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Syed S. Ahmed

The author is IT entrepreneur, writer, columnist and cricket enthusiast

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Artificial Intelligence May Replace Humans In Multiple Areas Of Business

Artificial Intelligence will prove to be a game changer, not only for retails, banks, or a few other sectors, but can have a far stronger impact on the entire global business processes.

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In the recent past, artificial intelligence has gained huge momentum in transforming our activities, in respect to our business and work place. In a nutshell, AI is on the cusp of creating a much larger revolution in the business space, in conjunction with, other newer digital technologies and innovation.

It has taken the work place operation by storm. AI is progressing with a rapid pace that even its developers are being caught off guard. But, the long-promised AI, the stuff we’ve seen in science fiction, is coming and we need to be prepared.

In my previous article, I did discuss briefly about the emerging tools, technologies, trends, and innovations that have taken place in the business space. And, in addition, these changes have made everything look digital and have provided a positive momentum in the given areas of our enterprise.

In this column, I have tried to focus on artificial intelligence, which alone has the potential to revolutionize the whole concept of retail management. Its application looks far more relevant, in present time, when greater emphasis is being laid on automation and urbanization.

On the other hand, we find there is an ever increase in retail shops, multiplexes, Big Bazaars, convenience stores and malls, and this change is not just limited to bigger cities, but has penetrated into our suburbs, as well. However, there’re few common components, these retail outlets heavily depend on, and they’re retail management tools and technologies.

It would be appropriate to discuss and evaluate some of the major areas, where artificial intelligence can bring about a huge transformational change. These areas may include operations, communication, sales & marketing, HR, procurement, supply chain management, consumer experience, inventory management, profitability, cyber safety and security and etc.

Communication

We all know, the way these days we talk to each other in the business space, have fast changed. Take an example, earlier a businessman needed to allocate a time slot to sit down, to make an important call or send an email.

But, it is no longer the case now, and these works can either be automated, or can be done independent of time, space or place; with much greater ease, speed and accuracy. AI’s powerful tools can even help us alert, if something extra needs to be done, repeated, or adhered to, in order to make our business communication more effective.

It can help determine the delivery time of our mails, across multiple geographical zones; and can provide us meaningful insights, related to the reading habits and correspondence, of our valued clients, customers and vendors.

It can further help us send customized data information and mails, and which AI is capable of retrieving off from its memory reservoir, based on the needs, and carefully sieving through the past records of mails exchanged, among multiple parties and stake holders.

Today, AI is powering voice assistants such as Google Home, Amazon Alexa and Apple Siri, allowing them to have increasingly natural conversations with us and manage our lights, order food, and schedule meetings and etc.

Sales and Marketing

AI has changed the rules of the game for an entrepreneur, business and even for a large enterprise, and it has powerfully impacted their sales and marketing initiatives and campaigns. It is therefore, recommended people must need to embrace and integrate AI, in their business processes and operations.

AI has the potential to assist with menial, daily and most repetitive tasks and further it can take on data analysis, and suggest improvements, if required. It can quickly track every single minute changes, the way people buy and sell products, and need services.

Employee and Staff Management

We all know that bad staffing leads to loss of sales and profitability, and which further negatively affects the brand image and results in poor customer experience. But, using past data records, i.e., foot falls, sales and marketing campaigns can aid in a more organized and dynamic staffing process, which is possible through predictive modeling and its methodologies. In return, these can lead companies, to lower absenteeism, attrition and greater customer satisfaction.

Store Foot Print Optimization

It is important to open stores for business reasons, but even far more important, are the areas or the locations we identify to set them up, as these decisions will be vital for future savings, revenues and profitability. AI can help in these areas too, through its smart algorithms, taking into account; factors like demographics, sales data, competitors tracking, past experiences and etc.

How to Mix and Manage Products

A variety of products get sold in a retail shop, but it is also important to know what are the factors that affect and influence these sales, i.e., enhance or decrease them. For example, a sudden increase in temperature or a long summer may increase the sale of soft drink products; while an opposite climate, would mean that the sale might possibly also decline.

Supply Chain Management Optimization

It has been observed that the most important factor in the retail sector is how we control our supply chain management. In order to make it powerful, we need to use prescriptive demand models based on previous records, events, sales, seasonality, time, geography, marketing efforts and etc., and then we can manage and forecast effectively. It will help meet our goals, for better logistics and supply chain management of goods and articles in the stores, to optimize revenues and sales.

Enhance Marketing and Hiring Process

To enhance marketing and hiring efforts, predictive and prescriptive modeling can be used, for greater accuracy and efficiency. In addition, there are smart AI apps which may also help improve, and aid in creating effective marketing and hiring strategies, campaigns and initiatives. It will help businessmen work freely and allow them additional time, which they could utilize to focus more on their core competencies.

