Digital, cloud and advisory service provider, Avanade delivered a range of AI-powered pioneering retail demonstrations at the recent National Retail Federation (NRF) Big Show in New York.

Avanade’s recent AI Readiness Report exposes significant roadblocks to AI adoption, particularly surrounding the absence of responsible AI guidelines and inadequate employee training. 

Retailers are aware that they must embrace AI driven by increasing customer expectations, with the research revealing that almost 90% of retailers believe their customers are ready for AI-driven interactions and processes.

They also acknowledge the transformative potential of their data when combined with AI, leading to data and analytics platforms being their top investment priority for 2024. However, the challenge for many lies in implementing strategic measures to support front-line workers and drive actionable insights.

Almost all (94%) retailers express confidence in their ability to harness AI benefits faster than their competitors. However, only half of them have implemented strategic measures for managing human resources, workforce planning and training— essential for driving operational efficiency.

While retailers believe customers are ready for AI (85%, above the average across all industries) – the report also reveals that across industries, almost all (98%) leaders agree that significant support will be required to onboard and train employees to use generative AI tools, with 50% indicating that this will demand substantial support. 

Only half of retailers report having implemented a complete set of guidelines and policies to ensure the responsible use of AI, highlighting a critical need for a robust and scalable governance framework.

At NRF, Avanade shared these insights with attendees and showcased an array of AI retail demonstrations including generative AI-powered shopping experiences, smart devices and AI video analytics to enhance store operations, AI-based solutions for in-store employees and more.

The showcase also incorporated an intelligent AI-infused commerce platform enabling transactions anywhere and a proprietary generative AI retail data platform. 

“If retailers believe customers are demanding AI, they have no choice but to deliver it, or shoppers will go elsewhere. It’s not a nice-to-have,” Avanade global retail and consumer goods industry lead, Corine Vives said.

“Overnight, expectations and experiences of customers have changed, and retailers must keep up. However, our research shows a significant gap in the readiness of retailers. While they might be confident about how prepared they are, our data highlights big obstacles to overcome. The path to readiness will require concerted efforts from retailers.”