A recent research report by Deloitte Digital and Salesforce found that, while the potential business impact of AI is massive, adoption rates are still low; A survey of more than 500 global retail leaders showed that on average, just over one-third have adopted any given AI use case.

Why isn’t AI used more often? Adopting AI can be a major effort, especially when underlying data is disconnected and messy, but brand leaders’ investments in AI promise to pay big dividends in the future. Here’s how.

Business leaders will look to implement automation in tactical use cases where machine learning (ML) is better equipped to process and act on enormous amounts of data. In the context of retail, this applies to three main areas:

  • extracting insights from complex and abundant performance metrics

  • simplifying the lives of employees by automating repetitive, time-intensive tasks

  • enhancing the customer experience through personalized services

Based on extensive research, we see substantial gaps in these three areas that present significant opportunities to improve on current operating models.

Classical digital analytics offers little in the way of data that is inherently meaningful. At best it describes what is happening in an abstract method which still requires extensive, manual analysis in order to extract meaning. AI and ML will play an increasing role in extracting meaningful insights for business leaders that have neither the time nor the temperament to wait for insights that are already outdated by the time they’re generated. One example of this is mining social media interactions to inform ideation of new products and features that customers want. Another is leveraging online activity to inform local brick and mortar merchandising strategies; imagine store-specific merchandising informed by digital customer demand!

A day in the life of a retail employee is increasingly complex. Whether it’s putting out the many fires that pop up during the day or executing on a time-sensitive project, there is no shortage of things that need getting done. Machine learning is already playing a role in simplifying their lives. Commerce Cloud is analyzing search data to enhance site search results and reduce the dreaded “no search results.”

All the merchant needs to do is accept or reject a recommended enhancement to their search dictionaries. In the future, we’ll use image recognition to recommend outfits and achieve a “complete-the-look” experience; something that currently requires extensive effort and coordination between merchants and buyers. Providing space in their day will make your employees happier, more creative, and more effective.

In retail, shoppers are not just kings or queens – they are the entire royal court and kingdom. Purchase paths are random and often emotionally driven. Rather than speculate or emulate any given path, retailers need flexible and easy-to-navigate shopping experiences. Enter AI.

You will see virtual dressing rooms emerge, allowing customer to ‘try on’ your entire stock in a matter of minutes. Commerce Cloud will introduce methods where shoppers can snap a picture of a product and find it on your site and integrating our clients to the home through voice search features. Farther out, you’ll see almost entirely AI-created original content, where marketers suggest topics and content parameters and, a few hours later, you have an original blog post or how-to article with complimentary social post content. It’s entirely possible that personalization could then be used to determine which articles to show consumers.

We are in the infancy of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where the application of AI capabilities will be found in  every facet of life, business included. Brands should focus on tactical use cases that currently weigh down your operations, frustrate employees, cause confusion and require continuous manual intervention. Doing so will free up precious resources to innovate and add significant and long-term value to the business.

The adoption rate of AI may be low today, but it won’t be for long, and the positive impact will be nothing short of profound and transformational.

Download the new report from Salesforce and Deloitte, Customer Experience in the Retail Renaissance, to learn how elite brands are leveraging data to innovate, grow faster and create a more engaging relationship with customers.