How Machine Learning is Revolutionizing Retail as We Know it

Jessica Foreman
September 14, 2018
312 Views

Machine learning is already having a dramatic effect on the retail business and its applications seem to be virtually endless. Factors like easier access to data, affordable data storage, growing volumes and faster and cheaper computational processing have led to a massive boom in the sector. Here are some of the ways in which machine learning is transforming the retail world as we know it.

Warehouse Management

Inventory and warehouse management plays a crucial role in successful supply chain management. Irrespective of demand forecasting, understocking and overstocking issues as well as other supply flaws can be disastrous for any consumer-based retailer/company. Machine learning software can be used to not only manage inventory in real time but in conjunction with augmented reality tools to facilitate warehouse management as well.

A forecasting engine that uses ML can constantly look for various combinations of data streams and algorithms with the highest predictive power for different forecasting hierarchies. Machine learning allows for an endless forecasting loop, which yields a consistently self-improving output. These capabilities could completely transform the way warehouse management is done in the not too distant future.

Autonomous Vehicles for Shipping and Logistics

Shipping and logistics intelligence also plays a central role in supply chain management. More accurate and faster management reduces transportation expenses and lead times, facilitates the integration of environmentally friendly operations, reduces labor costs, and more importantly, can widen the gap between different competitors.

If autonomous vehicles reach the potential various analysts are predicting, the impact they could have on logistics optimization could be huge. Some have hypothesized that autonomous vehicles could almost double the U.S. transportation network’s output, which could have a dramatic effect on retail and supply chain management as well.

Marketing Attribution

One of the cornerstones of omnichannel marketing is marketing attribution. Online marketers need to constantly fine tune the way they monitor customer interactions to pinpoint which marketing channels are the most effective and adjust their marketing campaigns accordingly. Machine learning is tailormade for the multitude of data points that omnichannel marketing relies on.

Purchase Forecasting

While marketing offers a very strong use case for machine learning, there are a multitude of MI applications that extend far beyond marketing. Machine learning applications can also be used to predict purchase behavior for instance.

Purchase decisions can be influenced by factors that marketing understanding can simply not grasp but can be combined and analyzed through machine learning. Factors such as marital status, time of the day, or even weather are all variables that can affect purchase decisions. Machine learning applications can gather this information to make realistic forecasts across different product categories. This information can then be used to fuel sales activities and marketing across the board.

Machine learning is changing every aspect of the retail business, from customer acquisition all the way to stocking and inventory. Machine learning will gradually become more and more indispensable not only to remain competitive, but to remain compliant as well.

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