- Instacart uses gen-AI to provide more personalised shopping
- Square Inc. improves retail sales and employee productivity with gen-AI
- Zalando leverages gen-AI for improved product discovery and recommendations
- Coca-Cola creates memorable experiences with the help of gen-AI
- Gen-AI powers Carrefour’s improved product listings and chatbot support
In the rapidly evolving retail landscape, generative AI is set to play a pivotal role in transforming various aspects of retail businesses. This advanced technology will empower retailers to optimise tasks, manage and leverage data, and generate valuable insights with unprecedented speed and efficiency. Beyond these operational improvements, generative AI offers the potential to innovate customer experiences, improve sales, enhance the capabilities of front-line workers, and facilitate more effective communication with customers. In essence, generative AI serves as a comprehensive tool for streamlining retail operations, while fostering a more interactive and personalised shopping environment.
Picture an app powered by gen-AI that navigates you through your local store, offering real-time product suggestions tailored to your distinct tastes and requirements, be it a new fragrance to match your evening gown or the latest collection from your beloved fashion label. Or what about virtual fittings? With gen-AI’s ability to generate hyperrealistic images, fashion and beauty stores could introduce ‘magic mirror’ sessions, showcasing how various styles and colours would look, and potentially forecasting how those looks might evolve and adapt over time. According to the Technology Vision 2023 research report by Accenture, generative AI tools have captivated an overwhelming majority (96 per cent) of retail executives. As they chart their strategic course for the next few years, many are not just optimistic but are actively experimenting with this technology, particularly for applications like automated processes and customer service. Generative AI can offer personalised and increasingly immersive shopping experiences, more efficient inventory management, predictive sales analytics, and improved customer service. As you continue through this article, we’ll delve into some interesting gen-AI applications in more detail, highlighting the profound impact this technology holds for the retail industry.
Instacart uses gen-AI to provide more personalised shopping
The American technology company Instacart offers a grocery delivery and pick-up service in the US and Canada. Through its user-friendly app and website, customers can order groceries, household items, and even alcohol from local stores, which are then delivered to their doorstep by a personal shopper. Instacart partners with various retailers, providing convenience to users and expanded reach for partner stores. The company recently launched its new tool Ask Instacart. The tool is integrated into the search bar and enables customers to input questions regarding particular recipes and ask general advice for special events. Ask Instacart also provides detailed product information, food preparation tips, and information related to dietary considerations. What’s more, instead of merely offering information to queries with singular answers, Instacart is also striving to tackle the more open-ended inquiries people commonly have.
Ask Instacart enables customers to get helpful answers to questions like:
- “Which ingredients are essential in a stir fry?”
- “Can you suggest sugar-free snacks for diabetics?”
- “Which side dishes complement pork?”
- “Which sauces work best for grilled chicken?”
- “Which fish tastes similar to salmon?”
- “Which vegetables are ideal for roasting?”
Furthermore, the tool is built in such a way that it also seamlessly merges with a brand’s promotional campaign, ensuring that the answers it provides not only align with consumer queries but enhance brand visibility as well. Instacart developed this tool by blending ChatGPT’s linguistic comprehension with its proprietary AI models. This amalgamation incorporated catalogue details from 80,000 partner retail outlets nationwide, showcasing over a billion products..
“We see generative AI as an expert assistant. It is moving very quickly. It is super compelling and customers want it. The AI is getting better and better, and we are starting to integrate it into the product experience to save sellers time”.Square CEO Alyssa Henry
Square Inc. improves retail sales and employee productivity with gen-AI
Square, Inc. is an American financial services and mobile payment company founded by Jack Dorsey (a co-founder of Twitter) and Jim McKelvey. The company is probably best known for its Cash App product but also offers POS systems to cater to various business needs, business financing, e-commerce tools, payroll services, and more. In 2020, it acquired the music streaming service Tidal. Recently, Square has been putting generative AI into the hands of its merchant customers, enabling small enterprises to use its data to determine which employees are most productive and which products are top sellers. A bookstore using Square might, for instance, input a query like, “How many copies of the latest bestseller have I sold on weekends over the past month?” and promptly receive a visual representation of the sales figures sourced directly from the transaction data. Square has announced that its software will soon incorporate generative AI tools. This integration will enable retailers to input straightforward queries about product pricing, inventory, sales, or staff performance, streamlining business operations for greater efficiency.
Square CEO Alyssa Henry says: “We see generative AI as an expert assistant. It is moving very quickly. It is super compelling and customers want it. The AI is getting better and better, and we are starting to integrate it into the product experience to save sellers time”. Square software not only helps companies handle staffing and customer relations but also empowers owners of small enterprises. It enables them to gather crucial information on which employee had the highest sales or which customer purchased specific items. The company’s inventory management software also enables businesses to easily pinpoint their top-selling (or not-so-popular) products, providing instant insights for effective stock replenishment. Ms Henry continues: “We have a richness of data, but businesses aren’t great analysts. We can offer expert recommendations based on sales velocity or the performance of employees, or even what is best practice in terms of setting aside funds in a rainy day account”. Square is also set to incorporate generative AI into its marketing tools, ensuring businesses can reach their customers with bespoke offers. From suggesting visuals and text for email messages to proposing suitable language for addressing customer concerns, the AI will provide comprehensive assistance.
