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Why Retail Brands Need to Start Using Artificial Intelligence in Marketing—and How to Do It

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Within just three years, 45% of retailers plan to use artificial intelligence to enhance the customer experience, according to research from Boston Retail Partners (BRP) .

The highest profile example recently of this shift is Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods for $13.7 billion in June 2017.

That deal doesn’t just give Amazon 400+ retail outlets, reports GeekWire. It also gives the internet giant tons of consumer shopping data.

That data is a treasure trove of insight into consumer behavior and preferences. It also can be used to train artificial intelligence models, says GeekWire:

As Amazon’s Swami Sivasubramanian explained at our GeekWire Cloud Tech Summit last week, Amazon has “thousands of engineers focused on AI,” and a lot of that work goes toward making Amazon’s fulfilment centers more efficient and toward giving Amazon Web Services customers access to cutting-edge artificial intelligence models they’d never be able to build on their own.

Amazon just acquired a company that can improve its AI models on both of those counts. The logistics of shipping fresh food around the country are not easy, and that generates a ton of specialized data that Amazon can use to improve its own distribution strategies as well as build a cloud retail AI product for AWS customers.

Welcome to age of retail AI, an era in which a firm’s ability to apply machine learning models to massive quantities of specialized data could determine who wins and loses entire markets.

Artificial intelligence excels at surfacing insights from large structured and unstructured datasets that humans don’t have the bandwidth or ability to uncover. This means every dataset potentially has a goldmine of information that could boost sales and repeat purchases, but even trained data scientists and business analysts might not see it.

This isn’t just about Amazon: savvy market players are already using artificial intelligence to predict customer behavior, learn more about which products sell and manage inventory, reports VentureBeat.

If you’re competing in retail and not using AI, you’re behind. The good news is there are a few ways to get up to speed on artificial intelligence—starting today.


3 Ways to Get Up to Speed on Artificial Intelligence

There are a few ways retailers and retail marketers can accelerate their education on and adoption of AI.

1. Educate yourself on what the technology can—and can’t—do.

There’s a ton of hype out there about AI, given the technology’s popularity. It’s easy to learn incomplete or misleading information, which in turn hampers your ability to apply AI effectively.

We think these articles will give you a solid grasp of AI basics:

Related Read: 6 Limitations of Marketing AI, According to Experts

2. Look for real AI use cases.

There are plenty of things artificial intelligence could do given enough time, money and data. But that doesn’t always map to what AI solutions on the market actually can do.

Wherever possible, look for real world AI use cases where companies with goals similar to yours are using specific AI solutions to achieve results. Otherwise, you’ll find a lot of empty promises about what AI can do.

For retailers specifically, here are a few resources that can help you start to see how AI is actually being used:

3. Begin experimenting now.

Look for content that provides actionable advice. Don’t be afraid to ask solutions providers questions about their solutions. Take as many demos as possible. AI is still in its infancy: it’s critical that retailers see for themselves how tools actually work versus what’s advertised.


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