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The AI in Retail and In Everything Else




If you haven't noticed, the first three weeks of 2024 started with AI. From the National Retail Federation in the US, the Consumer Technology Association conference ran the CES in Vegas, and the WEF Conference is in Davos. All of them were focused on AI and advanced technologies. And the conference list will continue to have the same messages.


If you've subscribed to my LinkedIn newsletter, The Business Brief, Subscribe Here. I have been writing and commenting about the importance and power of data needed to fuel these AI machines.


AI is and will be in everything. If you are in business, you already know this. The general population has had access to AI for a while. Every time we type on our devices, words are shown to us to choose from. That's AI predicting what we are about to write; it's a simple algorithm. However, more sophisticated ones are available, and more are coming. These machines are learning fast. Many organizations are making GPT applications available for free. Why? They need something very important, and that is to train these machines. Again, to feed their AI machines, they are acquiring data. However, as much as the news is about AI and new advanced technologies. There is something far more important, and that is lots of data. There won't be a business that can survive without it in the next few years.


A few months ago, at a corporate function, I spelled out that one of the most dramatic changes that will come is a Personal AI Assistant for consumers. There is no question that technology companies and brands like Amazon, Meta, TikTok, Temu, and Shein will be pursuing this significant opportunity. It will change retailing and consumer behavior simultaneously. Adoption rates maybe even faster than those of social media. Why? Consumers want convenience and faster access to products and services. Ultimately, they want more free time and personalized service with their own AI assistant, which will be a major driver. I refer to all of this as the new leisure society, a middle-class group that wants a better life for themselves and their families. It means spending more time on leisurely things.


Will it change retailing? Absolutely, more so than e-commerce did and much more than anyone cares to admit. However, we may see the same outcomes of denying this will change anything and the inability to compete in this environment as we did with e-commerce. And the other risk is that change with this technology will happen faster. Larger corporations with far more sophisticated AI will have strategic superpowers unlike anything we have seen before. The question will be, can this be seen as an unfair competition or advantage? There are many ethical questions to consider.


We all need to recognize that this race is between businesses and nations. Will there be job losses? Not initially. However, the tests have begun. Companies have rolled out GPT capabilities as Assistants to their employees, as Walmart has and others will—this transformation of companies and, in fact, all retail consumer-facing business models. Even governments and education will be challenged to adapt. This is all reminiscent of the 1990s when everyone was hiring candidates with experience in spreadsheets, word processing, and creating presentations. Where we are today took thirty years. This wave will take less time, perhaps one-fifth. By the time we reach 2030, we should expect a very different competitive landscape, perhaps foreign to most of us.


At IRG, it isn't about GPT, although it is important to demonstrate you can work with this entry-level technology. We believe that AI is not just another piece of software. AI will become an extension of human intelligence. It is about identifying opportunities through predictions because that is what we expect from these machines. And within organizations, it will define next-generation strategies and endless innovations. As a result, it will aggressively change the world over the next five years. Staying relevant and creating trends will be harder without it.


George Minakakis is the CEO of Inception Retail Group Inc. You can contact George at gminakakis@inceptionretailgroup.com

He is available as an advisor to senior executives, corporate speaking engagements, and as a Keynote Speaker. He brings insights and real-world proven experience as a CEO and Board Director to all conversations.


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