Retailers are using advanced analytics and forecasting to accurately forecast and optimise inventory levels. Some are even looking at real-time tracking of inventory in stores and monitor which items are out of stock. The idea is to quickly replenish stock, thus massively improving the customer experience.

Robots are also being used to stock shelves optimally to ensure a pleasant customer experience.

Chatbots to personalize shopper experience

Chatbots use natural language processing and AI so us humans can have intelligent conversations with them. Retailers are using personal shopping assistants (essentially bot technology) to provide a more tailor-made experience for customers. AI-driven bots can help shoppers find exactly what they are looking for, in the right style, colour and size – and can even make personalised recommendations based on a few simple questions.

What are the tangible benefits of AI in retail?

So why should South African retailers consider implementing artificial intelligence? There are significant costs and technical challenges associated with AI. Do the benefits outweigh the costs?

Well, in my opinion, there are some very tangible benefits that retailers can extract almost immediately. Global retailers can:

Increase revenue (and reduce inventory costs) by being able to better meet customer demand through having the right products available in the right locations.

Increase sales by offering real-time and relevant offers to customers through the device or channel that they prefer to use, such as a mobile app or delivered through a chatbot.

And in the age of the customer, intangible benefits such as improvements in customer experience are one of the most important reasons to consider artificial intelligence. AI helped Amazon to remove some of the major friction points in the buying journey by removing till queues and taking away payment delays.

While South African consumers may still wait awhile for the first Amazon Go store, SA retailers should already be considering how AI can help them to gain a competitive advantage in these difficult economic times.

This article has been republished with permission from SAS.