To Compete With Amazon, Retailers Reach For AI — Here’s How Some Get It Wrong

by MR Magazine Staff

In my role as industry analyst, I get asked all the time about retailers’ investment plans when it comes to Artificial Intelligence. My answer usually covers the two ways that AI currently gets into the average retail enterprise these days. One way comes through investments where the AI component is completely unknown to the retailer. Usually, we’re talking about personalization or some kind of optimization technology that contains a machine learning or natural language processing component to it. Retailers want the sophisticated solution, but don’t realize they are actually investing in what qualifies as AI. The other way to these investments seems to be through what RSR calls “Silver Bullet Syndrome.” At its worst, some company executive read an article on an airplane that mentioned AI and now insists that the company invest in order to get all the benefits he or she read about in the article. This is AI for AI’s sake, and whenever retailers make technology investments along these lines, they invariably fail, mostly because the retailer expected a lot more from the technology than what it realistically could deliver. AI seems to be rapidly approaching Silver Bullet Syndrome status – retailers, desperate not to be crushed by Amazon, and hearing about how Amazon is AI- and data-driven, insist that the company go out and buy some AI. Problem is, if a retailer doesn’t already value data and the insights that can be derived from data, buying an AI solution isn’t going to get them very far. On top of that, despite how much it feels like the acronym gets tossed around, AI in retail is relatively new. The technology itself is still growing and changing by leaps and bounds, and how it can be applied to retail is also evolving rapidly. In fact, there are a lot of questions around AI that don’t have answers. Read more at Forbes.