6 ways AI can help retailers manage COVID chaos and post-COVID uncertainty
In some parts of the world, COVID chaos is still reigning, disrupting supply chains and throwing all retailers’ carefully calculated forecasts into confusion. Other areas are dealing with second waves and trying to stabilize their economies. A fortunate few places are looking toward recovery. No matter where your business falls in this spectrum, you’re probably wondering how to move forward amidst all this uncertainty.
In such circumstances, being able to analyze a situation and quickly adapt to it is essential for success. That is an area where AI can really shine. In this article, we’ll discuss six ways AI can save the day for retailers now.
AI-Powered Techniques to Boost Your Current Strategy
At some point, COVID will have run its course and the world will start to emerge into a state that’s closer to normal. We’re not sure what changes will stick with us and how much of the ‘old normal’ will be resumed, but we can start planning for the future. Let’s discuss how AI can help:
Demand-specific forecasting: Using consumer behavior and historical data, AI enables retailers to optimize supply, product planning, and logistics by predicting and analyzing demand. For example, retailers can use AI to determine which products to stock abundantly (because they are popular during crises) and which to restrict, thus reducing inventory costs. This also enhances customer satisfaction, as the items they want are more likely to be available. And it helps formulate realistic budgets.
Dynamic pricing: Pricing depends on multiple factors, including socioeconomic, geographic/location, supply, and environmental influences. By ensuring products are priced competitively and also profitably, retailers can increase their own revenue and profits. Plus, shrewd pricing increases the efficiency of inventory management.
Using technology to increase customer satisfaction: Natural Language Processing and Natural Language Understanding – subdisciplines of AI that deal with analyzing human language – allow machines to recognize human thought patterns and feelings found in words. Retailers can use this to analyze how customers perceive their company and the experience they are offered. This information can be used to tailor customer experience initiatives and, indirectly, to boost conversions.
Automated scheduling: Each month, regardless of the size of their operation, retail management has to juggle staff availability, budget restrictions, individual time off, and more to accomplish one thing: figure out who’s doing what and when for that month. It’s a complicated process, but one that AI can do with ease. Using interdependent connectivity, managers can get an accurate labor forecast and create a schedule in moments. This saves time (and frustration) and allows retailers to focus on more productive areas of business. It also allows them to better cope with the uncertainty of staff availability during COVID.
Determining product launch feasibility: It’s common for existing products to experience crests and troughs when a new offering is introduced to the market. Besides, the current time – with all its restrictions, uncertainties, and volatility – makes launching a new product seem exponentially more difficult. If nothing else, there may not be any viable historical data to use. However, AI can analyze datasets for similar products and use that to predict how a new entry will be received. This can help retailers eliminate non-essential spending on commodities that aren’t currently in demand.
Enhanced shopping experience: We’ve all struggled with finding the exact product we wanted. We’re already seeing a limited rollout of AI shopping assistants; I think this trend will catch on, as it enhances and simplifies the shopping experience. For example, the shopping assistant could tell a customer where their product is located or suggest alternatives if it’s sold out. The better retailers make the shopping experience, the happier customers will be, and this will show up in the revenue.
Moving Towards Tomorrow with AI
We’ve talked about several ways retailers can use AI to polish up their strategies and cope with current conditions. The sooner a company starts using AI, the better it will be able to navigate all the challenges we face. Now’s the time to integrate human creativity with AI analysis, make our plans, and proceed (cautiously) towards tomorrow.