It wasn’t long ago that applying artificial intelligence (AI) to everyday activities seemed like a straightforward matter. The Jetsons. Yet here we are, using AI to find our way around town, translate one language into another, diagnose medical conditions, and shop. Retail is embracing AI, relying on its power to delight customers and increase profits. To be a better informed consumer, here are some things you should know.
Smile, AI-powered cameras and sensors (maybe) watching you
According to a 2020 article on Forbes, retailers are using AI-powered video surveillance to see what customers are buying. In addition, thanks to self-checkout, these retailers can log the quantity and weight of items purchased. Being able to log what consumers are buying allows retailers to restock popular items before there is a shortage, which many of us can agree is a positive thing. After all, who wants to go to the store in the middle of the night for baby formula only to find out it’s out of stock?
However, an even greater advance in AI centers around video technology that helps identify fraudsters, what they take, and the value of the items. On the one hand, cutting shoplifting helps lower prices for the average customer. On the other hand, the technology is still so new that it is reasonable to worry that someone might be mistaken for a shoplifter. According to the same Forbes article, the data can identify shoplifters based on past behavior, flagging them to store managers the next time they enter the store.
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AI-powered cameras and sensors are also used to track the in-store movements of ordinary customers. This ability allows a retailer to arrange his store to make it easier for customers to get the products they usually buy. While that’s good for the customer, AI-powered cameras also make it easier for retailers to optimize their profits by ensuring that higher-priced items are easily accessible.
Those personal recommendations? They came from inside the house
Most of us search for something online, only to receive online ads for that product in the next few days. That’s because of AI-driven engines that analyze our browsing history, purchase history, and preferences to customize recommended products.
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Let’s say you’re a pet owner who often buys dog food online. You are the ideal audience for pet toys, bedding, training, and other pet-related products.
Again, from a retailer’s perspective, this is a good thing. AI allows merchants to offer you products you might be interested in, instead of flooding you with ads for things you’re not interested in. If you’re a spender, however, the constant temptation to spend more can be less positive.
Chatbots: Friend or Foe? (Tell yourself)
When was the last time you tried to reach the customer service department? If you’ve called your bank or logged in online to “chat” with a customer service department, there’s a fair chance you’ve reached a chatbot (my credit union calls its chatbox Bob) . Is it annoying? Absolutely. However, it also has an upside. As long as you ask a basic question, you’ll get an instant answer 24 hours a day.
The frustrating bit is when it’s midnight, and you find out that your credit card or bank account has been hacked. Sometimes, you just want to talk to a real person.
Visual search is like a retail GPS, taking you where you want to go
No matter how you feel about AI, it’s hard not to be drawn to visual search. Say you’re looking for the name of an unusual piece of fruit you ate on vacation. You’re not sure how to describe it or what to type in a search bar, but luckily, you’ve got a picture.
Using your smartphone, tablet, or computer, you upload the photo and wait for the visual search tool to identify the type of fruit served to you.
And you know that beautiful dress your sister wore to your cousin’s wedding? Take a quick photo, and if you choose, you can conduct a visual search and buy one of each color. Take that, Becky.
Like many things in life, AI is a mixed bag. This has the potential to make life easier, but can also feel a bit intrusive. Since it doesn’t appear to be slow, perhaps the best thing you can do is find ways to use it for the benefit of your personal finances. That might include using AI as a reminder to end unwanted subscriptions or notify you of a bill coming up. This could mean letting AI dig for product discounts or helping you become more comfortable investing. The point is, if AI is around, it can also help make your future brighter.
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