AI in retail: Survival depends on getting smart

Machine learning is fast becoming a must-have for retailers looking to stave off disruption, but the barriers to entry — upfront cost and data prep — remain an obstacle for most.

AI in retail: Survival depends on getting smart
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The retail sector is the poster child for the use of artificial intelligence. Self-driving delivery robots, automated warehouses, intelligent chatbots, personalized recommendations, and deep supply chain analytics have been making significant impact on the bottom line — if you’re

Other retailers, however, are struggling to adapt. In fact, only 19 percent of large retailers in the U.S., UK, Canada and Europe have deployed AI and are using it in production, according to Gartner.

That number will change quickly over the next few years, with 31 percent of retailers piloting AI technologies, and another 27 percent planning to deploy by the end of 2020. "There's an awful lot of experimentation going on," says Gartner analyst Bob Hetu.

Retailers that are embracing AI do so to lower costs, and increase revenues. And while the upfront investment is an obstacle for many companies, not investing in AI could be deadly.

"Over the next five years or so, AI is going to become one of the key elements of differentiation for retailers," Hutu says. "It's really urgent that they get proficient with it."

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