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Artificial intelligence is fundamentally changing the future of retail

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By Andreas Dimitriou
Chief Information Officer of Supermarkets Alfamega

Recently, the term artificial intelligence (AI) has entered the public debate for good. Its application possibilities in important sectors of the economy such as production, science, health, education, etc. they are impressive. The only thing that is certain is that we are still at the beginning and that artificial intelligence has many surprises in store for us in the coming years. It would, however, be interesting to see how it affects retail and what radical changes it brings to the industry.

In Cyprus the retail sector is already taking advantage of some of the uses of artificial intelligence, now making its huge potential evident and pointing the way to the future. The combination of Generative AI with more traditional AI techniques, as well as with other developing technologies, will bring about an innovative business transformation, affecting all links of the retail trade: from retailers to the customers themselves and to the partners. .

According to the American Gartner, one of the largest technology research and consulting companies, the future of retail trade will have no borders and limitations, which implies radical changes in consumer habits. Of course, Gartner makes it clear that only companies that truly understand what AI is and how it can enhance their business strategy will be able to put it to good use, gaining an edge over the competition.

Media from the personalized possibilities provided by artificial intelligence applications, supermarkets – physical stores and digital – will be transformed into the basis of the data, needs and everyday life of the modern consumer. Customers will be served through services tailored to their thoughts and behaviors.

Already, pilot projects leveraging generative artificial intelligence, such as digital assistants and tools that process real-time text and speech, are transforming the customer service landscape. Many marketing departments of companies in the sector now provide services of personalized searches and offers, while at the same time identifying the most preferred communication channel of customers in order to give them a more pleasant consumer experience. The supply chain has been enhanced with robots, which efficiently handle manual tasks without the involvement of a human hand, while collections and deliveries are made ever faster with optimal path algorithms.

Accordingly, Human Resource departments save time by leveraging production intelligence tools to create job descriptions or screen resumes. Sales departments are leveraging artificial intelligence to optimize and predict their prices and offers. Finance departments, for their part, now have the ability to automate repetitive actions with software robots or use digital tools to draft their agreements or budgets. Accordingly, IT developers debug and automate repetitive actions, while AI algorithms detect patterns in potential cyberattacks, enhancing security. Finally, customers enjoy personalized navigations, whether in digital or traditional retail channels.

Many of the above groundbreaking applications are already implemented in Alfamega Hypermarkets. Through the chain's online store, customers enjoy personalized offers, and soon they will also be able to perform personalized searches. The online store's order picking software includes artificial intelligence algorithms that determine the optimal navigation path to the distribution center, while combining in the most efficient way the preparation of orders (including multi-picking). Also, with the use of Robotic Process Automation, repetitive tasks have been automated, improving the efficiency and work quality of the staff. In terms of marketing, a platform is in the process of being created, which will allow the chain to address each customer individually, through their preferred channel and only for what interests them. In addition, the company's purchasing department will soon be able to receive help from artificial intelligence algorithms to optimize prices and offers, while the development of digital assistants that will enhance the productivity and efficiency of all employees is also in the pilot phase.

It is clear that the retail sector is currently in a transitional period of change. The bet for businesses in the sector is to understand the scope of the upcoming changes in time and to proceed immediately to integrate artificial intelligence into their business operation strategy. Only in this way will they ensure their survival and profitability in the future.

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Source: www.kathimerini.com.cy

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