45% of retailers want to use AI by 2020, less than 15% currently do

Posted: 14 July 2017 | By Charlie Moloney

45% of retailers will have artificial intelligence (AI) as part of their business and customer service strategy within the next three years, as per the results of a survey by Boston Retail Partners (BRP), a retail management consulting firm.

The results, gathered in March and April this year, also showed that 86% of retailers are not currently using AI. Only 3% of those asked said that their business had already implemented AI and that it was working well, whilst 11% are using AI technology but said that it needed improving.

AI in retail includes chatbots and digital assistants, technologies which are brought to life in a multitude of forms with a plethora of personalities, and have even been known to become high-profile brand ambassadors, like Amazon Alexa.

Virtual reality and augmented reality in demand

34% of those surveyed will have introduced virtual reality (VR) technology by the end of the decade, and 33% intend to use augmented reality (AR), which was made famous by Pokémon Go in 2016, an app-based game which peaked at 28.5 million users in the US alone.

Again, the results show a large amount of unmet need for these technologies: 0% of retailers surveyed have working VR, and 8% have VR that needs improving; whilst in regards to AR the result was 3% and 11% respectively.

“AI offers the ability to exploit the vast amounts of data gathered on customers and their preferences to personalize the customer experience”, the BRP’s Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey stated.

The BRP report suggested that certain retailers may see human interaction as too important to go fully automated, but warn that due to “modified consumer expectations and behaviours”, all retailers must transform to survive.

Breaking down the data

Most of the companies surveyed (40%) were speciality (soft goods) retailers, followed by speciality (hard goods) retailers (24%), and general merchandise retailers (18%). Restaurants; grocery, food, and beverage; and drug stores, each represented 5%.

The results represent a broad range of tier 1, 2, and 3 retailers, with 37% of those surveyed reporting a gross annual income of $500 million to $5 billion, 24% said they saw $100 – $499 million, 21% had $10 billion or more, and 10% had $100 million or less.

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