top of page

Retail AI Round Table - Autumn 2023 - Key Themes

Missed our virtual round table with leaders from the retail sector to talk about the challenges and opportunities that AI brings? We’ve captured some of the key themes from the session about how AI could impact the sector, its customers and its people, to help you to address the question: Are you ready for AI?

Risk vs Reward: Commercial Opportunity

Group thoughts:

  • The risks might feel big but the potential payoffs are bigger

  • Value lies in getting more done using the people you already have; it’s not all about headcount reduction

  • AI can be used to reduce cost and increase efficiencies, especially useful for those retailers making thin margins and under increasing financial pressures

Transform’s view:

A path to efficiency doesn’t equate to competitive advantage. Using AI to unlock the potential you’re unable to reach at the moment is the key to innovating around brand and customers.

Don’t underestimate the significance of legacy tech and poor data quality though. You’ll need to address these too.

Speed to Value: Getting Started

Group thoughts:

  • It’s next level automation – we’re already used to trusting code to make decisions

  • Putting controls in place will allow us to trust the tech to let batches run without checking them first

  • You can build that trust by running small tests and safe experiments

  • Be clear on the scope of work and the operational benefits

Transform’s view:

If you’re prepared to experiment you’ll find the relevant proofs of concept and pilots for your specific use cases.

All retailers should be considering the statement, ‘What AI means for us is…’ and thinking about it commercially, culturally and technically to find what works for your brand and your culture.

Human in the Machine: Brand & Experience

Group thoughts:

  • Much of what we do will still be heavily people dependent

  • But we’ll need to balance this with the technological capabilities to get the benefit of speed AI provides

  • Some retailers don’t have the qualitative data that captures feedback from staff at store level

  • Verbal interfaces could provide an interesting way to pick up on sentiment and tone

Transform’s view:

It’s still universally agreed that AI is most effective when it’s enhancing human creativity. That said. Never say never. Codification of the intangible could be the point of difference. How do you take advantage when your brilliance doesn’t lend itself to 1s and 0s?

Laying the Foundations: Data

Group thoughts:

  • AI is providing yet another reason to sort out your data

  • The art of the possible is impossible if you don’t do this

  • SCV is painful to reach but its value is highly tangible. Unlocking silos is key

  • Future company valuations will rely on data

  • Use cases for prioritising data are strong across marketing, pricing, store ranging and locations

Transform’s view:

Retail data has long been an under-valued asset and the collection of structured data is often siloed. Creating links and predictive actions from disparate data sources is powerful and exciting. But it’s not easy. Choosing which data represents advantage and opportunity will make placing bets more pragmatic and focus on speed to value.

Future Meets Legacy: Technology

Group thoughts:

  • Legacy tech continues to be an issue and not just for AI

  • Lack of investment will come back to bite some retailers

  • External technology packages will employ little bits of AI, adding to the challenge of tracing sources and errors

  • This will make auditing hard and it’s even more important to have clarity on origins and authenticity

Transform’s view:

CTOs/CIOs will have an even harder job as AI adds a new layer to risk management, cyber security, data architecture and automation.

Those with legacy tech will inevitably face questions around how outdated inflexible systems can adapt to the demands of AI led applications.

Existential Questions: Ethics & Implications

Group thoughts:

  • Paranoia and anxiety are making this a difficult space to navigate

  • Progress is being made on licensing and risk management

  • Legal teams are trying to determine what’s best to include in contracts

  • There are more questions than answers like ‘What’s the retailer responsibility for staff and customers?’

  • Call centres are obvious targets for cost cutting but don’t forget the human side

Transform’s view:

Not all efficiencies will equal headcount reduction. Retailers who join up data sources can create new value like dynamic pricing, improvements in forecasting or inventory reductions. Ethics and brand decisions on risk will continue to be discussed for some time. And that’s a good thing.

What’s next?

Data is an essential source of understanding, insight and the basis for proactive decision-making. However, it’s not enough to have the data. It has to be reliable and you should know know how to use it.

AI will have total business impact. It needs to be considered and planned in the context of your customers, operation and ambition to amplify advantage.

Our Data & AI Solutions, enable you to take advantage of the transformative power of data and AI, from building the right foundations to deploying the latest models to help you grow, optimise and reduce risk.

Here are some of the solutions that can support your AI journey:

  • AI Impact Assessments to size the opportunity, qualify the risk and understand the retail & technology AI landscape in your context.

  • Data Discovery & Data Strategy Established frameworks to map your data maturity and define future strategy aligned to business benefits and customer opportunity.

  • AI Labs turning use cases into proof of concepts, allowing you to experiment rapidly and safely. ​

Want to talk about how we can help you? Email: or visit our website for more details on our retail track record.

We’d love to be part of your AI journey.

bottom of page