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Artificial intelligence (AI) deals with the simulation of natural intelligence processes in machines. Machines mimic human intelligence and perform tasks and continuously improve themselves with the information they feed on. In a study carried out by Mckinsey with about 2000 participants, about 58% agreed to have used AI one way or the other. AI has been around for many years now but now, distributors can benefit more from the procurement of AI tools as they can perform even more complex tasks. Beyond helping to flag spam emails and in chatbots automation, you can now predict customer behavior with artificial intelligence. In this article, we’ll be looking at how AI is used in retail and distribution, how it can improve the supply chain, and how it can help you make more sales.

Table of Contents

  1. How AI Distribution Technology Can Help You Make More Sales
  2. AI in Retail and Distribution
  3. How Is AI Used in Distribution?
  4. How Does AI Improve the Supply Chain?
  5. AI in Wholesale Distribution
  6. The Best Artificial Intelligence Retail Solution
  7. How We Help Businesses to Adopt AI Technology
  8. AI Strategy Implementation Workflow for Businesses
  9. A Cloud-Based Intelligent Learning Platform for Distribution
  10. All-in-One Retail Service Platform to Improve Customer Experience
  11. Artificial Intelligence and Big Data in E-commerce
  12. A New Era of Intelligent Retail and Wholesale Distribution
  13. Viable Big Data Uses in Retail Industry
  14. The Future of AI in Distribution

How AI Distribution Technology Can Help You Make More Sales

AI in Retail and Distribution

In the current e-commerce market, the concepts of retail and wholesale are confused for each other as most large e-commerce  intelligence in retail:

  • The use of chatbots to assist with customer service that improves connectivity 
  • Visual Search systems help customers upload images and find products based on colors, shapes, and patterns.
  • Voice search where customers can ask Alexa for example, about an item and its delivery status
  • Virtual fitting rooms
  • Customer satisfaction tracking that tracks the mood of customers while they’re shopping
  • Price predictions
  • In-store assistance for customers and staff

The list below shows the features that these AI applications have to offer to retail businesses and customers.

  • Amazon Go: This shopping technology comes into action when you take something from the shelf or return it. On leaving the shop with items, your Amazon account is debited of the money for the purchase
  • Lowe-bot: An in-store robot from Lowe’s that assists customers with what they need in different languages. It also helps to manage inventory.
  • Smart Shelves: Take inventory of product availability on shelves and quickly replenish them.
  • Smart Checkout Systems: They can accept cards, coupons, and transactions through a mobile phone. With integrated video analytics, they can identify products when a barcode is missing or unreadable.
  • Endless Isle Kiosks: Customers can see products available at other locations. The kiosk also upsells or cross-sells to customers.
  • Touchless Kiosks and Service Robots: The robots allow for minimal contact between people and objects, especially handy in a pandemic. The kiosks recognize speech and gestures. 

How Is AI Used in Distribution?

There are 3 major ways by which AI technology can be used in distribution management to increase sales and grow their businesses. They include the following.

  • Customer Service and Sales: AI technology can be used in customer service over sales calls and can also be used to track customers’ buying habits. With the use of AI, sales reps can get access to information while on sales calls. They can check a customer’s recent orders, check if a product is available, the price of the product, and even get a delivery date while on that same call in real-time.  Access to information like this helps a sales team so they don’t sell items that are not in stock and disappoint customers. This will help increase the customer experience of people shopping with you. 
  • Inventory: AI can help distributors know how much inventory to keep to avoid having to liquidate stale products or running out of an item. AI monitors and evaluates sales history and sales channelscash flow, patterns in orders, and returns. AI will also check other conditions like product pricing, economic conditions, and weather conditions that may affect delivery.
  • Operations: Cutting-edge artificial intelligence can increase warehouse operations and speed up orders increasing sales for distributors. With AI, warehouse operations can be easily automated for ease in processing. Robots can be employed in distribution centers to make work faster and safer.

Amazon has made headway in the use of robots in the fast running of warehouse operations.

AI in Wholesale Distribution

The wholesale distribution industry plays a very important role in the supply chain as they are the middleman between the manufacturers and retailers. Aside from other sectors, artificial intelligence has a huge impact on the wholesale distribution industry and supply chain management at large.  The following are ways by which AI systems can truly impact wholesale.

  • Purchase Ordering and Lead timing:  Most warehouses are now turning to AI adoption as it can help monitor how long an inventory lasts to how long it takes a vendor to supply a new inventory to the warehouse. By monitoring, this task can be automated so that purchase orders are automatically shipped to suppliers.   
  • Better Delivery and Fleet Routing: AI makes distribution routes more efficient than routing from memory. This will reduce costs that would have been incurred by fuel, time wastage caused by traffic, or distance.
  • Optimization of Product Picking: This deals with the picking of products in a warehouse. It could either be that robots or robotics are deployed to deliver the products to the picker or that the pickers go through the warehouse. You can utilize artificial intelligence to map out locations of items and the frequency of movements to these locations. This way, pickers can easily navigate their way around the warehouse to pick orders saving time.
  • Warehouse Layout: In large warehouses, almost everything is controlled by deploying artificial intelligence algorithms. They control and determine movement patterns for robots, where products should be placed, and how that item can be transported to the picking station.

How Does AI Improve the Supply Chain?

The supply chain deals with the entire process of manufacturing and selling commodities, from the supply of raw materials to distribution and sales. More consumers want faster delivery of goods and that’s where AI comes to play. The deployment of AI in supply chain management will yield effective returns. The following are ways AI can improve the supply chain.

