Four Fascinating Ways Artificial Intelligence Is Changing the Retail Industry
No If’s and BOTS about it- Artificial Intelligence (AI) is changing the retail industry in very real and permanent ways. Thanks to international industry leaders like Amazon; retailers and customers alike are re-evaluating their buying and selling strategies. Back home, South Africans also need to understand how they might implement these best-in-class strategies at a local level. But first, let’s consider four fascinating ways that AI is changing how retail operates.
Where there are people, there is human error. Across all industries, shrinkage amounts to billions annually. AI is addressing this issue in simple ways by bringing retailers smarter inventory, stock control, movement and distribution systems. In fact, in some cases, AI is replacing cashiers altogether. In Amazon Go stores, the shelves process the item the moment it leaves the shelf surface. Allowing Amazon Prime customers to lift and go. The system automatically charges the customer, thereby reducing theft and providing an efficient service in one swift movement. This system is totally seamless and secure.
International companies like Trax Retail use computers, mobile phones and robots to create a virtual version of your store and its stock. Technology like this allows you to not only monitor and track your store remotely but also improves product and staff performance. Thereby increasing revenue and identifying opportunities for business enhancing activities.
The race is on towards autonomous delivery. With franchises like Domino’s and Pizza Hut seriously investigating temperature controlled auto- vehicle delivery systems. And have you heard about “Scout” – Amazon’s (almost) delivery bot which will partner with their delivery drone. Coming soon to a sky near you.
A number of companies are developing specialized software that stops fraudsters before they transact on e-commerce sites. The software employs a learning technology that spots and blocks fake accounts before they have a chance to transact. This technology will soon be available and affordable to online retailers. It will be interesting if this technology is able to translate to a brick and mortar environment as well.
Is South African retail ready for this shift?
While AI is an exciting international development, will South African consumers and retailers embrace it as quickly as the rest of the world? The reality is that South Africans are slower to adopt. That said, there is a gradual transition towards the expectation of a similar experience in-store to that of shopping online.
So while an “Amazon Infrastructure” may not be plausible for most SA retailers, they can definitely get creative with the AI in mind. Chains like Dischem already offer a service that gets your trolley ready for you before you arrive. Shoppers are already using their go-to store’s website to check stock before coming through. But the goal is ultimately for the online environment to seamlessly merge with the brick and mortar one.
Fund your AI with AI
By the sounds of it, AI adaptation can be pricy. Working capital is a vital ingredient in planning and actioning these upgrades. This is where a Merchant Cash Advance (MCA) can help. An MCA works with an AI-type capability all of its own. By syncing safely with your store’s card terminal, a small-agreed percentage of every card transaction is allocated to paying back your cash advance. This continues automatically until your cash advance is repaid. It is an absolute game changer because retailers don’t feel the pinch of monthly debit orders. This is just one more way that AI can assist your business. With the world moving in the direction it is, retailers need to be forward thinking and find feasible ways to adapt and grow.
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