AI Strategies in the Retail IT Channel: Insights from RSPA’s NextGen Rising Stars

By: RSPA NextGen Community

From boardrooms to break rooms, artificial intelligence (AI) and its transformative powers are captivating minds across industries. The retail IT industry is no different as leaders discuss the impact that AI can have on efficiency in the workplace and in their personal lives. To get a pulse on how our community is implementing AI, the RSPA asked a few RSPA NextGen 40 Under 40 Rising Stars to share their AI adoption stance and how AI is and will help them in the next few years. Sharing their perspectives in this article are:

  • Blake Gillum, DCR POS
  • Tyler Young, Tonic POS/BOLD Integrated Payments
  • Whitney Gerrety, BlueStar

Where do you currently stand in terms of incorporating AI into your daily job duties?

Young: I utilize AI daily. It’s like having a conversation with a colleague who is a jack of all trades and has memorized every piece of data I have provided. This tool has allowed me to increase my efficiency/production significantly in the past year.

For example, we have all written e-mails in frustration and chose to start over. On the rare occasion this occurs I simply ask AI to “change the tone of the e-mail to professional and polite” and generally, with minor edits, I hit send. This saves significant time from redrafting entirely.

Gerrety: My team and I utilize AI for lead generation via website interaction chatbots. Our chatbots also allow us to offer customer support on a 24/7 basis and answer commonly asked questions.

I spend a lot of time incorporating AI forecasting while studying diverse vertical market trends, allowing me to tailor my discussions with my customers more effectively. By understanding the trends associated with a particular market, I can make better recommendations to best meet their current and future needs.

Gillum: Although I have not personally incorporated AI into my daily activities, I am certainly not against it and have tinkered with it on occasion. I still prefer writing my emails, presentations, and company meetings. While AI could make it quicker, I enjoy adding a personal touch to my messaging.

How could retail IT leaders use AI/ChatGPT to enhance marketing or customer engagement?

Young: Integrating AI tools transforms the way we interact with and understand our customers. Tools like AI-powered survey platforms (e.g., Qualtrics, SurveyMonkey) enable a deep understanding of consumer behaviors and preferences. This understanding paves the way for personalized marketing strategies, enhancing the overall customer experience. AI-driven chatbots (like Drift or Intercom) are pivotal in this transformation, offering more than just query responses; they provide interactive, responsive, and engaging customer service. Additionally, AI video editors and automated webinar platforms can be used to create educational content, further engaging customers.

Gerrety: Just as I utilize chatbots on our website to better enhance customer service, retail IT leaders can implement similar personalized assistants. These AI-powered assistants can handle commonly asked questions and improve the customer experience while allowing their teams’ bandwidth to be better served elsewhere.

A significant focus is on AI and predictive analytics regarding consumer behavior by looking at historical buying patterns. This can be incredibly beneficial to retail companies that are looking to gain a better understanding of inventory demand and pricing strategies. Based on the analytics, AI allows retail leaders to market personalized recommendations from historical data.

Gillum: AI/ChatGPT can be a tremendously powerful marketing tool when used correctly. AI can generate relevant, engaging content exceptionally quickly. The key is to provide enough information and the right prompts to dial in on your intended messaging. However, keep the ease of use from making you complacent – AI-generated content still needs to be reviewed and verified before being distributed to your audience.

In what ways do you believe AI can positively impact the role of retail IT channel leaders in the next five years?

Young: In the coming years, AI will play a key role in guiding retail IT leaders. It’s not just about doing routine tasks faster; it’s about making smarter decisions based on data. AI will help VARs/ISVs offer meaningful solutions to their customers that will help predict market trends, manage their business, and improve cybersecurity. This means businesses will be more proactive, efficient, and secure.

Gerrety: AI will continue to enhance the customer experience and the retail leaders’ decision-making with personalized data-driven analytics. Customers will continue to experience tailored recommendations while the retail IT leaders can strongly predict stock levels and replenishment schedules and reduce excess inventory, making their business more streamlined and profitable.

Gillum: AI will positively impact retail IT channel leaders over the next five years by reducing costs and improving efficiency. AI will become a core part of how we interact with one another and our customers. Whether generating marketing content, writing code, operation manuals, or emails, AI can tackle most of these tasks. These things take time to do well, and AI will help organizations do these things more efficiently than ever before. The more we engage and utilize AI, the better it will understand our branding, businesses, and value and will be able to produce better content/work.

Can you discuss any potential myths, risks, or challenges associated with the integration of AI/ChatGPT in our industry, and how would you address or mitigate these issues?

Young: While AI comes with numerous opportunities, it’s crucial to navigate its integration with awareness. AI is best used as a complement to human skills, enhancing rather than replacing. Addressing AI biases, ensuring ethical use, and safeguarding privacy are paramount.

Gerrety: The biggest argument I hear against AI/ChatGPT is that companies will begin substituting employees solely for AI when, in reality, the combination of both allows for the best possible experience for customers. In the same way that self-service units give customers a personal choice and allow for more employees to be available to help customers, using AI to automate specific tasks does the same.

Gillum: The biggest myth is that you will be able to not use AI. AI is here to stay. It is not going away. Figuring out how to use it in your business will be key to staying ahead of the competition. They will use it; you don’t want to be left behind. There are still a lot of unknowns, which can make people nervous. The key to successful AI use is to use it in conjunction with people, not in place of people. AI-generated content/products must be monitored, reviewed, and verified by humans.

 

RSPA and its members continue to collaborate on understanding and implementing new technologies such as AI. A prime example is best practice sharing that takes place in the RSPA Community meetings. The RSPA NextGen Community meets throughout the year to provide a support network and resources for future generations and their companies to advance in the retail technology industry. If you would like to get involved in the NextGen Community, please email RSPA VP of Member Services Ashley Naggy at ANaggy@GoRSPA.org.