There’s a tool on the market that retailers should be considering when thinking about their future tech investments. Before I delve into the details, let me start with a few key features:

  1. It operates at 1 exaFLOP (a billion billion – i.e., a quintillion) calculations a second
  2. It weighs about 3 pounds
  3. It is completely wireless
  4. It is already in every single retail store in the world

Okay – I’m talking about the human brain. Before you leave, bear with me a moment.

While human intelligence may lose out to computers in chess and Jeopardy, let’s consider where it’s superior – specifically on the retail sales floor:

  • Comprehending what people say and adjusting on the fly
  • Understanding patterns (such as past purchasing behavior) to make tailored product recommendations to customers
  • Interpreting signals like body language and using them to personalize the shopping experience
  • Telling jokes (sorry, I’ve never been impressed by Siri’s witticisms)

Fundamentally, these capabilities add up to the promise of AI, right? At their best, people can foster this type of engaging personal experience with customers while also bringing your brand to life. I’m certainly not a luddite, but we seem to be a ways off from retail technology matching these capabilities at scale.

There are, however, AI applications available today which create significant value by amplifying the existing strengths of retail teams. For instance, pattern recognition and machine learning can help store leaders highlight opportunities, minimize risk, and generally make better decisions to drive the business. Pairing human intelligence and flexibility with AI’s ability to identify trends and opportunities in data is a winning combination that many retailers have yet to tap into.

Good tech investments can help all of us deliver our best results more consistently. That is how we win.

At a high level, all tech can be split into one of two groups:

  1. Technology that exists to foster connections with the real world and other humans
  2. Technology that draws people out of reality and further into the virtual world

I’ve always preferred to be on the side of number one.

People are expensive. They are free thinking, easily bored, and sometimes difficult. However, when human interaction goes well, nothing can compare. The right kinds of tech investments can help us create meaningful human interactions more consistently, creating an even greater incentive for us to get out and interact with one another. In the case of retail teams, everyone wants to go home at the end of the day feeling they did well (and see it in the numbers). It’s the responsibility of store operators to make this as easy as possible for them. Arming people with the tools and empowerment they need to be successful will not only result in short term revenue gain, it will turn jobs into careers and fuel retail growth for generations.