When metaverse technology came within reach of brands and retailers early last year, consumers couldn’t wait to experience it in their shopping journeys, urging retailers to get on board with the tech ASAP. Just a few months later, the metaverse spark went out—or appeared to. Actually, the metaverse is still a big part of retail tech strategy, but having since been dwarfed by the rise of AI, no one’s talking about it. But in fact, it’s just one of several emerging tech features consumers are likely to be using by this time next year.
New research from commercial technology firm Honeywell finds that nearly six in 10 of about 1,000 retail directors surveyed around the world plan to adopt AI, machine learning (ML) and computer vision (CV) technologies over the next year to enhance the shopping experience, both within stores and online. Nearly 4 in 10 (38 percent) are already using them for select use cases or regions, and more than a third (35 percent) are currently using them on an even larger scale, and another quarter (24 percent) are in a pilot phase or in discussions. Of all those surveyed, just 3 percent said they were not using these technologies at all.
The technologies retailers are planning to deploy in the next 12 months:
The firm’s new AI in Retail survey finds that nearly half (48 percent) of respondents identified AI, ML and CV as the top technologies expected to have a significant impact on the retail industry over the next three to five years.The research also indicates that retailers see this new technology as complementing and enhancing their workforce—not eliminating jobs.
“In today’s retail environment, there is greater attention on the customer experience along with increased need to innovate in a hyper-competitive environment,” said George Koutsaftes, president and CEO of Honeywell Safety and Productivity Solutions, in a news release. “New technologies like AI, ML and CV have the potential to enable retailers to deliver personalized experiences, optimize operations, improve inventory management and prevent fraud—-all of which enhance customer satisfaction and can lead to increased sales and profitability.”
Retailers’ current usage of AI, MV and CV:
AI will enhance the customer experience, efficiencies and more
The convenience of online purchasing with fast delivery and curated in-store shopping options have raised consumers’ expectations. Surveyed retailers said they are highly motivated to implement new technologies that help them achieve their goals. The top three reasons leaders gave for deploying new technologies included:
- Improving customer experience (59 percent)
- Driving greater productivity (49 percent)
- Achieving cost efficiencies / return on investment (44 percent)
Survey respondents predict that AI, ML and CV will bring the greatest value to four key functions in retail: automating and supporting day-to-day tasks, such as picking and scheduling; supporting customer service, including live chat, for digital channels; creating targeted customer marketing campaigns and improving inventory management.
AI will complement the future workforce, despite some barriers to adoption
Study findings suggest that most retailers see AI, ML and CV primarily as tools to augment and maximize their workforce, rather than to replace employees. Only 7 percent of those surveyed said their primary purpose for these solutions would be to reduce human labor. The new technologies can enable better utilization of the workforce through predictive analytics, which can lead, in turn, to improved job satisfaction and more time to focus on higher-value tasks.
The expected impact of AI/ML/CV on the workforce:
The data indicates three primary barriers to widespread adoption:
- Budget restrictions (39 percent)
- Difficulty in demonstrating business value (29 percent)
- Lack of internal expertise to maintain the technology (21 percent)
“The importance of attracting and keeping customers and employees has never been greater,” said Koutsaftes. “As AI continues to evolve, expect an exciting future where innovative technologies unlock new levels of efficiency, engagement and satisfaction in retail.”
Honeywell’s AI in Retail online survey of 1,000 Directors in Retail, IT, Operations and Customer Experience was commissioned by Honeywell and conducted by market research company OnePoll, in accordance with the Market Research Society’s code of conduct. Data was collected between April 3-26, 2023. All participants are double opted in to take part in research and are paid an amount depending on the length and complexity of the survey. This survey was overseen and edited by the OnePoll research team. OnePoll are MRS Company Partners, corporate membership of ESOMAR and Members of the British Polling Council.