Research suggests 85 per cent of customer interactions will be managed by AI by 2020.

Retailers will use AI to provide more personalised marketing about products and goods that will be delivered at speed using autonomous vehicles or drones. AI chatbots help retailers provide responsive 24-hour customer service that fits into the consumer’s schedule.

"AI will provide personalised marketing and customer service chatbots."

Using data to understand consumer likes and dislikes is not new. Boots introduced its Advantage card 20 years ago and in 1995 the Tesco Clubcard revolutionised how retailers gather data on consumer behaviour.

Using AI will now be able unlock the power of big data and allow retailers to make insightful predictions about consumers’ needs quicker than any human marketer could. AI allows retailers to identify and react to market trends in real time. Intelligent, autonomous AI-driven decision-making systems will make decisions about the goods that should be marketed, and even delivered automatically to an individual. All before a consumer has stepped into a shop, gone online or thought that they even need the product.


What do consumers think?


Consumers seem happy to embrace this; 60 per cent of UK millennials are open to retailers using AI to offer new products. This data-driven AI-powered vision of shopping may seem exciting to some, and perhaps uncomfortable for others. The data-driven revolution in retail has already raised data privacy and security concerns.

"Using data to understand consumers isn't new. Boots introduced its Advantage card 20 years ago."

The good news is that the data protection legal framework has been strengthened to consider advanced technologies such as machine learning. The new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into force on 25 May 2018. However, we are also entering an era where AI will raise issues beyond personal data protection. For example, how to ensure AI-made decisions are auditable, challengeable and ultimately understandable by both retailers and consumers?

Now is the time to put the mechanisms in place to identify, anticipate and navigate the social and ethical questions that AI raises.  If we are to realise the full benefits of AI, it is vital that we build a culture of trust and confidence. To do so we must anticipate the implications, mitigate potential risks and above all ensure AI-driven machines are developed, deployed and acting in the best interests of humans.

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