UK retailers have big plans for AI in the next year

UK retailers are among the global leaders when it comes to plans to add artificial intelligence to their operations over the next year, a new report shows.


Artificial intelligence is more important to UK retailers than those in any other country and fashion is at the forefront


But while AI is definitely on the agenda, it seems that few are as forward-looking as companies like Shop Direct and Amazon with more advanced tech such as VR/AR, voice-activated apps and virtual buying assistants not on the priority list of most at the moment.

The study, from SLI Systems, shows UK stores more pro-active on the AI front than retailers in many other countries. Worldwide, 54% of e-commerce professionals report that their company uses or plans to add AI in the future. And 20% are expecting to add AI within 12 months.

But in Britain, that 20% grows to 33%, compared to only 17% in the US and 15% in the Australia and New Zealand region. And with 14% of UK retailers already using AI in some way, it means AI will be a reality for nearly half of British retailers within just a year.

It is certainly making a major impact on the investment plans of some of Britain’s biggest fashion e-tailers with Shop Direct in the forefront. After investing heavily in boosting smartphone sales via transactional app upgrades, it has moved on to AI and is to launch a sophisticated chatbot within its MyVery app later this year. It also plans to add AI to its decision-making over whether to offer credit terms to shoppers.

Net-A-Porter is adding AI to its offer too as it targets greater personalisation for its high-spending customers, and back with the mass-market, Asos has dive into AI having rolled out a visual search tool this year.

As mentioned, the SLI survey shows that while UK retailers are looking ahead, few are as advanced as these industry leaders. However, they are keen to boost their tech functionality. SLI found that 22% of respondents in the UK view personalisation as their number one priority in the current quarter with re-platforming a distant second on just 12%. That shows different priorities compared to retailers in the US and Australia/New Zealand where re-platforming is the top initiative for the quarter.

Overall, 67% of UK merchants surveyed plan to purchase or implement new technologies in Q3 compared to 48% in Q2 - a near 20-point increase.

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