We’re halfway into day two at ShopTalk, one of the largest retail shows in the world focused on innovation. This week over 5,000 innovative retailers, brands, and technology companies have converged at the Aria Hotel in Las Vegas to learn and share what’s working, what isn’t, and what’s on the horizon.
Already there are some clear trends that are likely to be hot topics in retail in 2017 and 2018 and one of the hottest trends is Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. Remember when “Omnichannel” was the magic buzzword? Those days are now behind us, Omnichannel is no longer new or innovative, it’s table stakes.
You can also no longer say that using AI and ML is cutting edge, it too is now a necessity and it’s powering some of the most advanced and innovative experiences at retailers like Sephora and Men’s Wearhouse, Target and many more. From personalizing the customer experience online to redefining what it means to shop in-store it’s clear that static technology is quickly becoming a thing of the past.
Yesterday Devin Wenig the CEO of eBay made it clear to a completely packed room full of retailers when he said:
“If you don’t have an AI strategy you are going to die”
While it might sound dramatic it’s no secret that retail is in trouble and those that want to survive in this brave new world or retail need to embrace AI technologies, not next year, but now. Many retailers have struggled to get comfortable with AI and ML technologies which take time to learn and tune, gone are the days of instant results, we’re entering an era of machines that think for themselves and learn over time, the key is understanding that it’s a long play, not a quick win.
Almost every talk at ShopTalk this year talks about AI and ML, and it has been incredible to hear how many brands and retailers are leveraging these technologies to provide a better experience for their customers. While Devin’s quote might sound dramatic, it’s probably the best thing he could do to help retailers at the conference that have been on the fence about embracing AI and ML technologies.
It’s clear that waiting until 2018 to come up with an AI strategy isn’t an option, every month you aren’t collecting more data and providing more feedback for learning algorithms is a month you’re falling behind.