“The thought of using AI in retail is both exciting and a little bit scary”

  • Jessica Flinn-Allen, founder of Sheffield-based Jessica Flinn Fine Jewellery, weighs up the pros and cons of utilising AI in retail  

As an engagement and wedding ring specialist, we love to incorporate technology into our systems and procedures. And despite the jewellery industry generally being quite traditional (some may say old-fashioned), I believe Artificial Intelligence (AI) could really transform the way we all think about retail.
As a brand offering bespoke services, AI could make the design process significantly more efficient for my brand. It could mean popping customer’s ideas into AI, and seeing their perfect engagement ring emerge after just a few tries. Our expert design team could then use this design to create a CAD model and produce the real thing.

In a changing retail environment where more and more consumers are shopping online, this could be a game changer for any brand offering a bespoke service.

But it’s not just the jewellery industry that will benefit. This type of AI technology is applicable to so many sectors and I can only see it becoming more prevalent in the coming years. Graphic designers won’t spend hours of precious time only to be told they haven’t quite hit the mark. Customers will be able to see different sofa styles superimposed in their living rooms without having to visit a store. The possibilities are endless, which is why the thought of AI in retail is both exciting and a little bit scary.

Another possibility is using AI to point a customer in the right direction, whether this be towards the right product for them, or the right team member for their needs. By answering a series of questions, a customer’s journey could be much quicker and with less frustration from being passed from colleague to colleague. This could be used in stores or online to enhance the customer experience, making both customers and staff happier.

Live chat functions could be made significantly more streamlined using AI. Customers would get the answers they need, and the team members behind the scenes would only be required to jump in when a more complex query comes up, saving the company time and money.

When it comes to stock management and other operations, AI could be transformative. Stock is monitored, analysed and ordered without any need for manual tracking or human intervention. Analysing reports usually takes a significant amount of time, but the use of AI for this type of task would increase efficiency and remove human error. And from a productivity and financial standpoint, that can only be positive.

In our own business, we have already found AI to be beneficial for copywriting purposes. We’ve all seen the use of ChatGPT skyrocket, however it has been incredibly useful for writing product descriptions, blogs and other copy in the right tone of voice at the click of a button. These tasks can be incredibly time consuming, and now the process of copywriting has become much more streamlined and helps those without a natural writing ability to produce fantastic written pieces.

On the other side of the coin, it can be incredibly frustrating when you want to speak to another human being and this isn’t an option. Having to jump through hoops to speak with anyone but a robot on a screen is not providing good customer service. However, as a person who has been on the receiving end of angry customers (justified or not), it would certainly be a relief to reduce these interactions using AI as the middleman.

In conclusion, I believe that AI could change retail for the better, as long as it is used in the right way. Having such a vast range of customers to please, retail businesses have to accommodate many different styles of shoppers, and therefore will need to balance their human-lead and AI-lead processes going forward. The younger generations may be more inclined to a technology-based approach, whereas older generations may still expect a more traditional retail experience. Or in a decade’s time, this could have completely flipped on its head! I think the point I’m trying to make is not to put all of our eggs in one basket – balance is always best.

Jessica Flinn-Allen is the founder of Sheffield-based brand Jessica Flinn Fine Jewellery; jessicaflinn.co.uk