Retailers and AI automation: the challenges of adoption

10 Oct 2023

5.5 min read

When talking about digital transformation in retail, if you don’t hear the words “automation” and “AI”, you’re not listening. And with the global retail automation market set to reach almost £17 billion by 2026 at a CAGR of 9.7% between 2021 and 2026 (MeiliRobots), it’s one of the most essential and prevalent solutions used by retail business owners today to drive efficiency, maximise productivity, and increase profits.

However, while we see article after article about the benefits of automation, actually applying automated processes isn’t always straightforward. Retail businesses face many challenges when trying to implement automated processes – especially when it comes to AI adoption.

To have the best chance of successful automation in your retail business, knowing what you’re up against and the most common challenges other retail leaders face can help you avoid making the same mistakes. So, in this blog, we’re exploring those challenges and giving you our best advice for overcoming them! Just keep reading.

The benefits of automation

Before diving into the challenges of automation, we want to begin with why it’s so worthwhile to overcome them by exploring the key benefits of automation for retail and eCommerce businesses.

Happier customers

With automated customer service, warehouse operations, and personalised product recommendations, customers enjoy faster and more accurate responses from your brand, leading to higher satisfaction levels.

Accurate forecasting

With real-time AI updates, your order management system can forecast shopping trends, alert you to low stock levels, and help you manage inventory levels, so you can always stay ahead of customer demands.

Powerful marketing

Abandoned cart emails, personalised discounts, loyalty programs, and more can all be automated to keep your brand top of mind, encourage repeat purchases, drive brand loyalty, and help you compete – without manual input.

Customer insights

AI can predict customer behaviour and analyse patterns in a way humans never could. You’ll be able to understand your customer’s lifetime value, preferences, and new behaviour that traditional analytics isn’t mature enough to understand. These insights lead to better targeting in marketing campaigns and more powerful customer relationships.

Automation challenges

While the benefits of AI and automation for retailers and eCommerce owners reach far and wide, there’s no doubt they’re facing challenges with adopting these technologies. A whopping 60% of retailers surveyed by IDC have yet to implement AI technology. Read below to explore why, the challenges they face, and what you can do to overcome them.

Fear of change

Adopting new AI processes and automation technology can feel daunting for retail business owners. In many cases, there’s a general preconceived notion that implementing a new AI chatbot or automated email system will disrupt the organisation or even take over people’s jobs, which is rarely the case.

The solution? Successful change management processes are key here. You must analyse and communicate how easily teams can adopt your new AI technology, why it’s worth it, precisely what roles it will affect, and how.

Not enough ROI

Another challenge retail and eCommerce businesses face is that implementing an AI solution for specific business processes won’t give them a good enough return on investment and is too risky.

The solution? Develop a strong business case for particular automation or AI systems. Analyse your needs and estimate how much faster you can get specific tasks done using your chosen technology and at what cost to calculate rough ROI before investing.

Debilitated by data

Retailers must address a significant challenge when adopting a new AI or automated system: their data quality, volume, and accuracy. Many retailers don’t have sufficient tracking or data analytics, making them less likely to adopt AI to make the most of what they have.

The solution? AI is vital for helping segment data, analysing trends, and forecasting demand, giving you the power to make informed marketing, business, and strategic decisions. No matter your data quality now, implementing AI will only get better as time goes on and more data becomes available.

Culture wars

You’d be surprised how many retailers don’t adopt sufficient AI or automation models due to a lack of “innovation” culture. All major decisions with spending come from the top – down. So if upper management is sceptical of automation, AI and automation champions will have a hard time convincing them it’s a good use of resources.

The solution? Develop a solid and profit-focused strategy to get higher-ups onboard and an informative, impactful communications strategy to go along with it. Highlight the benefits, impact, and changes that an AI or automation solution will bring about within your organisation to reassure board members and key stakeholders that it’s possible (and a great idea!)

New data laws

With cross-domain tracking in decline, retailers cannot underestimate its impact. We saw this particularly with Google promising to remove third party cookies in Chrome by 2022 and Apple promoting an “opt-out” option for third-party data sharing with Facebook. With major political controversies pushing for better data privacy laws, retailers may fear a lack of data governance.

The solution? AI and automation allow you to create enhanced data insights on your customers, protecting you from losing the essential data you’ve compiled through third-party trackers on Google, Facebook, and other online platforms.

DIGITALGENIUS: Retail Automation Made Easy

Approaching these challenges strategically and focusing on analysing and communicating the benefits will bring greater visibility, accuracy, and efficiency to your retail or eCommerce business, helping you stay competitive, agile, and customer-centric. Want an AI-powered CX solution that addresses adoption challenges by being super easy to implement? Try DigitalGenius.

DigitalGenius is a powerful AI-driven CX platform that automates tickets, delivers conversational assistance that talks like an actual human (in multiple languages), and connects with your existing tools to process customer requests such as refunds and order status requests!

If you’ve been searching for a user-friendly solution to reduce ticket resolution time, allow agents to focus on more complex tickets, increase CSAT, and meet evolving customer demands, DigitalGenius is the platform for you.

Book a demo to see it in action today!