Published: August 10, 2023

For the retail industry, generative AI to have “transformational impact” on marketing and sales

For the retail industry, generative AI means more targeted marketing

A survey of 300 executives also found that AI talent is sparse.

The retail sector appears to be all-in on generative AI for marketing and sales.

Among 300 global industry executives surveyed by KPMG earlier this year, 70% believed marketing and sales was the business area in which generative AI will have the most “transformational impact,” and 68% said they’re currently exploring AI’s marketing uses. Respondents represented companies making more than $1 billion in revenue across various industries, functions, and markets.

Additionally, 16% of retail execs surveyed said their marketing and sales teams were “leading the generative AI effort,” compared to just 5% of companies in other industries. But the sector might not be moving quite as quickly as others: Only 23% of retail execs said they’d appointed a specific team or person to lead their organization’s generative AI response. That’s compared to 31% of organizations in all sectors.

Getting granular: KPMG also asked executives about specific uses they think are likely to be implemented at an organizational level. Among consumer and retail executives, 66% said they were most likely to use generative AI to “analyze customer data and create personalized recommendations.” Trend and predictive analytics for inventory management ranked a close second (64%), and generating content like marketing copy came third, with 62%.

Elsewhere in retail, executives were eyeing AI for customer service chatbots, improving search, and automating product descriptions. However, fewer said they were likely to use AI for virtual try-ons (28%), designing and developing new products (21%), or creating FAQ videos (17%).

Zooming out: Across industries, executives are paying close attention to generative AI’s potential impact, the KPMG survey found; 77% of executives said they expected it to have “the largest impact on their businesses out of all emerging technologies.”

Three-quarters of executives (73%) expected generative AI to increase workforce productivity, and 64% said they think it will provide a competitive advantage.

But they also saw challenges. A shortage of skilled talent, high cost of implementation, and lack of a clear business use case topped the charts as the biggest barriers to generative AI adoption. Only 1% of survey respondents said they already have the right skills in-house, though 63% said they planned to both upskill their existing talent and hire new workers to fill that gap.

Executives are also grappling with risk management; 92% of respondents agreed “AI implementation introduces moderate to high-risk concerns.” Their top worries? Cybersecurity and data privacy. At the same time, risk mitigation strategies are still ramping up: Only 6% said they had a dedicated team for “evaluating risk and implementing risk mitigation strategies.”

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