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Retailer Tech Tips: Customer Insights and Analytics – Howe Gu, Venky Shankar, and Brandon Rael

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the explosion of data and struggling to harness it effectively for your retail business, then you are not alone! Retailers are facing the constant challenge of managing and analyzing the ever-growing volume of data, and only a small fraction of it is being utilized to its full potential.

Despite the hype around AI and machine learning, many retailers are finding it difficult to leverage these technologies for personalized customer experiences and operational efficiency.

The result? Missed opportunities, inefficiencies, and a lack of competitive advantage in the market.

“AI should never influence retailers. Customers need to influence retailers, and retailers need to influence AI. When AI starts influencing the business and the customers, I think we’re in a bit of trouble.” – Howe Gu, Regional Managing Director, EMEA at Microsoft

In today’s Retailer Tech Tips Episode, we dive into customer insights and analytics with host and Global Digital Transformation & Commerce Expert, Brandon Rael. Our special guests joining him are Howe Gu, Regional Managing Director, EMEA at Microsoft and Venky Shankar, Professor and Ford Chair in Marketing & E-Commerce at Texas A&M University.

In this episode, you will be able to:

  • Analyzing the Impact of AI and Cloud Technologies on Retail Strategy: Uncover the transformative potential of AI and cloud technologies to revolutionize retail operations and customer experiences.
  • Navigating the Intersection of Trust and Privacy in Technology: Discover how to build customer trust while safeguarding their privacy in the age of rapidly advancing retail technology.
  • Mastering Retail Execution and Fundamentals: Uncover the essential principles and best practices for successful retail execution, driving operational excellence and customer satisfaction.

Managing Data Overload
The influx of data spurs an ongoing challenge facing modern retailers. With surges seen in fields such as unstructured and video-based data, the sheer volume and complexity of information can prove overwhelming. The onus lies not merely in the collection of this data, but in its efficient storage and effective analysis. Effective data management systems are integral, as they not only cater to the vast quantities of data but also allow real-time decision-making processes, a crucial aspect of managing the flood of information. Throughout the discussion, Venky emphasizes the need for robust data management systems and analytics. He articulates the importance of not just gathering more data but harnessing it correctly.

Gen AI as Enablers
AI plays a strategic role in spearheading cost reduction and operational efficiency initiatives in the retail industry. While initially employed in situations requiring immediate cost reduction, AI’s long-term role, such as in shaping future projections, discovering new business models and navigating workforce planning, is equally transformative. When Howe and Venky discuss the role of AI, they suggest that retail strategists need to view it as a two-fold mechanism. On a more immediate note, AI facilitates cost-cutting and simplifies routine tasks by bolstering operational efficiencies. However, in the long run, AI is a catalyst for proactive measures such as future forecasting, identifying new business avenues and workforce optimization.

Influence of AI on Customer Analysis
Artificial Intelligence (AI) plays a pivotal role in understanding and influencing customer behavior. With an escalating number of contact points in the customer journey, AI can process a vast amount of data and generate actionable insights. As consumer behavior rapidly evolves in response to influences like social media and immersive commerce, AI emerges as a critical tool for retailers to remain relevant and competitive. During their conversation, Howe, Venky, and Brandon underscore the impact of AI on interpreting customer intents and predicting behaviors. They reflect on the indispensable role of AI in the evolving retail landscape, and in harnessing the transformative power of customer personalization. Their discussion implies a resounding agreement on how AI can profoundly steer the way retailers engage with and market to their customers.

The resources mentioned in this episode are:

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In association with the Retail Cloud Alliance

Hosted by Brandon Rael

Produced and edited by Fritz Finlay