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The Cloud, AI and the Future of Retail Tech

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In less than a year, cloud computing went from having the FT call it “in its infancy,” to finding a seat at the adult table of must-have technologies critical to shaping our world of tomorrow. A lot of recent progress in AI and machine learning has been facilitated by the power of cloud computing. According to Dr. Fei-Fei Li, the Chief Scientist of AI & Machine Learning at Google Cloud and the Director of Stanford’s AI Lab, “The Cloud is the biggest computing technology man has created, and the marriage between Cloud and AI is the perfect vehicle to democratize it.” Increasingly, marketers are starting to anticipate the coming impact of the technologies in personalization of the customer journey. In fact, A recent survey by retail management firm BRP Consulting found that 45 percent of retailers are expected to increase the use of AI for customer experience in the next three years, and 55 percent of retailers are focused on optimizing the customer experience to increase customer loyalty.

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In the era of personalized retail, AI and Computer Vision technology are going to revolutionize the customer experience instore and – more important – in your home. AI in fact is already the center of cloud computing in on-demand computing offers from Amazon, Google and Microsoft, all of whom are focused on machine learning offerings to develop the next generation of consumer and B2B technologies. Computer Vision in particular is an incredibly intelligent subset of AI that is poised for its breakthrough in the next two years.

If you’re not familiar, Computer Vision is an interdisciplinary field that deals with how computers can gain high-level understanding from digital images or videos. From the perspective of engineering, it seeks to automate tasks that the human visual system can do. The tech has improved remarkably over the past few years thanks to a machine-learning approach known as deep learning. Deep learning’s impact on Computer Vision (and subsequent overlap with Machine Vision) has brought about the advent of driverless cars, and is quickly progressing its applications into medical analysis, manufacturing, agricultural inspections and more.

Today, these advanced deep learning algorithms combined with AI and Computer Vision in the cloud are increasingly being used to power the development of brands and products that consumers want, incorporating a refined understanding of the customer, and their preferences in their individual buying experience. Overlaying the experience on mobile, and as retailers pivot to stay relevant with consumer buying behaviors, the unison of these technologies will propel AR into the home faster than you can say “Alexa, order me pumpkin spice scented candles.”

Taking size and shape out of the equation, everything from clothing to furniture will instantly be “swipeable” into your closet, over your person or into your living room. To bring the buying experience off the page and “virtually” into the home, the ability to “try out” a new style in an augmented fashion will lead to deepened brand loyalty for brands and retailers as they’re ultimately delivering products that meet their customers’ needs. Added benefits in minimized returns will also help shrink margins in any particular industry undergoing a rough ride.

As retailers look to reinvent themselves in the new year, the first step should be investment into cloud architectures with a concerted look at how they connect their customer data. It could make all the difference in retailers’ ability to turn on AI in the near future.

An image of PAN's Brand Experience Report on the Potentials and pitfalls of AI for marketers

In our annual Brand Experience Report, we asked marketers and customers how they are using and experiencing AI to better understand how the technology is changing that relationship.