On Generative AI and where retail goes next. On most days, I sit in a home office and read, write, think and hope to assimilate all of what I see, experience, and feel into unique human perspectives on complex topics. Unfortunately for me, generative artificial intelligence does much of that to the nth degree. Will we still value human-made creativity? The answer to that question is complicated. In April 2021, computer scientist, podcaster, and artificial intelligence researcher Lex Fridman tweeted the following:
Humans have been gradually merging with AI for 20+ years. At some point in this century, as a collective intelligence system, we will become more AI than human and we won’t notice.
Let’s call this “Fridman’s Law” (not to be confused with Friedman’s Law). We are nearing the point of 50%+ AI as our collective intelligence system. There are few better experts than him. Fridman – an emerging celebrity for his sheer thoughtfulness and openness to debate – is as prescient as ever. Generative AI, or artificial intelligence that can create new content by following prompts, is already making waves in various industries. From writing Drake hits to creating mind-blowing art, AI has already exceed genius levels of creativity. But, what about our shopping habits? How will generative AI shake things up in the world of retail? According to a recent Axios report:
Retail and packaged consumer goods companies would be in line for $660 billion a year in productivity gains, if “use cases were fully implemented” — which would mean a 44% boost to profits.
Picture this: You’re walking down a bustling street, and suddenly, you spot a store that seems to have been designed just for you. The colors, the layout, even the products on display – it’s like someone reached into your brain and pulled out your ideal brand fit. Imagine if this wasn’t a one-time thing, but rather the norm. Generative AI will revolutionize the way brands develop their retail spaces, making them more personalized and tailored to individual consumers by using data. It will analyze droves of information about consumers, from their shopping habits to their social media activity, and use this data to create customized store layouts and product offerings. This means that each store will be unique, catering to the specific needs and desires of its customers.
The rise of generative AI promises to revolutionize the retail and CPG landscape.
In the ongoing narrative of AI’s impact on various industries, retail and consumer packaged goods (CPG) hold a position of considerable interest. The sector stands on the brink of unprecedented transformation as generative AI – systems capable of creating new content – makes its mark. As we stand in 2023, we witness the blossoming of myriad start-ups leveraging this technology, and predict a near-future where more than 50% of consumerism and brand development will be influenced by generative AI.
Let’s dig in to the impact that analysts are anticipating.
Generative AI’s Impact on Brand Development
The traditional model of brand development has been largely human-driven, with marketers and product developers relying on customer surveys, focus groups, and trend analysis to create products and campaigns that resonate with the target audience. The ensuing process involves brainstorming, designing, testing, and iterating – a cycle that can be time-consuming and susceptible to error.
Generative AI promises to revamp this process, accelerating and enriching each step with data-driven insights and automation. For instance, AI’s ability to quickly aggregate and analyze market data allows for rapid testing of concepts, ideas, and models. Businesses are already leveraging these capabilities, using AI to generate style suggestions based on customer preferences, thereby improving their overall customer experience.
Generative AI will also help brands stay ahead of the curve when it comes to trends. The technology will be able to predict what the next big thing is before it even hits the market, allowing brands to develop and stock their stores with the hottest products.
Further, AI’s generative powers extend to creative tasks such as copywriting and visual design, areas previously considered solely human domains. By digitally generating numerous variations of copy and design, AI enables faster, more diverse ideation, allowing brands to quickly adapt to changing market trends and consumer preferences.
With smarter algorithms and predictive analytics, brands will be able to anticipate consumer demand and adjust their inventory accordingly. This means fewer out-of-stock items, less overstock, and an overall smoother shopping experience for everyone involved.
Generative AI and Consumerism
Generative AI also offers a dramatic shift in the consumerism landscape. In an era where personalization is paramount, AI’s ability to tailor experiences to individual preferences revolutionizes how consumers interact with brands. This extends from choosing products to ordering ingredients for a meal or interacting with chatbots for product recommendations.
You’ll walk into a store and find exactly what you’re looking for – or perhaps something even better that you didn’t know existed. With the personalized shopping experiences I mentioned earlier, it’s likely that we’ll see a shift towards quality over quantity. Instead of buying a ton of cheap, disposable items, consumers will be more inclined to invest in products that are tailored to their specific needs and preferences. This could lead to a decrease in fast fashion.
This advancement heralds a new era of “hyper-targeting”, where retailers use generative AI to sift through massive amounts of data, identifying precise segments of consumers that are a perfect fit for their products. The information derived from such analyses allows for highly targeted advertising, ensuring that consumers are exposed to products and services they are likely to be interested in.
The Transition and Challenges
The transition to a world where AI significantly influences brand development and consumerism is not without challenges. The deployment of AI systems raises important questions around the accuracy and veracity of generated content. Brands need to ensure the quality and reliability of AI-produced material, and instigate safeguards against potential adversarial attacks.
Moreover, AI’s ability to analyze and utilize personal data opens a Pandora’s box of privacy concerns. As retailers move towards a new form of hyper-targeting that we believed we’d left behind with the eschewing of third-party data usage, they need to balance personalization with respect for consumer privacy, a task that requires stringent data governance and ethical AI practices.
By 2030, the retail and CPG landscape is set to undergo a paradigm shift, driven by the capabilities of generative AI. It will change the very fabric of brand development, accelerating ideation, and enriching creativity. It will also redefine consumerism, paving the way for hyper-personalized, data-driven consumer experiences.
Yet, as we navigate this shift, the need for a human touch remains paramount but expect that shift to happen faster than any of us will appreciate. AI should augment human creativity, not replace it. Ethical considerations, especially regarding data privacy, must be central to AI deployment.
The journey towards this AI-dominated future will be fraught with challenges and opportunities. But, if navigated thoughtfully, the impact of generative AI on brand development and consumerism could usher in a new era of retail – one marked by enhanced creativity, efficiency, personalization, and above all, value for both businesses and consumers.
As we approach 2030, the retail industry stands poised to become a testament to the potential of generative AI. Yet, as we journey forward, we must remember that this technology should serve as a tool to amplify human potential, not replace it. Retailers and CPG companies that can strike this balance will thrive in the new era, crafting brands that resonate on a personal level and fostering a customer-centric model of business. The veracity and quality of AI-generated content must be held to high standards. As AI begins to create everything from product designs to ad campaigns, businesses must ensure that this content is not just compelling but also truthful and reliable.
Additionally, while generative AI offers many opportunities for streamlining operations and improving customer interactions, it also brings potential risks. As these AI models become more integral to business operations, they also become attractive targets for adversarial attacks. Thus, robust security measures will be paramount to protect both businesses and consumers.
The rise of generative AI promises to revolutionize the retail and CPG landscape. By 2030, it is likely that over half of all brand development and consumerism will be influenced by this technology. Yet, as we navigate this transition, we must ensure that the human element remains central to all developments. Only by balancing the potential of AI with a respect for human creativity and ethical considerations can we truly unlock the transformative power of AI in the retail sector. And if we don’t see it this way, there may not be a place left for us at all. The technology is already that good, years earlier than anticipated. Sooner than expected, organic, human-made content like this will be in the minority of collective intelligence – Fridman’s Law.
By Web Smith | Edited by Hilary Milnes with art by Christina Williams and Alex Remy