Artificial intelligence (AI) is beginning to transform society, especially at retail — and convenience store operators should make it their business to become familiar with its potential benefits.
The sky, many maintain, appears to be the limit. The global AI retail market is projected to expand to $31.18 billion by 2028, according to a Fortune Business Insider report. Indeed, AI is already changing the ways in which retailers operate, interact with their customers and compete.
Some of the ways in which AI can help c-stores are by cutting operational costs, helping build an omnichannel experience, improving both marketing and decision-making, honing inventory management and aiding in fraud detection and prevention.
AI is proving useful in helping satisfy consumer expectations for personalized and more convenient shopping experiences. Consumers overwhelmingly expect businesses to understand their needs — 76% of them, according to Los Angeles-based research firm Capgemini — but less than half feel they actually do. Still, chatbots and virtual assistants can answer consumer questions accurately, offer 24/7 support and even personalize recommendations.
By quickly and effortlessly sifting through massive amounts of data, AI can lead the way in creating improved customer segmentation based on gleaned insights. This can lead to more closely tailored content and more accurately targeted marketing campaigns, both of which can improve conversion rates and fuel revenue growth.
Retail management can also benefit from AI’s real-time insights, which can increase accuracy and efficiency of critical decisions. At the same time, more accurate forecasts can improve inventory and render staffing, production and pricing more effective.
Labor costs can also be cut, and the need to continuously find new workers eased. Since AI has the ability to automatically know when a product has been removed from a shelf — and automatically deduct the price from a shopper’s account — associates can be freed up to focus on stocking shelves and improving customer service.
Checkout is faster, lines are shorter, and the entire transaction becomes more convenient.
In addition, machine learning and artificial intelligence offer the promise of helping to automate repetitive tasks, making business processes less error-prone.