AI in Retail

A look at the top ways artificial intelligence is changing the customer experience in retail.

By Heather Larrabee

In May, Forbes published 50 retail innovation stats that prove the power of customer experience, and not surprisingly, virtually every stat points to business processes that could be improved by investments in AI or machine learning.

In the roundup, we learn that “80 percent of customers are more likely to purchase from a company that offers personalized experiences; that brand leaders plan to hire 50 percent more data scientists in the next three years; that getting personalized discounts based on purchase history is important for 76 percent of consumers; that when shoppers follow AI-powered product recommendations, their average order value increases by 14 percent; and that the number of retailers using AI has jumped from 4 percent in 2016 to 28 percent in 2018.”

The benefits of AI to the business community are staggering, and there will be critical roles for humans to play as this technology is deployed.

Unite the Power

Retailers have an incredible opportunity to unite the power of humans and machines to transform supply chain, internet of things, loyalty and promotion, execution management and the customer experience. AI capabilities in supply chain can inform everything from demand forecasting and sourcing to customer orders, warehouse management, inventory tracking and distribution.

IoT sensors on doors, lights and equipment save labor and expense and maximize the use of materials on-site. If a bathroom has to be cleaned only every 25 uses, IoT door sensors can signal when a cleaning is needed, instead of on hourly rotation. Time saved can be redirected to other tasks that enhance guest experience.

Sephora uses AI to over-deliver on customer experience, provide highly-curated, personalized brand touch points, custom offers, loyalty programs, and category-defying virtual reality product demonstrations that let you “try before you buy” (spoiler alert: I am a loyal customer).

Close the Gap

Retail task execution apps and reporting platforms that capture experiential data in the last leg of the customer journey now deliver powerful insights to corporate teams in real-time from every location. It’s a critical time for brands to close the “experience gap,” where 80 percent of CEOs believe they deliver a superior experience, and only 8 percent of customers agree, and deploy solutions in weeks, not quarters or years, to ensure execution is happening in the field. Turnkey tech solutions that direct tasks, deliver training materials and support compliance are saving labor and giving teams time back on the floor to delight customers.

Some of these apps also have machine learning and image-recognition capabilities that allow team members to take photos of sets and analyze what’s there, what’s not and what needs to be done – in seconds. Like IoT labor efficiencies, ML delivers powerful unlocks for brands that need to do more with less, but don’t want to sacrifice the customer experience.

The best apps provide integration with reporting platforms to visualize data in a low-code/no-code environment and immediately spotlight areas of strength or risk to operators. Having what are essentially real-time sensors in the hands of every employee will be a key way retailers can close the experience gap – and quickly – before they experience brand erosion in a fiercely competitive environment.

Heather Larrabee is an executive vice president at GoSpotCheck. GoSpotCheck helps 200+ enterprise brands in 70 countries across six continents perfect merchandising, increase sales, reduce labor and expense, ensure food safety and improve profitability with mobile surveys, photo capture, image recognition and business insight reporting. For more information, email