Chances are, most of us attempted to visit a mall in the last few weeks in an effort to get the Christmas shopping done as swiftly and painlessly as possible.
What most of us likely experienced was Christmas carnage – people everywhere, rustling through shelves to find what they're after, uninspired by the options, and ultimately, despairing that they didn't get it together and do their shopping earlier.
But soon artificial intelligence (AI) will ensure we never miss out on the items we want and the products we encounter better reflect trends and our tastes.AI is already altering the retail industry, particularly how we shop online, but it is about to change brick and mortar retail too.
How does AI work? Algorithms todays can "teach" a computer to learn from large amounts of shopping data. It then quickly provides your favourite retailers predictions and answers on how you'll shop for tens of thousands of products.
For online shopping, AI technology is currently being applied to things like chatbots that help answer customer enquiries and has allowed web shops to tailor their online marketing based on customers' previous purchases, search habits and clicks. Websites know that if you've bought tickets to the latest Star Wars film online, you're more likely interested in other Star Wars related products.
More broadly for the retail industry, AI can be used to learn from sales and customer data. It can learn customer preferences, behaviours, and can gain an understanding of what they want when it comes to purchases. More importantly, it knows this long before the retailer or even you do!
So how does this affect physical shops and what does this mean for you when you hit the mall next Christmas?
Insite AI's scientists are about to pilot its product with The Warehouse Group here in New Zealand. By understanding what customers want before they enter a store, you'll have a much more streamlined in-store experience.
Retailers will be able to use this AI technology to order the right stock for the right time – so when you enter a store, it won't be out of the product you made the trip in specifically to get. AI will solve stock issues right down to the product level, ensuring the correct ingredients, sizes, designs and models of any given item are available when you need it.
Moreover, by using AI technology to predict key features and sentiment from things such as social media, online videos, magazines and reviews, on trend products will be available to suit latest tastes and demand.
Finally, stock will be unique and localised to the area it is sold. Using demographics, weather forecasts, and influential factors, AI can tailor product ranges to consumer needs and wants in their nearest store.
Next Christmas, you can expect to start seeing the impact of this technology when you head to the mall. By understanding what shoppers want, when they want it, your December shopping experience won't be so chaotic. Instead, consumers will find the products they like and want are readily available and easy to access.
Ultimately, even if you leave Christmas shopping late next year, you'll still be able to get everything on your wish list.
- Shaveer Mirpuri is the chairperson of Kiwi company Insite AI.