Exploring Artificial Intelligence in Retail

by Olejuru Lanfear, Experienced Senior Merchandise Planning Professional & Author of ‘The Fundamentals of Planning’

June 23, 2021


I bet when you think of how artificial intelligence is used in retail, you think it’s something only big retailers can fully take advantage of.

That is not true, with the rapid advancement in technology we keep seeing, nano and micro retailers – NMRs, can also benefit from using artificial intelligence.

What is Artificial Intelligence or A.I.?

A simple way to define artificial intelligence is by thinking of it as a way to collate lots of data that then auto-suggests a scenario as a solution to an issue.

The more data collected and collated, the more knowledge the system gets to use to correctly anticipate what action to take or suggestions to make.

The Use of A.I.

In large retail businesses, sales data is collected by size, location, and time of day each transaction occurs. An A.I. system would be able to, for instance, use this data to determine the best time of day for certain tasks to be done. Such as best time of day to deliver stock, suggest an optimum number of people to have available to assist customers and it could also be used to project future sales.

For NMRs – nano and micro retailers, A.I. is used differently.

With less first-hand data to collect, compared to larger retailers and with those who own or work in these types of retail businesses, having to wear many hats, A.I. is used to lighten the load when it comes to doing mundane and repetitive tasks.

For instance, to optimise social media posting times. A.I. is used to determine the best time of day and which day of the week is best to publish posts.

It does this by looking at the habits of a retailer’s social followers on a platform, when they interact and how they interact. From this, suggested times to post are proposed, as these are the times followers are more likely to see and engage with each post.

This is probably one of the most visible A.I. uses for NMRs – nano and micro retailers.

In Conclusion

The key thing needed for artificial intelligence is data. The more data available the better the proposed solution to an issue. For nano and micro retailers, there is the issue of no single retailer having enough data to fully benefit from A.I.

Whilst this may be true, collectively there is an abundant amount of data that can be used by NMRs to make using artificial intelligence meaningful for retailers at the smaller end of the scale.