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Bright future for AI in retail in United Kingdom: BRC

Mar '19
Pic: BRC
Pic: BRC
Despite the challenges the retail industry faces, there is a bright future for artificial intelligence (AI) in retail in the United Kingdom, according to a roundtable discussion by British Retail Consortium (BRC). Retail is one of the leading sectors for AI applications and the industry around it will only grow and AI based technologies develop.

"AI offers retailers the opportunity to both radically enhance and personalise the customer experience and to realise significant gains in productivity throughout the business - from the warehouse, to delivery, to head office and online and physical outlets. In a highly competitive market, retailers cannot afford to be left behind," as discussed by BRC at the roundtable this month focusing on AI in retail, the benefits and barriers retailers are facing.

The discussion highlighted about the lack of data on the returns to investment in AI, which can make it difficult to progress. In an industry where management are under pressure to deliver returns on short time scales, designing and getting buy into investment in AI can be very difficult. Suppliers of AI technology have a role to play in addressing this, by providing clear evidence information about the expected impact of AI. Across the industry as a whole, a roadmap for AI technologies would help retailers in developing their strategies for growth and investment.

"Finding the right skills and know-how are an obstacle, and not just on the technical side. The best applications of AI work alongside other technologies and alongside people within retail businesses. That means seeing the deployment of AI not just as the development of isolated technology, but part of a wider process of change. That in turn implies that the UK needs to develop a talent pool for AI with a wide spectrum of skills," Rachel Lund, head of retail insight and analytics, BRC wrote on its website.

However, launching and progressing AI within a business does not come without its challenges. The wider economic and political context present challenges for AI in retail in the UK. Uncertainty over the UK’s future relationship with the EU - which has significant implications for data use, future demand and costs of doing business - has made a number of multi-national firm reluctant to invest in AI, diverting their funds elsewhere.

"There is also a growing awareness of the ethical questions posed by AI, notably whether algorithms introduce bias in the way customers are treated or staff are hired; how you govern personal data being used by algorithms or prevent customers being showed inappropriate material. Even if some of these issues are wider tech company issues, they present a significant risk to retailers’ brands," added the website. (RR)

Fibre2Fashion News Desk – India

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