AI is Changing Retail: 3 Things CRE Folks Should Watch

Key Takeaways:

  • If businesses don’t pay attention to the growing AI trend, they’re going to find themselves playing catch-up for years —says a recent TechCrunch article.

  • But, how exactly will AI play into the commercial real estate space? Particularly retail?

  • If you don’t want to fall behind, watch for these 3 things …


A recent TechCrunch article suggests that if businesses don’t pay attention to the growing AI trend, they’ll find themselves playing catch-up for years. I couldn’t agree more! We are at a “tipping point” —as Malcolm Gladwell wrote so elegantly in his bestselling book. A timely and great read for where we stand in the evolution of our industry.

Perhaps the biggest thing on this CRE guy’s mind is how exactly artificial intelligence is going to change the retail landscape. With so much data to be looked at in e-commerce and retail, there is a crazy amount of potential here, and seeing how it will play out is going  to be very interesting in my opinion.

If you want to stay relevant … here are a few things I think you should watch:

#1. Consumers Want It, Too!

A recent report called Frontier(less) Retail by J. Walter Thomas Intelligence tells us that consumers are interested in how AI will be used in retail: 70% of US millennials, and 62% of millennials in the UK, say they would appreciate a brand or retailer using AI technology to show more interesting products.

What’s more, 72% and 64%, respectively, believe that as the technology develops, brands using AI will be able to accurately predict what they want. I think we need to take the hint and take massive action on this.

#2. Retailers are Taking Note

Retailers are taking note. Rebecca Minkoff’s fitting rooms tripled expected clothing sales with smart mirrors. Powered by eBay, the technology (which does not include actual cameras) uses RFID tags to recognize each item brought in, and shoppers can pull up product screens that show them the item styled in different looks, as well as other sizes and colors —similar to how you shop online.

IBM’s Watson is also working with retailers to monitor weather, purchase rates and consumer behavior to streamline the managing and monitoring of supply chains to keep inventory levels where  they should be  and avoid out-of-stocks. These are being coined “IBM Commerce Insights” and “Watson Order Optimizer”.

Wild stuff, right? And this is just the beginning!

#3. It Gets Granular

The ability to understand things like social profiles, movement, behavior, weather and other metrics means that retailers have access to granular data unlike ever before. This will allow retailers to understand what consumers really want. Finally, my saying “if you can't measure it, you can't manage” is becoming reality.

Another TechCrunch article reminds us: “Consumer needs are dynamic—not static—and require an insight machine that can take this into account and feed it into your marketing plans. AI goes through a progression of understanding, reasoning, learning, and then adapting insight. Further, AI can include a lot more information in its learning process so that the marketing is more customized at the individual level.” Now this is where the real creativity in marketing and selling can begin.

Are You In It?

The majority of you who read my blog are somehow connected to the commercial real estate industry. I’d love to hear from you! Where are you seeing AI used? How’s it working? Where do you see it going? Let’s carry the conversation over to LinkedIn. I’m there … and listening.