Gloucester Advocate

91 per cent of Australian retailers turn to the power of AI to boost sales

With a slump in retail sales, we look at why the majority of Australian retailers are turning to AI as the solution. Picture Shutterstock
With a slump in retail sales, we look at why the majority of Australian retailers are turning to AI as the solution. Picture Shutterstock

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With so many factors impacting businesses such as the pandemic, cost of living increases and economic downturn, retailers are looking for new ways to encourage Australians to start spending again.

Retail industry startups sought more ways to connect to customers with major retail networking events to help combat the lacklustre results, this time with an emphasis on new technology.

The AI revolution has been turning heads and now the majority of Australian retailers are getting in on the action, with 91 per cent investing heavily in the booming technology, according to the Australian Retailers Association.

So how did we get here, and will it help Australia get back on track and customers back into shops?

The drop in retail sales across Australia

When the Women's World Cup and Afterpay Day kept Australians spending throughout August, retailers were optimistic in the number of sales they could generate.

But after feeble retail sales growth, partly thanks to the cost of living crisis, many Australian consumers did not want to go into stores to make purchases. This came in part from less spending power and a generational shift towards online shopping rather than going into a physical brick-and-mortar store.

It became very clear to many businesses across the country that the retail shopping experience needed to change.

By investing in new technology, the impact of AI to the retail landscape is coming into play in a big way all across Australia. Retailers are investing in AI's unique approach to understanding consumer shopping habits by gathering and organically responding to large amounts of data, and many shoppers are happy for it to be collected.

The data retailers gather on shoppers can be used to help AI generate product suggestions that fit more perfectly to a shopper's needs, perhaps even guessing what they want to buy before the shopper does.

This has also been driven by more and more people shopping on social media, buying from brands that are worn by their favourite influencers. It is estimated that in Australia that the number of digital transactions that occur over social media will rise dramatically. With the addition of AI technology, online retail shopping would become even more convenient, potentially outweighing the need to visit a store in person.

AI in retail

So how does AI in Australia actually improve the lives of online retail shoppers? With businesses investing so heavily in technology, there has to be some serious benefits, right?

AI can actually learn from individuals' shopping habits - such as past purchases and browsing history - to recommend products that are the most relevant. Say Father's Day is coming up, for example. An AI can look at a shopper's purchases over the course of the last couple of months and pick out a gift for their dad that aligns with what it thinks they will love.

Naturally it will also look at what other Father's Days items are selling well, drawing from multiple sources to try and provide the best gift. The bottom line is that AI retail shopping will aim to provide a more personalised shopping experience, unique to each user.

Another use of the technology is by incorporating it with an AR (Augmented- Reality) shopping experience. Features such as 'virtual try-on', where you can place a digital version of things like sunglasses, makeup and clothes on your body, can be boosted with AI.

Now shoppers who want to see how products look on them using AR, can be recommended new items based on what they 'try on' the most.

Retailers can also deploy chatbots on websites, apps and social media platforms to assist customers with any queries they have. This makes it much easier to process vast amounts of questions and help customers purchase the right items.

AI is a game-changer for online retail sales primarily due to its ability to personalise and optimise the online shopping experience. By processing vast amounts of data, AI can discern valuable patterns in user behaviour and preferences, allowing Australian retailers to provide tailored product recommendations.

These retailers are hoping that this targeted approach increases not only the likelihood of purchases, but also the number of returning customers.

If done right, this new wave of technology could see the retail industry in Australia make a strong rebound over the coming years in a revolutionary landscape, one powered with AI.