Artificial Intelligence: Shoptalk 2017 Takeaways, Part 3

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Artificial Intelligence Will Change the Way We Shop

Earlier this spring, part of the PowerReviews team headed to Las Vegas for Shoptalk, a retail and ecommerce conference focused on how consumers discover, shop and buy. While in Vegas, I had the opportunity to connect with leaders from top brands and retailers to hear about the challenges they’re facing and the unique ways they’re leveraging user-generated content to better connect with their shoppers.

I also had the chance to attend some powerful keynotes and breakout sessions packed with great insights and practical takeaways. While attending sessions, I noticed a few recurring themes:

  • The interplay of online and in-store shopping
  • How experiential retail is building connections with consumers
  • The potential for artificial intelligence to change the way we shop

In previous posts, I discussed the first two themes — the interplay of online and in-store shopping and how experiential retail is building connections with consumers. In this post, I’ll focus on the how artificial intelligence will change the way we shop.

You Can’t Spell Retail Without AI
Though artificial intelligence is still in its infancy, several conference sessions explored how it is positioned to be one of the biggest transformations coming to retail. Why? Because artificial intelligence has the potential to fundamentally impact the way consumers browse and buy products. AI allows brands and retailers to deliver the personalized experiences that today’s consumers crave. And businesses must keep up in order to deliver what their shoppers want.

Jason “Retailgeek” Goldberg, SVP of Commerce and Content Practice at SapientRazorfish, kicked off a panel discussion on artificial intelligence in retail by stating (in a voice hoarse from an evening of Las Vegas fun), “You can’t spell retail without AI.” Jason moderated a panel of speakers from AI companies that are disrupting retail, including leaders from IBM, Twiggle, Sentient Technologies, and Clarifai. Each speakers shared examples of how AI is transforming the industry.

All the panelists agreed that as an industry, product recommendations are not done well. Darin Archer, Director of Product Management, Watson Commerce, at IBM, described how AI could go beyond today’s recommendations engines by providing context for relevance — location, loyalty, recent history — in the moment of now.

One of the panelists, Andy Narayanan, GM of Intelligent Commerce at Sentient Technologies, said that Big Data is complex and not scalable- that it hadn’t delivered. He positioned AI, on the other hand, as autonomous decision-making, a continuous optimizer of recommendations– just like an associate in-store.

Narayanan predicted that in the next five years, most retailers and brands will have AI driving their core business. Today’s shoppers expect personalized experiences. But providing these 1:1 experiences is a big challenge for retailers. Andy explained how AI can help retailers provide a customized experience for shoppers, by determining what products to show a customer and how to present those products. As the retailer better understands the customer, it can better optimize its recommendations for the shopper, just like an in-store associate.

The potential for AI in retail goes beyond recommendations and personalization, extending to image recognition and more. The possibilities seemed endless.