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Here's how artificial intelligence can benefit the retail sector

Artificial intelligence services in the retail sector are predicted to increase from $5 billion to above $31 billion by 2028

Artificial intelligence services in the retail sector are predicted to increase from $5 billion to above $31 billion by 2028. Image: Pixabay for Pexels

Wu Yili
Chief Executive Officer, Sandstar
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This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

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  • Artificial intelligence can support retail operations, increasing profits and optimizing business processes.
  • Specific benefits include automation, loss prevention and sustainability.
  • It can also bring down costs, optimize supply chains and increase customer satisfaction.

Retail businesses need to prioritize profit and productivity to remain competitive in today's global market. It’s necessary to act quickly and effectively to ensure success and to stay ahead of competitors. Artificial intelligence (AI) can provide support for retail operations, increasing profits and optimizing business processes. AI services in the retail sector are predicted to increase from $5 billion to above $31 billion by 2028.

There are concerns about the impact of AI on jobs in the retail sector. For example, one report for the UK civil service found that "significant net employment reductions are projected in wholesale and retail, finance and public administration areas in the short to medium term". However, in the longer term, AI is likely to change the role of cashiers rather than eliminate it. By automating certain tasks, such as inventory tracking, AI can free cashiers to focus on more complex tasks requiring human interaction.

AI opens the door for businesses to make "smart" staffing and replenishment decisions that optimize labour and replenishment costs, while also helping to eliminate out-of-stock situations and maximize sales. AI will shift what retail roles look like, making businesses more efficient.

As technology continues to evolve, retail organizations are increasingly seeking to understand how artificial intelligence is reshaping the industry. Here are some of the principal AI applications for the sector:

1. Automation

Artificial intelligence plays a significant role in automating many tasks that were once done by humans. This allows workers to spend less time on mundane tasks and more time devoted to customer service. Overall, this process increases efficiency and helps to improve the customer experience.

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The presence of computers in the retail industry has allowed businesses to handle more complex tasks, such as customer problem-solving. These advances improve productivity, overall profit, environmental outcomes, and increased sales.

2. Loss prevention

AI technology is spurring self-checkout innovation, offering a secure method of scanning that also helps prevent shoplifting. It can run without any human assistance and gives customers more control over the shopping process. Under the new system, AI authentication will be used to log data on suspicious shoplifters.

3. Sustainability

Artificial intelligence has the potential to make retail operations much more sustainable. AI forecasting tools help businesses achieve carbon neutrality by monitoring emission rates and promoting recycling. In addition to many other advantages, artificial intelligence reduces the environmental strain caused by travelling to physical stores and minimizes waste materials sent to landfills.

4. Bringing down costs

Implementing artificial intelligence can improve the organization and streamline the workforce of retail businesses, giving them the power to make informed decisions based on data. It is anticipated that AI will be responsible for automating mundane tasks and optimizing more demanding work, such as delivering, tracking and scheduling. All of these advances have the potential to make jobs much easier and more efficient for employees.

5. Supply chain optimization

Artificial intelligence technology can review consumers' previous purchase patterns and provide an alert when the stock of best-selling products may reach a critically low level. Maintaining a well-stocked inventory is of utmost importance to retailers. AI can also provide insights into the temporal patterns of consumer demand, including identifying seasonal item trends and estimating when these items will be in the highest demand.


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6. Customer satisfaction

AI also brings benefits to consumers. For example, chatbots can help customers navigate the store quickly and receive personalized product recommendations. By providing personalized recommendations, AI makes checkout faster and more efficient. By using AI in this way, businesses show customers that they value their time and are willing to go the extra mile to make sure they have the best possible experience.

At SandStar, we have developed services including the Smart Kiosk system, which is designed to alleviate operational challenges faced by retailers through visual analysis and multidimensional data. Our Smart Stores allow businesses to make smart decisions to optimize daily operations.

Artificial intelligence (AI) can provide support for retail operations, leading to an increase in profits
Artificial intelligence (AI) can provide support for retail operations, leading to an increase in profits. Image: SandStar

AI has the potential to transform and benefit the future of retail. It presents an opportunity to create a more efficient and enjoyable experience for customers while also increasing profits for retailers, helping them to remain competitive in an ever-changing economy.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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Institutional update

World Economic Forum

May 21, 2024

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