“This is just the beginning; we are committed to understanding our customers’ needs and preferences even better, and we are eager to explore the potential that ChatGPT can bring to their shopping journey”.Zalando spokesperson
Zalando leverages gen-AI for improved product discovery and recommendations
Zalando, a leading online fashion and lifestyle platform based in Berlin, Germany, offers a wide range of apparel, footwear, beauty products, and accessories from numerous global brands. The company recently announced the upcoming launch of a ChatGPT-powered fashion assistant across its web platforms and app. A spokesperson of the e-commerce giant says: “The chatbot will enable Zalando to unlock the potential of generative AI to enhance the customer experience of discovering and shopping for fashion online”. The new fashion assistant will enable customers to seamlessly browse the collection using their own words, making the shopping experience more natural and intuitive.
For instance, if a shopper asks: “What’s suitable for a business meeting in London during December?”, Zalando’s fashion assistant can figure out whether the event is a formal or casual one and that the weather in London in December is typically chilly and wet, and subsequently offer a detailed explanation along with clothing suggestions that match these conditions. In the future, this feature could be integrated with individual customer-specific preferences, like favoured styles, brands, and available colours and sizes, to create an even more customised product selection for the customer to choose from. Zalando: “This is just the beginning; we are committed to understanding our customers’ needs and preferences even better, and we are eager to explore the potential that ChatGPT can bring to their shopping journey. As we continue testing and introducing new solutions, our focus remains on learning how our customers want to interact with our fashion assistant to provide them with the best possible experience”.
Coca-Cola creates memorable experiences with the help of gen-AI
Generative AI is also used to quickly create customer experiences that delight and benefit customers, exceeding customer expectations. Global beverage corporation Coca-Cola recently unveiled a first-of-its-kind ‘Create Real Magic’ AI platform that enables users to craft unique artwork from images in its historical archive. The technology, built exclusively for Coca-Cola OpenAI and Bain & Company, harnesses the capabilities of GPT-4, which produces natural, human-like text from search engine queries, and DALL-E, which generates images based on text input. The beverage giant recently held a competition in which artist contestants could make use of the platform to design and send in their creations, with the winning pieces being showcased on Coca-Cola’s digital billboards at Piccadilly Circus in London and Time Square in New York. Thirty creators also got the opportunity to attend the Real Magic Creative Academy at Coca-Cola’s headquarters in Atlanta, to co-create content. Coca-Cola emphasises that it will recognise participants for their contributions, potentially referencing past scenarios where artists, whose creations trained AI models, went unrecognised or unpaid.
Create Real Magic demonstrates the incredible pace at which gen-AI initiatives are rolling out across the retail sector. Coca-Cola’s use of generative AI in digital experiences might set a valuable example for other retailers, as the brand recognises its potential in refining marketing strategies and foresees opportunities to optimise future business operations. In a press statement, Manolo Arroyo, global chief marketing officer at Coke, said: “Coca-Cola is still in the early days of assessing AI’s potential impact. We’re just scratching the surface of what we believe will help create the industry’s most effective and efficient end-to-end marketing model”. Inviting digital artists from all over the world to participate, Coke’s objective is to spread the reach of its brand imagery and top-tier advertising content. As mentioned by Pratik Thakar, the global chief of creative strategy and integrated content for the Coca-Cola Trademark, this move showcases the company’s resolve to fast-track AI technology exploration and implementation.
Gen-AI powers Carrefour’s improved product listings and chatbot support
One of the world’s major food retailers, Carrefour, is also increasingly making use of OpenAI’s GPT-4 technology — for internal processes as well as for customer-facing applications. The retailer’s innovative AI-driven initiatives span from a chatbot shopping assistant named Hopla to improving product descriptions and optimising purchasing processes. Hopla, specifically designed to assist customers with their online shopping and personalise client interaction, answers any questions customers might have and suggests products based on customers’ individual preferences and needs, such as dietary requirements, meal plans, or budget. The bot also takes anti-waste strategies into consideration by combining products with applicable recipes and recommending related items. To streamline internal processes, Carrefour’s purchasing division partnered with Microsoft and Bain & Company to develop ways to use gen-AI to optimise procurement, analyse quotations, and draft invitations to tender. This has already led to significant increases in accuracy and efficiency.
Gen-AI has also been put to work to improve Carrefour’s more than 2,000 product descriptions, giving customers access to more informative and detailed product descriptions. Expanding Carrefour’s gen-AI applications, Elodie Perthuisot, CEO of Carrefour Spain and chief of e-commerce and digital transformation explains: “We are launching a Gen-AI-powered marketing studio with Google. We can now use the power of GenAI to create full marketing campaigns: the AI learns from the history of previous campaigns, and when fed with guidelines for an upcoming campaign, it can generate a comprehensive one in a matter of minutes”. The generative AI initiatives have put the retail giant at the forefront of AI in retail, drawing significant attention as a result.
“The future holds immense promise as generative AI continues to evolve, driving innovative products and customer experiences and enhancing operational efficiency”.Kris Hamer, director of insight, British Retail Consortium
The world of retail is changing faster than humans can keep up. Increasing competition and ever-evolving customer expectations are putting more and more pressure on brands and retailers to stay relevant. It’s clear that in the near future, retailers striving to remain at the forefront will need powerful generative AI tools at their disposal. Embracing and understanding this transformative technology is paramount, as it offers the potential to revolutionise how brands and retail businesses operate and engage with customers. In the years ahead, we expect to see a surge in retailers tapping into generative AI’s vast offerings to solve persistent challenges and offer unparalleled customer experiences. As Kris Hamer, director of insight at the British Retail Consortium, says: “The future holds immense promise as generative AI continues to evolve, driving innovative products and customer experiences and enhancing operational efficiency. By harnessing generative AI on their digital transformation journey, retailers can optimise processes, reduce waste, and support their transition to a net-zero future while offering customers even greater value”.