How Will Artificial Intelligence Affect Retail?

BY Harper's Bazaar Arabia / Jan 29 2017 / 00:23 AM

With mobile phone technology on the cusp of introducing Artificial Intelligence features as standard – and the concept already being used across industry operations – Bazaar asks what a future of AI holds for the fashion and retail industry

How Will Artificial Intelligence Affect Retail?

Just as the Internet and the computer before it, the concept of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is soon to become part of everyday life, no matter how futuristic and far-fetched it may sound now. Despite the prediction in 1970 by American cognitive scientist Marvin Minsky that, “In from three to eight years we will have a machine with the general intelligence of an average human being,” still being considered to be a feat of science fiction – in actual fact, becoming a more realistic vision of what to expect. It’s the next frontier of computing.

“How does it know?”

How often have you been surfing the web or scrolling through social media and seen a pop-up suggestion so relevant to your preferences you’ve thought, “How does it know?” This is down to AI, and actually old AI by today’s standards of developing tech, using computing and algorithms to analyse data, and present it in a way that feels like human choice. It’s backed by digital decision trees set to mimic thought patterns… And soon, it will be a normal function to expect from your TV, Satnav, and mobile device too. Digital friends/personal assistants that know exactly what you like, everywhere, and products that we formerly deemed simply electrified will ‘cognitise’ and ‘think’. There have been more advances in AI being made over the past three years than there were in the previous three decades.


"Although the growth of the global smartphone market is expected to slow this year, new services such as artificial intelligence will be a differentiating factor," Samsung stated in a press release, along with its highly anticipated April reveal of the Galaxy S8 being rumoured to feature ‘Bixby’, an AI digital ‘assistant’ that will work to help its owner manage day to day tasks via voice recognition. The brand is certainly a pioneering name within the field, having also confirmed a relevant collaboration with Google this week. "Samsung and Google will have to continue to maintain their strategic partnership to nurture the AI and the market for the emerging technology," said Samsung Mobile VP Lee Kyeong-tae, as reported by The Investor, a South Korean publication associated with The Korea Herald.

Other digital household names such as Amazon are embracing AI too, creating shopping technologies based around it and developing changes to their offer capabilities daily. Data recordings are being used to predict trends when it comes to purchasing, deciding what customers want to wear, use and consume before they even know themselves. By 2020, the market for machine learning applications will reach $40 billion, according to International Data Corporation, a marketing firm specialising in information technology.

In essence, AI has the capability of giving retail businesses a way to align their supply and demand needs, bring personal services to the correct parameters and proportions, plus ultimately giving designers and technical staff a way of designing better products. While there’s no suggestion that it will replace the creativity of the human mind, it’s fair to say that in time, no area of the industry, or indeed general life, that will be untouched by created intelligence. 

Related links: FASHION NOW: Part One | Man and MachineFASHION NOW: Part Two | Theatre Of The MindFASHION NOW: Part Three | Beyond The Veil