Rock Struggle Image by Mohamed Hassan from PixabayEpicor has published a study that it commissioned from Forrester about the state of AI amongst retailers. AI Will Transform Retail — But Success Hinges On Tech, Data, And Process is a twelve-page report providing a mix of commentary, analyses and data points. The survey appears to have no qualitative element, and there are no comments from customers or industry experts from either Epicor or other sources.

Forrester surveyed over 200 retailers across North America as part of the research. The study found that retailers have bought into the promise of AI and are willing to invest. However, there are challenges, such as data quality and accessibility. That means, for many, the AI journey is just beginning. The good news for Epicor is that retailers believe that they can leverage an AI-powered retail solution, and 65% are willing to pay more for it.

Marco de Vries, Vice President of Product Marketing at Epicor
Marco de Vries, Vice President of Product Marketing at Epicor – image from LinkedIn

Marco de Vries, Vice President of Product Marketing at Epicor, commented, “Our survey of retail leaders makes it crystal clear that they urgently want to harness AI for their businesses. It’s equally evident that they are struggling to overcome a host of obstacles. Whether it’s to automate and improve operations or to gather actionable insights for demand forecasting, reordering, and inventory, the first step for retailers in realizing the value of AI is gaining a better understanding of the available landscape and beginning to tackle any underlying data quality and collection issues.”

What is in the report

The report begins with an executive summary, which includes the three key findings the report highlights. Each page then provides data points from each of the seven survey questions.

Retailers see many drivers for investing in AI, with the top three being:

  • Improve customer experience – 41%
  • Increase revenue – 40%
  • Improve operational efficiency and effectiveness – 33%

However, the remaining three reasons were still noted by 30%, indicating the broad appeal of AI; without digging down into the how or why behind this question, the insight is limited. The authors also note that these also align with the top business priorities: innovation, improving customer experience, and growing revenue.

Adoption is low, with a maximum of 34% using AI for anything. The highest was spend management. One of the reasons behind this is that 67% of organisations struggle to collect usable data. Data quality and siloed data are the common causes. This is backed by a recent CData study that highlighted similar issues. Other barriers highlighted by the research were knowledge of retail-based AI solutions and the complexity and lack of understanding of AI.

The lure of AI does attract, though, with retailers identifying the benefits they perceive AI will deliver them.

The top three were:

  • Improved ability to forecast demand
  • Improved supply chain management
  • Better customer experience

Again, insights into how they believe AI will improve these areas would have been useful. That could have been provided by a qualitative survey element or even by the authors themselves.

Enterprise Times: What does this mean

While there are some useful highlights here, there is nothing unexpected. The study provides a high-level view of what retailers are expecting from AI and where they are on their journey. There is no trend information or much information from secondary sources.

The report is good news for Epicor, which provides retail management solutions. The company has also embedded AI across its solution, first launching an AI-based virtual agent in 2019. It has also revealed its intent to deliver Cognitive ERP. It will be interesting to see what Generative AI announcements are made at Epicor Insights later this year.


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