Tackling Retail's Large-scale Business Problems with AI

By Alan O’Herlihy, Founder and CEO, Everseen

Technology is dramatically reshaping the way retailers do business and the way consumers shop. There have been tremendous changes and innovations impacting the market, from contactless shopping to artificial intelligence (AI) that delivers actionable insights for retailers, and the blending of online and physical (phygital!) shopping experiences.

Of all the technology innovations, AI has the greatest power to transform the industry, enabling retailers to navigate the current economic turbulence, and come out the other side thriving.

From our behind-the-scenes view and as a leader in computer vision AI working with some of the world’s leading retailers, here are some of the key AI trends and developments we see impacting the market in the coming year:

  1. The retail industry is poised for massive AI adoption

    We expect to see grocery and drugstore retailers in particular implementing AI solutions, with loss prevention and tackling shrink being one of the primary drivers. The global shrinkage rate runs at 1.4-1.6% of annual retail sales, according to the National Retail Federation, and automation can be a huge enabler in reducing that figure. Right now, less than one-third of food retailers are currently using AI, according to The Food Industry Association, yet 71% report that they plan to increase spending on AI [Total Retail’s 2022 Retail Technology Report].

    AI should be a strategic investment for every forward-thinking retailer. It has the potential to transform the entire retail business –– from supply chain to inventory and self-checkout.

  2. Successful AI implementations will start with solving one problem and scale to solve others

    A smart strategy for getting started with AI is for retailers to focus on one aspect of their operations. Tackling shrink and loss prevention is a great first step. We’ve seen computer vision AI generate significant ROI quickly for our customers, reducing loss and increasing profit margins within weeks.

    One of our most successful customers began with a pilot implementation in just a few stores, then expanded to over a thousand. After successfully integrating AI into its operational and shopper experience at the checkout for a few months in 1,800 stores, it is now progressing to have AI-based loss prevention in place in all its locations – more than 2,600 stores. This customer started using computer vision AI for loss prevention at the checkout and is now exploring using the same technology in the heart of the store for shelf availability and in the backroom for deliveries.

  3. Retailers increasingly taking an ‘ecosystem’ approach

    Savvy retailers have a viewpoint on developing a full retail tech stack. There are many moving parts in a retailer’s technology implementation, from cameras to chatbots and servers, and this should ideally be an ecosystem of solutions that work together. Solutions that can integrate with existing hardware and software are simpler to adopt and install and deliver the best value for money, without disruption to business operations.

  4. Developing areas to watch: Product Availability, Process Automation, Waste Reduction

    The ability to use valuable data to generate insights for retailers means that AI has the potential to be transformative in several other areas of retail business operations.

AI should be a strategic investment for every forward-thinking retailer. It has the potential to transform the entire retail business –– from supply chain to inventory and self-checkout.

  • Product Availability: shelf availability issues could be resolved with AI insights supporting inventory management, alerting staff when shelves need replenishing, and deterring loss on the shop floor – after all, if a product isn’t available for a customer to buy, it is a lost sale for the retailer and a dissatisfied customer that could end up shopping elsewhere

  • Process Automation: as labor availability continues to be a challenge for retailers, automated processes (like autonomous receiving) can ensure efficiencies are maintained and improved, also freeing up staff from overly repetitive tasks

  • Waste Reduction: as perishable items like fruit and vegetables approach the end of their shelf life, computer vision AI and dynamic pricing could be used to offer customers a bargain at the shelf, and save waste at the same time

Retailers must think big when it comes to technology and particularly AI – about how they can tackle large-scale business problems and pioneer new territory. Computer vision AI gives retailers the ability to see across the entire retail footprint (front, middle and back of store); see issues; and solve problems. The payoff is significant, from huge cost savings to dramatically improved shopper satisfaction.

The State of the Retail Industry 2023

JAN 2023