AI No Longer Curiosity for Retailers but Key to Better Business: Report

Generative AI helps SMBs compete with enterprises in the retail e-commerce sector

The use of generative AI technology has moved beyond the curiosity phase for retailers and become the foundation for software business applications that enable enterprises to conduct business better and more quickly, according to a report released Monday by Coresight Research and Digital Wave Technology.

The 19-page report outlined how generative AI technology is being used to enhance product design, automate the creation of products, improve the definition of products, accelerate the creation of advertising ideas, and power product development.

According to the report, retailers can also achieve significant productivity gains from AI. It cited one multibillion-dollar-revenue North American retailer, with more than 2,000 stores, that sells products across a range of categories that was able to drive an efficiency increase of greater than 90% in the process of onboarding products to the digital store by using generative AI.

MIT45, a health supplement maker in Salt Lake City, has seen similar gains. “We’ve managed to boost work productivity significantly, achieving an 80% to 85% improvement,” said CEO Ryan Niddel.

“We’re using AI to streamline various processes, including drafting contracts and documenting standard operating procedures,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

“For instance,” he continued, “our general counsel, who earns a substantial six-figure salary, used to spend hours drafting contracts. Now, with AI, he can generate a draft in just six minutes and rapidly enhance it.”

“That’s just one example of how we’re actively incorporating AI into our operations,” he added.

Tedium Buster

Generative AI can also accelerate the brainstorming process in advertising, the report noted, by creating text, voice, video, and image content. Creative professionals can be resentful of technology invading their turf, but that’s not the case with AI, maintained Lori Schafer, CEO of Digital Wave Technology, a provider of enterprise AI applications in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

“The copywriter still has to be the pilot, and AI is the copilot,” she told the E-Commerce Times. “The copywriter tells the AI what to look for, and the AI takes a lot of the tedious work away so the copywriters can focus on the strategy of what they’re writing.”

“It’s freeing up their time from the menial tasks, so copywriters end up loving the solution,” she said. “It’s making their job more meaningful.”

“AI can write copy and create images that can then be proofread and edited by marketing team members,” explained Mike Allmond, vice president and co-founder of Lover’s Lane, a national retail chain specializing in intimate and adult-themed merchandise headquartered in Plymouth, Mich.

“This helps marketing teams ideate and formulate new campaigns and strategies while the legwork is being handled by AI,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

Generative AI, when properly trained, can avoid or correct translation errors, flag wording that might be socially unacceptable, and recommend language that has proven to be more effective in a local region, added Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst with the Enderle Group, an advisory services firm in Bend, Ore.

“This is one of the early areas where AI has showcased huge early benefits,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

Targeting Preferences

“As someone who utilizes AI daily to help with my company’s marketing and creative initiatives, I can safely say that AI is like having an extra set of hands — and more importantly, brain — for my creative and marketing efforts,” said Brian Prince, founder and CEO of Top AI Tools, operator of an AI tool, resource, and educational platform, in Boca Raton, Fla.

“It efficiently automates repetitive tasks, like data analysis and customer segmentation, freeing up my team to focus on more creative aspects,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

“AI-driven tools can also provide insights into customer preferences, a significant advantage to retailers focused on crafting personalized and effective marketing campaigns that can help boost retail profits,” he added.

One way to identify those preferences is to use AI to analyze the content of what people are watching. “This gives brands the ability to better align their message within content that evokes the same, or similar emotions to their digital advertisements,” explained Tricia Allen, vice president of business development at Hotspex Media, a digital media agency in Toronto.

“We’ve seen emotional alignment drive attention up by 20%. And it’s also more successful at engaging viewers, with a 12% increase in video ads watched to completion,” she told the E-Commerce Times.

Aid to Continuous Improvement

The report also noted that generative AI can be useful in the process of continuously improving products. To complete the product launch journey and feed into the continuous cycle of product development, analyzing product feedback is vital, it explained. Generative AI can glean information from reviews of existing products, which can inform product enhancements.

Machine learning-based solutions have long been able to mine product reviews for sentiment, and the unique capabilities of generative AI to analyze, summarize, and compose text take this function much further, the report continued. Product reviews contain a goldmine of data useful for product development, product description, and attribution enhancement.

Identifying product issues early in development can reduce costly returns for a retailer or brand, it added.

“Continuous improvement is key in all industries, especially retail, and AI is a crucial player in this arena,” Prince said. “By constantly analyzing customer feedback and market trends, AI can identify areas for product enhancement.”

“It also helps in A/B testing, allowing retailers to experiment with different features and quickly determine what works best, leading to products that better meet consumer needs,” he added.

Work With an AI Expert

The report recommended brands and retailers ready to embrace AI technology partner with an organization that understands the needs of their business and has a built-in AI platform with the security, policies, and procedures to ensure that “brand-confidential” information stays secure, and its guiding principles include safe AI ethics.

“You really need to work with an expert that understands how to write AI and do a business solution,” Schafer said. “If you’re trying to use the AI models that are on the mass market right now, you can run into the problem of hallucinations. That means the AI is going to give erroneous answers to things it’s not trained appropriately to answer.”

Kory Daniels, CISO of Trustwave, a global cybersecurity and managed security services provider, added that as more business intelligence and customer analytics platforms integrate generative AI into their tools, the retail sector must vet and audit the security protections within those systems.

“While the potential benefits of these tools could be substantial, the security of these systems has not yet been proven,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “Therefore, it is essential to adopt a risk-benefit approach and carefully consider the implications with the CISO leading the way.”

“Retail businesses need to carefully consider the risks and benefits of using generative AI before deploying it,” he said.

John P. Mello Jr.

John P. Mello Jr. has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, IT issues, privacy, e-commerce, social media, artificial intelligence, big data and consumer electronics. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including the Boston Business Journal, the Boston Phoenix, Megapixel.Net and Government Security News. Email John.

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