Tech Tuesday: Generative AI Takes Center Stage

More so than other categories, the footwear industry relies on cutting edge marketing campaigns, robust customer engagement and exciting consumer experiences — which makes it prime for deploying generative AI. But what should footwear retailers and brands consider before investing in generative AI?

Sudip Mazumder, senior vice president and retail industry lead of North America at Publicis Sapient, said there are several factors “that need to be taken into consideration before retailers and brands invest in generative AI to ensure that the investment aligns with their strategic priorities and delivers the desired outcomes.”

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“First, they need to assess their current business processes and identify areas where generative AI can add value,” Mazumder said. “It is essential to identify the specific use cases that align with the retailer’s goals and objectives.”

Mazumder said retail leaders also need to assess the readiness of their data infrastructure. “Generative AI relies on large amounts of data to generate new insights and solutions,” Mazumder said. “Therefore, ensuring that the organization has the necessary data infrastructure, such as data quality, data governance, and data security, to support generative AI is critical.”

As that infrastructure is evaluated, executive decision-makers also need to assess the human capital needs before implementation. “Retail leaders need to consider the skills and expertise that is required to implement and manage generative AI, including data scientists, machine learning engineers, and software developers,” Mazumder said. “They should look at their current capabilities and identify any gaps that need to be addressed through training, hiring, or augmenting using partners.”

Howard Meitiner, former chief executive officer of Sephora who is now managing director at Carl Marks Advisors, told FN that while the investment costs for mid-market retailers may seem high, investing in AI “is a non-negotiable strategic imperative because it is at the very heart of future retail success and competitiveness.”

And while it may be essential to have machine learning engineers and software developers on hand, as Mazumder suggests, generative AI can take on greater tasks, according to Meitiner, who said it’s important “to consider the benefits that investing in AI can generate. One key area is in data analysis. Many retailers have lacked the technical capability to truly exploit the information contained within company databases for insights to drive new initiatives. With AI, they can generate such insights by clicking a button, reducing administrative burdens and making forecasting easier and more accurate.”

Meitiner said improving the experience the company provides its customers “will become increasingly important and one of the key differentiator and success drivers. The labor savings generated through AI deployment in other business areas can provide funding for retailers to invest in better, human-centered customer service initiatives.”

“Companies that embrace these kinds of strategic moves will increase the likelihood of them being a winner in the coming year,” he added.

Tom Ajello, senior partner for Experience, Innovation & Engineering (EIE) at global creative consultancy Lippincott cites Walmart, Coach, Sephora and The Body Shop as former clients. And more recently, Ajello is working with retailers and brand to help with AI and digital strategies. Ajello told FN that investing in generative AI is more than a strategic decision; “it’s a declaration of leadership in the new era of retail. It’s about setting a course for a future where technology amplifies creativity, enriches human connections, and redefines the essence of brand experience.”

And that brand experience also has a more personal and creative dimension, which includes the forging of more authentic connections, Ajello said. “In an age where digital experiences often feel detached, generative AI offers an unparalleled opportunity to craft more genuine, engaging interactions,” he said. “By leveraging AI to understand and anticipate customer desires more deeply, retailers can create offerings that resonate on a personal level, transcending traditional boundaries.”

XGen AI’s New Suite of Solutions

XGen AI said it is unveiling a suite of AI solutions that is “designed to revolutionize digital commerce.”

XGen AI described the solutions as “transformative” as it empowers brands and retailers “with automated and verticalized tools that allow them to quickly and effortlessly design and implement their own AI solutions, composed to address their exact business needs, making advanced AI capabilities accessible with no AI-specific or developer skill set required and putting brands in control of their own AI solutions.”

Frank Faricy, chief executive officer and founder of XGen AI, said his company is “making it our mission to empower e-commerce teams by putting them in control of their own AI solutions for a highly personalized and efficient digital ecosystem. This comes at a time where we have seen a need for innovative technology solutions that can be easily implemented at speed, without technical experience, and within a specific vertical application.”

The company said its suite of solutions addresses a need in the market by allowing retailers and brands “to leverage their models and services to build their own distinctive products in significantly less time than out-of-the-box or legacy solutions with far superior results.”

Frank Faricy<cite>Brian Fijal</cite>
Frank FaricyBrian Fijal

XGen AI described this approach as a departure from the conventional models that involve configuring SaaS products, “which are outdated, slow and too talent-intensive to deploy,” XGen AI said, adding that its user-friendly e-commerce Artificial Intelligence Platform (eAIP) “emphasizes user empowerment and underscores its commitment to bridging the gap between innovation and accessibility, fostering a seamless integration of technology into the e-commerce ecosystem.”

XGen AI’s products include XSearch, XRecommend and XGenerate, which offer a composable way to access “a full library of models from Generative AI to Deep Learning in a plug-and-play framework and platform, elevating e-commerce teams to become AI architects for the first time in history.”

Faricy founded the company in 2020.

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