As the digital age surges ahead, technological advancements continue to change how we interact with each other and our surroundings – shaping new and dynamic ways to express ourselves, become more efficient and develop new insights about the world around us.

Few industries have adapted more to the digital era than retail, and while the Internet and e-Commerce have changed the consumer shopping experience in many ways over the years, a new wave of innovation is likely to cause another shift in the retail landscape – artificial intelligence.

Technology has now reached the point where people and machines can have a conversation, software can analyze and respond to human input, and the exchange can be spun into information that can be used by companies to enhance the customer experience and grow operations. Artificial intelligence (AI) technology is software designed to learn without being explicitly programmed, and it is taking the retail industry by storm.

From cars to candy bars, AI will revolutionize how companies market their products and services toward consumers. But how?

Several retailers, for example, are using AI to power digital assistance technology that answers questions and guides shoppers to their destinations. Customers simply open the site on any smartphone and type in their question – no human interaction needed. This allows stores to interact with customers on a personal level and boost engagement.

Artificial intelligence can also be used in the form of chatbots, computer programs that allow for a two-way conversation between machine and human. For instance, mall shoppers can text a question to a specified phone number and receive an automated, intelligent reply – significantly enhancing the static mall directory of years past.

The more customers use these tools, the more artificial intelligence products learn and the more accurate the technology becomes when answering questions. Further, AI software can process massive amounts of data and create endless opportunities for innovation.

Cognitive computing also drives efficiencies, removing traditional steps like consumer surveys from the equation entirely, and analyzes data gained directly from customer interactions with artificial intelligence.

Artificial intelligence will transform the retail industry by changing the way consumers interact with products and brands. But more importantly, retailers will be able to digest and comprehend unprecedented amounts of data. As it becomes more sophisticated, it will tackle ever more complicated tasks and usher in a new age of retail. 

Taylor Coyne is a senior retail research analyst at JLL