Augmented Retail Analytics – Supporting Human Intelligence With Superhuman AI Capabilities

The impressive growth of artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies in the past few years, have fueled the beliefs that AI might become capable enough to challenge or replace human intelligence altogether. But that is not going to be a reality anytime soon, at least not in the retail sector. Although, we have seen many innovative use cases, AI/ML still falls short when it comes to making decisions where there are many variables and contexts involved. Rather than waiting for AI/ML technologies to reach the stage of perfection, retailers can take advantage of AI and ML technologies to ‘augment’ human capabilities. Identified as “the next wave of disruption in the data and analytics market”, augmented intelligence technology is all ripe to give sweet business results today.

Forrester defines augmented intelligence as:

“The use of AI to improve a human’s ability to do their job combining machine learning technologies for processing and analyzing data at scale; technologies for automating and orchestrating standard processes; and human input, decision making, and action.”

The idea is simple – the concept of augmented intelligence is not to replace humans, but to support human intelligence, meet their shortcomings, speed-up the repetitive processes, and enable them to take quicker and smarter decisions. Let us look at some of the key advantages of augmented intelligence: 

  • Augmented analytics is better than either AI or human intelligence alone: Rajen Sheth, Senior Director, Google Cloud AI, rightly says that, "AI is most useful when you get it into the hands of a subject-matter expert." The past decade was all about superior data visualization in retail, but still the task of analyzing that data according to the business-context, exploring relationships, scrutinizing the complex variables and combinations, was far from easy. Today, machine-powered data analytics and prescriptions, combined with contextual business knowledge possessed by humans can open doors for superior decision-making.   
  • Augmented analytics optimizes productivity: Till now data consumers were burdened with several repetitive, time-consuming tasks that required little intelligence. With the advent of AI, those tasks can be automated and can be done in almost real-time, thereby increasing human productivity. Augmented analytics can search for and bring to surface vital insights or anomalies in the business processes, analyze all the data in your retail business, study all the in-store surveillance cameras, capture social media information, gather customer insights, correlate it with historical data and churn out insights at a superhuman speed. AI brings the power of speed, scale and efficiency to the hands of every business user.
  • Augmented intelligence can deliver more value today: Businesses working on developing full-blown AI solutions know quite well that it is a time-intensive venture, and although there are significant strides, there is still a long time-to-value. On the other hand, augmented intelligence systems can be easily implemented on top of your current retail technology stack. Rather than working hard on doing away with human intelligence altogether, businesses can work on developing automated systems for data preparation, machine-based algorithms, deep learning, advanced analytics and insight discovery to aid decision-making at all the levels of a business.  
  • Augmented intelligence can democratize retail analytics in the true sense: Augmented intelligence is getting paired with natural language processing. With the rise of such user-friendly interfaces for conversational analytics, anybody within the organization can take advantage of analytics, even if they don’t have any analytical skills. It not only brings analytics to the lowest level of users, but also makes the high-value data scientists more productive. Analytics always faced adoption challenges in retail, but now it can be used by anybody. For instance, with the use of augmented analytics and NLP, any in-store sales person can simply ask, “What are the top things I can do to improve the sales today?” and get a well-analyzed and complete answer from the system.

The award for “Technology In The Supporting Role” goes to augmented intelligence

Augmented analytics brings out the best of both AI and human intelligence. Deep learning and machine learning based algorithms can generate context-based correlations and insights in real-time and prescribe the best paths to take for specific business outcomes. Humans can then take their contextual knowledge and other variables into consideration and arrive at a decision. AI can then be used to execute those decisions at a superhuman speed. Together they can dwarf all human capabilities.

With the convergence of AI and Analytics the retail business can be transformed into an intelligent, self-aware one that can sense business and user context, auto discover problems or opportunities, auto-generate the insights, recommend the best decision or actions, and even execute them. The analytics system becomes smart, context-aware and automated, which takes away the burden of analytics exploration from users and focuses them directly on the business areas that need attention and action.

Manthan is at the forefront of this development

Realizing the disruptive power of these technologies, Manthan Systems has been focusing heavily on AI and machine learning techniques to automate data management, algorithmic processing, and insight generation. Our AI-powered retail analytics platform offers a conversational analytics interface which allows users to talk to the system in natural language. Users can not only run descriptive analytics use cases, but also complex predictive and prescriptive ones. For these reasons, Manthan’s innovative retail analytics solutions have found special mention in categories including, “AI in Retail” and “Algorithmic Retailing”, in Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Retail Technologies, 2018.

Manthan’s augmented analytics solutions leverage the power of AI to offer superior business outcomes. Meet us at NRF 2019, Retail’s Big Show to take a peek into the future of retail.

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Author- Ajith Nayar

Ajith Nayar
As a marketer, I’ve keenly watched the retail and consumer trends for a couple decades. But never has it been more exciting than now. Because everything we used to know about shopping is changing, and fast. As consumers, it’s great to be at the center of this technology-led evolution, because it’s unfolding in our everyday lives. I’m happy to share my views on related trends and issues. You’ll see me writing on the digitally empowered consumer, shopper behavior and marketing, consumerization of retail, internet of things, analytics technologies, cloud computing and digital marketing. Presently, I’m Director of Marketing at Manthan, a cloud analytics and big data solutions provider, focused on consumer industries. I’d love to hear and learn from your thoughts and experiences too, so please write to me at Google+ Profile

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