The Future Of Artificial Intelligence In Retail

Artificial intelligence (AI) is more than just cyborgs in movies trying to destroy humanity. It has actual real-world applications that can make our lives better and our businesses stronger and more profitable. In retail, artificial intelligence is being adopted rapidly - between 2016 and 2018 there was a 600% increase in adoption. Unfortunately the adoption rate is still relatively low, ranging from 26% for home improvement stores to 33% for apparel and footwear. If AI can make such a big difference, why isn’t everyone adopting it?

Currently, only 15% of companies are saying they are spearheading AI adoption. Only 25% of large retailers are investing up to 10% of their capital in artificial intelligence systems, while all other size retailers are spending just 7%. Implementation of AI is costly, but those who use it are finding the benefits far outweigh the costs.

Customer service is one of the most successful use-cases for artificial intelligence yet. Customer-facing AI can improve customer satisfaction by 9%, reduce customer complaints by 8%, and can lower customer churn by 5%, all in the early stages. As this technology improves, it can help even more with customer satisfaction. Currently, voice technology is being programmed that can emulate and mirror human emotions better, mimicking empathy and deescalating tense customer service situations. But even just getting people to the right customer service representative when they call a call center can help get customers the right remedy to their situation.

Chatbots and virtual assistants are an extension of this technology that are used to assist customers who aren’t having a problem. They can help assist customers in finding the right item to buy, finding new items to try, and learning more about what they are buying. In fashion, AI and chatbots are being used to help customers find new clothing looks based on what they like. In the spirits business, Brown-Forman has a ‘Whiskey Whisperer’ that can help customers learn more about whiskey, find new products, and find cocktail recipes to try.

AI is also helping to streamline the shopping experience. In Amazon Go stores, cameras and AI mean that customers can take items off the shelves, bag them and walk out of the store, saving time in the checkout line, as the system rings things up as you go and automatically charges you as you walk out the door.


In restaurants, artificial intelligence is making it easier for customers to get what they want when they want it. McDonald’s and soon other quick-serve restaurants can use information about the weather, time of day, traffic, and current trends to change the menu according to what people will want, such as soup in rainy weather.

Throughout the supply chain, AI can be used to streamline operations. In production, AI can be used to forecast orders, schedule workers optimally, and even create a schedule that will utilize electricity more efficiently. In shipping, AI can help ensure trucks are completely full so empty space isn’t being shipped. It can also optimize shipping routes to save on time and fuel. In retail, AI can be used to optimize ordering so that valuable inventory isn’t sitting around collecting dust.

Artificial intelligence is often portrayed as something that is going to destroy mankind in the movies, but in reality most of the real-life applications are pretty mundane and most are actually beneficial. As AI is adopted in more aspects of the retail landscape, there will certainly be bumps in the road. But the end product will be a stronger, more agile sector of the economy that serves both customers and businesses better. Learn more about the future of retail with AI from the infographic below!

This infographic outlines the emergence of AI in retail.

Read next: From Science Fiction To Reality With Artificial intelligence (infographic)

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