  • Reliable Shipment Updates: In the absence of tracking technology, companies can engage AI in the tracking of products through the supply chain. AI can produce an estimated time of delivery for companies. Distributed AI systems can analyze info like shipment times and weather conditions to produce an accurate estimate. 
  • Monitoring Product Quality: Logistics companies are tasked with ensuring that goods are delivered undamaged. AI can determine the life span of goods and certain products and ensure that they receive premium priority to ensure their quality is preserved. 
  • Forecasting Demand: Inventory of goods is very important and knowing how much to estimate future demand is important. Warehouse managers make use of predictive analysis of AI systems to see what they need to take more or less stock of. Amazon makes use of AI in almost every stage of its supply chain, especially in the warehouse. Amazon uses AI predictions of customer demand and this is what keeps them on top of their competitors in the e-commerce industry.
  • Faster Data Analysis: Logistics companies deal with a vast supply of data and this is where data science comes to play.  They have to analyze large data banks, look out for inefficiencies and come up with solutions and ways to improve. AI makes the process faster as algorithms can go through numerous data sets at a go. This way, time is saved as insightful findings are gotten from the data analysis and decision-making is faster.
  • Process Automation: AI is better at performing monotonous work than humans and that is why it’s best to assign such specific tasks to it. This will save not just time, but money as well. Human employees can work on other projects with AI tools taking care of administrative jobs. 

The Best Artificial Intelligence Retail solution

The best artificial intelligence retail solution is utilized by Amazon with its cutting-edge technology. This is Amazon Go. There is also a type of AI deep machine learning in retail known as computer vision which captures visual data and interprets it. Some retail stores use AI in CRM software for marketing automation.

How We Help Businesses to Adopt AI Technology

We help businesses adopt AI technology by developing a framework for the successful integration of technologies. The steps are:

  1. Get a Basic Understanding of the Technologies: Proper knowledge of the technology of each AI tool will make you make the right tool choice.
  2. Create a Portfolio of all Projects: Evaluate the needs of your company and its capabilities and develop a portfolio of projects.
  3. Launch Pilots: This is necessary for cognitive applications before they are rolled out to the entire organization.
  4. Scale Up: To be able to roll out pilots to the whole organization, companies need to call for collaboration between technology experts and owners of the business process.

AI Strategy Implementation Workflow for Businesses

Businesses can help employees understand the importance of AI and also build plans to adopt AI with an accompanying strategy for training after the technology has been deployed. 

According to McKinsey, most companies that are AI adopters:

  • include employees in the implementation team
  • involve diverse teams to guide the adoption of AI technology.

To also increase adoption, a good strategy for businesses to follow is to try AI in stages. For example, businesses can implement inside sales, then use in cross-selling and upselling goods before finally expanding to make use of the AI tool in field sales. With this approach, change management post implementation is usually easy.

A Cloud-Based Intelligent Learning Platform for Distribution

Cloud computing is a meaningful technology that can contribute to the optimization of cost efficiency in a supply chain. An example of a cloud platform is Alibaba Cloud E-MapReduce(EMR),  a platform as a service(PaaS) big data solution that was built on Alibaba Cloud. 

All-in-One Retail Service Platform to Improve Customer Experience

This AI-powered sales platform is for distributors and it drives revenue by reps and e-commerce. Distributors face several challenges in business and this affects customers’ service delivery and experience. Proton solves these challenges by centralizing all your data in one place, bringing tailored product recommendations to your reps and on your digital channels. Proton also gives you insights into customer behavior and gives you a lower cost of sales.

Artificial Intelligence and Big Data in E-commerce

Big data refers to a combination of structured data which is easy to access and search for (texts and numbers) and unstructured data which is not easy to search (audio, social media posts, and videos). The majority of what is known as big data remains locked with only a little tapped by e-commerce businesses.  

Many businesses are now tapping into the mountain of big data at their disposal with the aid of big data analytics. Big data analytics help e-commerce companies in their decision-making process as they gain insight into the behavior of old, current, and prospective customers.

A New Era of Intelligent Retail and Wholesale Distribution

The supply chain of distribution has drastically changed from the way it was in the 1980s. Now, businesses are going digital in both retail and e-commerce sectors. At the heart of this transformation is artificial intelligence as it has helped distributors and businesses remain competitive in the current post-pandemic distribution situation. 

Smaller retail businesses are now filling the void left by larger companies. They are now using intelligence and building automation into their business model.

Viable Big Data Uses in Retail Industry

  • Fraud prevention and detection: With the advent of big technologies like Hadoop, MapReduce, and Spark, it’s possible to cut down on frauds, avoid losses and regain customers’ trust.
  • Supply Chain Management: Retail analytics in the supply chain deals with the optimization of inventory, replenishment, and shipment costs.
  • Dynamic pricing
  • Integrated forecasting
  • Retail analytics in personalization of customer-driven promotions

The Future of AI in Distribution

Artificial intelligence and machine learning can help retail businesses and the supply chain at large grow. Now more than ever before, the distribution industry is fully embracing artificial intelligence and enjoying the numerous benefits it has to offer. 

AI can help distributors expand their business by improving customer experiences, logistics, and profits. With artificial intelligence retail solutions like chatbots, voice search, and others working hand in hand with customers and companies, and employees, your business can drastically improve with an increase in sales.