AI: making technology more human

Ironically, it’s possible that artificial intelligence (AI) could be highlighting our human elements – creativity, compassion, leadership – and making us more human. The integration of AI within business could help us allocate our time and resources better, but it also shines a light on the fact that we like human interaction and often favour this, even if it means sacrificing efficiency.

Opposed to what many block-buster hits would have you believe, AI could have infinite benefits to our society, and is unlikely to lead to our immediate demise.

Two of our generations most successful businessmen spearheading technology innovation – Elon Musk of Tesla and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook – famously fear the integration of AI in our society. The Facebook CEO commented that AI could strip humans of jobs that gave previous generations “a sense of purpose.” However, the potential benefits of AI, especially within retail, are hard to ignore: according to The Guardian, “The UK economy will be 10% bigger by 2030 as the result of artificial intelligence alone.”

A helping hand

Aiding customers at the research point in their journey, Target collaborated with Pinterest to integrate the channel’s visual search tool to its website. This allows users to take a photo of any product and receive recommendations of products that are similar and available at Target. AI can quickly provide personalised information to customers, with less effort than ever before; when it comes to technical specifics, AI is a popular method of research. In fact, 53% of people who own a smart speaker use it to research prices on products pre-purchase, according to a recent study by First Insight.

You can call me AI

AI assistants are rapidly gaining popularity within our homes; according to consultancy firm OC&C, the Amazon Echo is in 10% of US homes. As a result, consumers are becoming acclimatised to the idea of AI within retail. The same firm estimates that voice shopping sales will surge from a forecasted $2 billion this year to a massive $40 billion in 2020.

Humans still crave interaction where necessary, which is possibly why voice shopping is becoming so popular. According to Harvard Business Review 57% of customers would call instead of reaching out online because they would rather talk to a real person.

North Face adapted their use of AI to meet these needs. Defining personalised product recommendations for customers, the app prompts a voice-activated conversation with the customer to determine what items are right for them. Questions surrounding location, gender and temperature are all considered to pin-point what a customer might need. Replacing chatbots with voice-activated conversation closer mimics the experience of talking to a customer service employee.

In line with this, a study carried out by Accenture Strategy of 24,489 US customers, found that 83% prefer human beings over digital channels when it comes to solving customer service issues. Despite the efficiency of AI, situations that would usually involve human interactions such as customer service, are still preferred by consumers, to be carried out by humans – or at least things that sound like humans.

Fortune teller

With the ability to store and work with huge numbers of data, AI can help with predictive analysis as well as customer service and recommendations. German e-commerce firm Otto analyses billions of online transactions and claims to be 90% accurate at predicating what will sell in the next 30 days. This data is then used to determine monthly orders, it claims to cut surplus by 20% and reduce costly returns by two million items annually. Used in this setting, AI can be massively advantageous economically and environmentally. Combined with product recommendations and in-store assistants, it has the ability to transform customer experience in traditional brick and mortar retail.

Best of both

Despite the initial fear of AI occupying jobs, it has the ability to help businesses function better economically, environmentally and socially. As with all technology, we can’t fight it, by embracing it we can make a smooth transition that makes the most of both humans and AI. A gradual increase of AI can lead to live a more balanced lifestyle which is less repetitive and less de-humanised.

The Guardian pointed out “The experience of past industrial revolutions suggests that resisting technological change is futile.” AI won’t change the industry overnight, as we get accustomed to devices such as Alexa in our homes, we will get used to communicating with them in a retail environment.