AI Roadmaps Are Critical to Retail

Brian Gallagher

Building a retail organizational AI Roadmap must be a top priority going into 2024. The next 12–18 months will be the most important months in the history of your retail brand. This is when you must decide when, where, and how you will apply AI to enable your business for the future.  Customers are expecting to see AI solutions now, and while that may not be completely practical, waiting two years will not be acceptable. 

Over the past decade, we have watched as brand after brand has disappeared after refusing to embrace technology as a means to transform their business. As recently as 2019, only 50% of retailers had a mobile engagement platform for customers. Learn from these lessons or risk being the one left trying to save a brand.

As a retailer, you must embrace the acceleration of AI and decide how technology can elevate your brand value. Retailers will not have 15–20 years to decide the role of AI; retailers will have just three–five years to implement AI solutions. Now is the time to begin the work. The most important thing you can do over the next 12 months is to develop a complete AI roadmap to understand how every facet of your brand will be affected.

The steps to developing a roadmap appear simple, but do not let that fool you—this project requires a deep commitment throughout the entire organization. This roadmap will transform your entire business, from marketing to stores to supply chain, and they all must happen in unison.

Develop Your AI Roadmap in 4 Steps

  1. Document Desired Business Outcomes: Outline the organization’s strategic goals, brand value, and brand differentiators. Consider this a two- to five-year roadmap. Prioritize the strategic goals, values, and differentiators into a single list. 
  2. Identify Partner(s) to Explore AI Opportunities Aligned with Desired Outcomes: Align AI solutions to business use cases, keeping in mind your priorities and ROI. Do not focus on what you know exists today—make it a wish list. Re-align the priority list based on your discovery discussion.
  3. Assess the Current State of the Organization: What are the existing AI applications? What are your building blocks—data governance, networking, edge computing, security? Search for institutional knowledge and partnerships.
  4. Develop and Publish a Time-bound Roadmap: Assign technology and LOB champions to each goal of the roadmap. Understand that the map will change, but fight the urge to follow trends unless they align with your priorities.

It is important to embrace AI as a journey, not a destination. As your business evolves, allowing customers and employees to experience new solutions, so will your roadmap. The question should always be, “Do these solutions align with our strategic goals and priorities?” Nobody can say what the world of AI will look like in five years, but you can control how your brand will leverage AI. Connection would love to be your partner in developing your roadmap and identifying solutions aligned with your business goals. Engage our Retail Practice or contact your Account Team today to get started!  

Brian is the Retail Strategy & Business Development Director at Connection. Brian joined Connection in 2016 as the Retail subject matter expert (SME) after leading National Store Operations teams for more than 20 years. Brian has a deep understanding of today’s Store Experience and Customer Engagement solutions requirements and works collaboratively with customers and partners to create complete business solutions to drive customer engagement and revenues. Outside of work, he enjoys traveling with his wife and cheering on the Cleveland Indians.