AI solutions, associates can be notified when an item is out of stock, running low or misplaced within the store.

These capabilities are all part of the vision for an “Autonomous Store” — one that is able to operate smartly on its own, constantly informed by cloud-based intelligence. Last year, Intel announced that we are developing Responsive Retail technologies to leverage data-driven insights and improve inventory management, increase operational efficiency, and deepen customer engagement.

Supply chain management is an area where AI will play an increasingly prominent role by filling customers’ need more quickly, reducing downtime due to faults, cutting shrinkage and maximizing stock, and more. For instance, retailers can use predictive analytics to factor in weather forecast and current inventory levels and redirect trucks to different store locations while in transit.

Theft Prevention is a common problem in retail. Retail stores have long used video cameras to keep a look out for shoplifters, but AI can take this to a new level. Intel has been working with technology provider SpotCrowd on a solution that uses computer vision cameras and AI to recognize known shoplifters when they enter the store. 

Visual Search is one of the leading use cases online. 75% of U.S. internet users search for visual content prior to making a purchase. Pinterest’s recently announced partnership with Target to integrate its “Pinterest Lens” visual search technology into Target’s apps and website is a great example.

Personalization is key for retail customer experience. AI helps create new level of personalization not only online but also in the store. For instance, as customers enrolled in a loyalty program enter a store, associates can use face recognition to identify them in real time, use AI-enhanced analytics to access their preferences and make personalized product recommendations.

The possibilities are endless, and we are just getting started. Although a longer term vision, offline (or in-store) and online retail can be merged in a way to make a customer’s shopping experience even more seamless. Offline merging with online (OMO) will take customer recommendations, personalization, supply chain, inventory management and a host of other applications in retail to a new level.

If you’re at retail’s “big show” NRF2018 this week, you will have many opportunities to take a deeper dive into these retailing trends enabled by AI and explore the results of Intel’s investments in the technologies that enable retailers to capitalize on the power of AI. Want to see some of these technologies in action? Check out our demos from SpotCrowd, Lolli & Pops, and Responsive Retail — among others — in the Intelbooth, No. 2831.

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