Exploring AI's Impact on Retail: Insights from Jerry Stam's Guest Lecture

Exploring AI's Impact on Retail Insights from Jerry Stam's Guest Lecture

Generative AI's impact on retail, life and money is already evident

Wittenborg's IBM (International Business and Management) students were treated to a special guest lecture by IBM Associate Partner Jerry Stam on 11 March in Apeldoorn.  

With an extensive background in retail spanning over two decades, including roles at IKEA, Hema and Blokker, Stam focuses on realising digital solutions for retailers at IBM and is widely respected by small and medium-sized retail enterprises in the Benelux.

Exploring AI's role in retail

During the lecture, Stam spoke about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and retail in an intertwined fashion, aiming to show how AI is already being used, its potential applications, and how it influences us all.

"Retail is a fascinating industry as we all interact with it almost every day," Stam explained afterwards. "At the same time, it's directly affected by societal developments, including inflation, housing and technology."

Exploring AI's Impact on Retail Insights from Jerry Stam's Guest Lecture

Challenges and opportunities

Stam provided numerous examples illustrating the impact of AI in retail. Some of Stam's examples included Ikea's AI-powered assistant in its OpenAI GPT store — where customers can simply request, "Show me a bright living room layout for a big apartment with the use of sustainable materials," and explore tailored design solutions.

However, he also pointed out that the multinational retail corporation in the United States Walmart abandoned plans to deploy robots for inventory checks in stores, reportedly finding it simpler to delegate the task to humans.

He explained that these developments have an impact on the labour market and how people progress throughout their careers.  As AI will make it easier to access and consult large bodies of data, more entry-level jobs will be impacted as some of the work that is part of such jobs is automated.  

"For example, it is much easier to ask ChatGPT or similar to summarise a particular topic. Such research would otherwise take a lot of time and provide an excellent way to learn on the job. This will likely mean we need to find new ways to train and build skills. It will likely also impact more senior jobs. As the information is more readily available more quickly, it seems the focus will shift even more to decision making." 

Exploring AI's Impact on Retail Insights from Jerry Stam's Guest Lecture

Evolving trends in retail, life and money

As for retail, Stam highlighted that consumers are embracing a mix of digital, physical and hybrid channels, with hybrid shopping the most popular choice for 27% of all consumers and a significant 36% among Gen Z, especially for home goods.  

Livestream shopping is also gaining popularity, with brands collaborating with social media influencers for real-time product presentations. Social commerce, particularly on platforms like TikTok, fosters deeper brand connections for consumers seeking guidance and inspiration.  

AI-driven solutions are further addressing informational fatigue in retail. Budget Bots, exemplified by Cleo AI, offer tailored spending advice, simplifying decision making for younger users. Innovative platforms like Ziscuit in the United States streamline grocery shopping by allowing stores to bid for fulfilling orders, offering convenience and savings to shoppers.  

Apart from its impact on retail, Generative AI's impact on life and money is also evident.  

In life, it was noted that diversity and inclusion are gaining significance worldwide, prompting retailers to tailor both online and offline experiences for accessibility. However, privacy concerns arise with home technology integration.  

As for money, younger generations face financial challenges, often living with parents or sharing rented apartments due to housing affordability issues. There's a tension with unsustainable consumption, prompting a shift towards mindful spending driven by political and environmental awareness.  

Reflecting on these and numerous other examples, Stam believes it is evident that AI and Generative AI, in particular, will significantly shape our future.

"The way we interact with the data and information that is available as a society will change rapidly going forward," Stam continued. "This will impact our whole society in multiple and very different ways. It will therefore also change how retail finds, designs, sells and services products. It is interesting to see how some retailers are already adapting, while some laggards will struggle even more."  

Stam added: "It's always fascinating to observe students and engage with them. Their diverse backgrounds often lead to interesting questions and insights."  

WUP 04/04/2024 
by Erene Roux 
©WUAS Press