Personal Shopping Assistants

The digital intelligent assistants can be used, created and customized to jell well with the brand and which can also be quicker and smarter, and much accurately assist people when it comes to assisted shopping experience. It can serve as an extra tool and which could be very useful, if utilized effectively.

Virtual Mirrors

A virtual Mirror is a type of mirror that helps a customer try various options before buying one. It comprises of a life size mirror which overlays the image of the buyer with the pictures of the clothing and accessories they wish to choose. It can boost sales especially for the retail segment that deals in fashion and accessories.

Omni Channel Shopping

In retail shops and online sales, the data can be synchronized to sell more, by understanding the shopping habits and choices of customers. To understand, consider this example; the moment a customer enters in to a retail shop and if the retail attendant, in advance knows about the product which that customer has seen, reviewed, recommended, or recently bought online, then chances are he will be able to manage the customer well.

It always helps to have a prior knowledge about a customers’ choice in handling their queries, in the choice of our rebuttals, cross and up selling, and which ultimately leads to increased and repeat sales, and in enhanced customer experience.

Virtual reality

VR requires stand-alone technologies such as headsets, and typically a controller. In the advent of new technologies, VR has seen a tremendous growth in the hands of early adopters. By sitting at home, consumers can visit various retail shops, view their entire catalogue, and find out all the latest collections of their favorite brands and designers.

In fact, now, various banking and financial institutions have started mulling over the idea to integrate virtual reality as tools to provide banking and financial products and services, for an enhanced customer experience.

Video Analytics

In the beginning, we have talked about retail and online store management. However, we also observe a major part of these purchase happens in-store and hence we feel the need for a system to analyze customers’ behavior within the premises of a store.

In a shopping mall, video analytics can provide us useful insights, from the clips recorded by CCTVs, which may include how much time a user has spent on each item, who has taken the product from the shelf and instead of putting it into the cart, has kept it back to the shelf.

It will further aid, in identifying areas or patches in stores which get much less attention, and hence video analytics can enhance the sale and help in the procurement of those products, which remain high in demand.

Augmented reality

We are aware of AR, the core technology, and which was behind the success of Pokémon Go, and in retail segment too this technology can be adopted, to lure the consumers and, major Brands and retailers can promote and propagate the popularity of products, by using AR.

It is simpler to implement, when a user comes to a store for shopping, brands can place some electronic symbols or codes on the products. Upon seeing them, the customers wills can these codes and which will trigger video pop ups, and these videos will show them product details, specifications and its usage.

Kiosk implementation

A kiosk is like an image scanner, let’s assume; we have an image of a particular product, say a dress, we can then send the image via a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi technology, and the kiosk will pop up with the exact similar dress, if it’s available in the store. It will further help navigate us through the areas where these dresses or look alike, have been kept in the stores.

Use of Robots and Robotic Sciences

It is an another aspect which can be a game changer but will take some time to become popular, especially in developing nations, as it might add to extra operational cost. It is estimated, that nearly 80-90 percent call center work will become automated or replaced by the effective use of artificial intelligence.

And, in this space, robots are expected to play a critical role. On the other hand, another interesting fact to be noticed, by 2020, according to Gartner, 85 percent of customer interactions in contact centers will be managed by artificial intelligence.

Needless to mention, in retail stores, these robots since long have been doing multiple works which humans were doing earlier; like cleaning and polishing of floors, getting items from warehouses, stack shelves, operate lifts, packaging goods and etc.

Now, we have discussed enough; about AI tools, technologies and innovation, and hence it will only be appropriate to suggest few firms like Happiest Minds, Wipro, MindTree and etc., which could help you fast integrate these tools and technologies.

In particular, Happiest Minds which is a relatively new IT firm, but has some of the best tools and technologies in its service portfolio, to offer you, a customized solution to meet your needs, budget and time space.

On the other hand, Happiest Minds in order to provide a wide range of solutions to its clients, it has made two smaller acquisitions recently i.e., Cupola Technologies, a firm based in Bangalore, and the other; OSS Cube which is based out of USA. It must be reminded amidst retrenchment and layoffs period, Happiest Minds has gone ahead for two acquisitions and strengthened its manpower, and it looks like a silver lining in the clouds, in uncertain times.

In the end, we identify, there will be hardly any sector which will remain unaffected by the positive change AI has inflicted, and by no means, retail will remain an exception. AI is capable of triggering a positive growth and in bringing benefits to both the shoppers and as well to the retailers. If we observe further, we find “Driverless intelligent Cars”, the technology is now advancing on an exponential curve and making science fiction a reality. We can’t stop it. All we can do is to understand it and use it to better ourselves and for the whole humanity.

However, time alone will be a key factor to witness how soon, how far, and how much AI has influenced and, transformed our lives, workplaces, and our businesses; for a better and smarter business world.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house


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