Until just a few months ago, the coronavirus crisis appeared to be a temporary and region-specific issue. None of us imagined how rapidly it would become a global concern. The pandemic has violently shaken economies and roughed up businesses across the world. Its fury has disrupted behemoths and small-scale enterprises alike. Exceptional results are visible from retailers and supply-chain management, which have dealt with a huge demand for essential goods at one end and absence of production-led supply on the other.
The otherwise inch-to-inch working model of supply-chain is trailing in meeting the demand-supply curve of the market. As people raided the shelves of supermarkets and retailers in a frenzy, markets ran out of supplies to sufficiently dispense at all ends. Essential commodities supply is bearing the brunt as people are abstaining from making lifestyle purchases for now and focusing their energy to hoard food and necessary goods. The current trends in shopping behavior were as unpredictable as the present situation.
No matter how haphazard these circumstances seem, technology has an organized solution. Early intervention of artificial intelligence can save the day for retailers, here’s how:
For immediate strategy
Demand-specific forecasting: Predicting and analyzing demand gives businesses a grip over most situations. Being stocked with requisite products that are seeing a surge in demand and temporarily restricting purchasing of comparatively not-so-popular commodities reduces inventory costs. This information also becomes vital for customer retention as AI forecasts demand based on historical data and customer behavior. AI can help retailers with supply optimization, product planning and formulating logistics and marketing budgets accordingly.
Mindful pricing: Pricing is a dynamic tool that depends upon multiple factors. While some aspects remain fixed, there are several other socioeconomic, geographical and environmental factors that affect prices. We are currently in an uncertain situation and desperate times call for desperate measures. Here, AI can lend businesses a competitive edge by determining the price of a particular product to increase profitability, revenue and efficiency of inventory management.
Driving customer satisfaction: Businesses can leverage the power of NLP and NLU through AI-driven modern devices to recognize human behavior, emotions and data patterns to provide accurate product recommendations and support for each customer. This gives a clear picture and helps serve the customer better. An enhanced customer experience ultimately leads to favorable conversions.
Automated scheduling: The herculean task of scheduling considers staff availability, budget, vacation time, sick leave, etc., that is to be re-considered every month by all retailers irrespective of scale. This complicated process can be sorted with a single click. AI-powered retail brands can utilize interdepartmental connectivity to auto-schedule and get an accurate labor forecast within seconds. This saves retailers a significant amount of time to focus on productive aspects of their businesses. Lack of manpower in the current scenario makes automated scheduling all the more necessary.
Forecasting feasibility of launch products: Around 30% of existing products see crests and troughs as retailers try to accommodate a new product to the market. When there is no viable history available on new products, AI can analyze data related to existing products similar in size, price, usability, quantity and quality to predict the future of the newer ones. This can also come handy in predicting optimum volumes required for the launch. In the current scenario, any retailer would love to curb the excess expenditure on commodities that are not useful.
How can AI rescue businesses in the post-coronavirus world?
Installing AI-driven virtual assistants: We all can recall numerous experiences where we were disappointed due to the unavailability of a particular product or were unable to locate the exact shelf where a product is. Shopping experiences can be enhanced if voice and visual virtual assistants helped us find the product, or provide an alternative suggestion. A happy shopping experience reflects in revenue.
Locating best spots for your network: As AI collects and comprehends data to predict trends and possibilities, it can be leveraged in locations for your franchise or store. The right location can ensure footfalls, popularity and revenue. AI can determine the number of factors such as proximity to the competitors, the average income of people, accessibility to the location and average footfalls of the total population in the area that can aid in making an business decisions. With economies forced to take baby steps to revival in the post-pandemic world, the last thing an entrepreneur will want is to bear a bad business decision.
Combining AI-led immediate and long-term plans can help retailers survive the existing circumstances. How early a retailer incorporates AI-enabled tools in the business will decide the future. AI offers solutions for everyone and every situation, including when and where to implement them. This moment of social distancing is also a time to integrate human mind and technology to ensure successful continuity of all businesses.
The article has been authored by Sudeshna Datta, Co-Founder & Executive Vice President, Absolutdata