The Robots are Coming: The AI revolution is upon us

Retail and consumer product organisations are entering a new phase of technological innovation — with intelligent automation at its core. “The coming AI revolution in retail and consumer products,” a global study co-sponsored by the IBM Institute of Business Value and the National Retail Federation, looks at how companies are thinking about implementing intelligent automation in their businesses, where these innovations are poised to take the industry and the new set of risks and benefits artificial intelligence can pose.

The study is based on a global survey of 1,900 retail and consumer products across 23 countries. Participants included executives in supply chain, store operations, merchandising, product design, finance, sales and marketing and customer-focused areas.

Take a look at some of the highlights and recommendations below.

Study highlights:

  • Two in five retailers and brands are already using intelligent automation, and adoption is expected to double by 2021.
    Intelligent automation is making the biggest impact in demand forecasting, supply chain planning and customer engagement.
  • Companies invest in intelligent automation with an eye toward improving efficiency and their bottom line. However, as these capabilities mature, they realize additional benefits beyond their original expectations. Executives say some of the top wins from implementing intelligent automation are greater operational agility, the ability to make faster, smarter decisions and improving the customer experience.

Key Recommendations from the report:

  • Think Big: Take a strategic approach when evaluating intelligent automation
    • Look for ways intelligent automation can improve brand experience throughout the customer journey and create competitive value for your brand in the long term, rather than focusing on its ability to improve operational efficiencies and reduce costs.
    • Analyse every aspect of your enterprise, whether you’re examining trends, consumption data and consumer feedback, or scaling that data down to the pulse of a neighbourhood.
    • Assess both upstream and downstream processes across the integrated supply chain when evaluating intelligent automation capabilities. While each individual function can yield incremental benefits, an interconnected automated supply chain can provide a new level of value.
  • Work differently: rethink the way work should be done in the digital age
    • Think ahead, picture the end to end results. Be open to uncovering new capabilities and iteratively evaluate automated tasks and activities for opportunities to redesign processes using intelligent automation capabilities.
    • Think beyond basic automation to capitalise on the potential of intelligent automation. This capability isn’t just about removing human activities from business processes but rather shifting to a culture of speed, agility and innovation.

The report is also available for download at IBM.

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