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Article | February 24, 2020
According to KPMG’s “Living in an AI World 2020 Report,” retailers have some optimism, some skepticism and some pessimism about how artificial intelligence (AI) will impact the industry. The study explored how 751 insiders across five industries, including retail, view the future of AI in their sectors. On the downside, 64 percent of retail insiders agreed that the use of AI to help businesses is more hype than reality right now. The study also identified numerous challenges retailers believe they face in capitalizing on AI’s potential: AI readiness: Just 43 percent of retail respondents believe their employees are prepared for AI adoption. Relatedly, only 52 percent say their companies offer any type of AI training.
As we come off another holiday season, it's worth taking a look at how the customer journey has changed, the role retail plays in the journey and what 2020 holds for innovative brands and retailers alike. Only a small minority of consumers these days are brand loyal according to a recent McKinsey report. Most consumers prefer to be in "shopping around" mode instead. Add to that the waning influence of TV advertising. Against this backdrop, it's clear that brand and retail marketers are challenged and need to change up their game. In a world in which TV advertising has lost much of its power, innovative retailers and brands have an opportunity to command consumers' attention through integrated marketing initiatives that include digital experiences and product sampling.
Gap is the latest retailer to dip its toes into the secondhand apparel market, following the lead of Macy’s, Nordstrom and others, in a bid to stay relevant in an industry shaken by changing consumer tastes. The company announced last week that it has partnered with resale platform thredUP, which bills itself as the largest online consignment and thrift store. In select Gap, Banana Republic, Athleta, and Janie and Jack stores, thredUP bags and labels will now be available for customers to mail in their clothes, in exchange for credits to use at Gap’s portfolio of stores. Macy’s, J.C. Penney and J.Crew’s Madewell brand have also partnered with thredUP in recent months.
Last July, a small group representing the giants of the tech industry gathered in the seat of US government, Washington DC. They probably didn’t want to be there. Congress had summoned their employers Apple, Facebook, Google, and Amazon to answer questions about the command they hold over the markets they operate in. On Amazon’s behalf, associate general counsel Nate Sutton spoke in defense of his employer’s role in US retail. Throughout, he argued that Amazon isn’t so powerful as to be able to control prices and stifle competition. Amazon, he pointed out, makes up less than 1% of retail globally. In the US, it accounts for around 4% of retail. In fact, Walmart is much larger than Amazon, he said. In terms of sales, Sutton is right. Walmart reported $510 billion in total sales across its US and international segments in the 2019 fiscal year, versus Amazon’s $233 billion in roughly the same period.
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