Emerging technologies that will speed up retail’s transformation

The pandemic has disrupted almost every sector, retail included. Two key consumer behaviours have emerged as a result: the shift towards large, online stores, and a reinforced meaning behind buying products locally. 

In response, retailers are bringing forward investment in technology in order to speed up their digital transformation, writes TechRadar. This is not just the case for retail, but for organisations spanning a wide range of industries. 

In fact, in a recent McKinsey Global Survey which quizzed executives around the world, it was found that companies have sped up digitisation of their customer and supply-chain interactions, as well as their internal operations, by an average of three to four years. Meanwhile, the share of digital or digitally enabled products within their portfolios has accelerated by seven years.

AI technology adoption for retail 

Artificial intelligence (AI) technologies have stolen the attention of retailers, many of which are now harnessing AI-enabled, third-party vendor applications to resolve immediate challenges, before shifting to more strategic deployments once the benefits have been realised. 

TechRadar hones in on emerging technologies, their adoption and possible impact in the retail space. They include:

1. Edge AI

Edge AI allows real-time operations for decision making and data acquisition where response time is important. This has its place in retail when looking at how to enhance ‘store intelligence’ through the monitoring, analysis and tracking of in-store activity across the various endpoint technologies used. 

Potential cases for use include mixed-reality experiences, real-time inventory management, fraud prevention and dynamic pricing management. 

2. Smart robots 

These are electromechanical form factors that operate autonomously. Human-supervised training and demonstrations allow them to learn in short-term intervals, or they learn by their experiences on-the-job. 

The pandemic has sped up interest in this area, with retailers expected to increase spend across the next three to four years. It’s speeding up the use of robots to carry out monotonous, low-level tasks for enhanced productivity and reliability, at lower costs. Ultimately, smart robots will help to free up time for humans to engage in more worthwhile activities. 

There are a wide range of uses for smart robots. They could be used for picking and packing stock, auditing and replenishment, routine cleaning and the handling of hazardous waste. They can even be used in consumer-facing positions such as help desks and store navigation. 

3. Machine learning 

Machine learning (ML) applies mathematical models to data to resolve business issues through extracting knowledge, identifying patterns, and suggesting actions. It’s segmented into three categories based on how it gathers and processes data: supervised learning, unsupervised learning and reinforcement learning. As a general rule of thumb, supervised learning answers questions, unsupervised explores data and reinforcement offers elements of the two.

With e-commerce adoption in light of the pandemic, retail’s merchandising offering has been ‘ground zero’ for AI and ML tech to allow intelligent automation and enhance data-backed decision making. Retailers can harness ML to measure and improve forecasts accurately by measuring forecast deviation using real demand down to stock keeping unit or location level. 

4. Cloud AI developer services 

These allow IT teams to integrate the benefits of AI and ML with the current cloud computing and cloud storage solutions. Services include sentiment analysis, natural language processing (NLP), image recognition and AutoML model creation. 

Organisations that started their digital transformation early on in the pandemic are leading the way for retail late-comers who want to migrate to the cloud while limiting downtime within their infrastructure. 

Even with the share of workloads remaining in private cloud or on-premises data centres, Garner predicts that cloud-based AI will account for the greatest share of the AI-based applications market within retail. 

5. AI business and technology services

AI-related business and technology services can provide continuous services to assist retailers in building and running AI-centric projects and solutions for targeted outcomes. These include services like AI strategy development, independent verification and validation of cloud AI initiatives, and business readiness evaluation. 

Harness the latest technology with help from the Delta Group 

The pandemic has only emphasised the need for retailers to be digital-first in their approach. This involves identifying the right technologies, and utilising them in order to drive business efficiency and enhance the customer experience. 

If you need assistance when it comes to retail tech, we can help. We’ve got the knowledge, skills and tools to propel your retail business forward and deliver innovative, enriching experiences to every one of your customers. Get in touch today!