AI trends and applications in eCommerce and Retail


Margaret Laffan


May 7, 2020

Given the spotlight on Retail and eCommerce especially during this pandemic we took some time recently to connect with 2 leaders in the space to get their take on AI trends and applications in this area. 

I’ve pulled together  highlights from that discussion with Bindu Reddy, CEO and Co-founder of RealityEngines.AI, and Yuqian Dong, Senior Research Lead from Wormpex AI Research. Both are heavily engaged at the forefront of AI research and application deployments in their respective companies. 

RealityEngines.AI helps create large scale real-time customizable deep learning models. These systems generate accurate predictions that you can infuse into all aspects of your customer experience or business processes. They help companies focus on their digital presence, to become AI transformed or AI first. 

Wormpex, is a fast growing AI backed convenience store chain based in China and uses AI technologies to make insightful decisions on how to evolve their products, set up their supply chain, pricing, assortment and store layout. They look to digitize all the elements involved in opening and operating a retail store, and use digitized data to help with optimization and learnings to offer more customized services to customers that bring the store closer to the customers’ needs. 

Both agreed that In the retail and ecommerce space forecasting, personalization and fulfillment are a few of the areas where AI is most relevant and critical for the industry.  

1. Forecasting in retail is a very big challenge. All the retail companies want to know what is the right amount to buy, what to buy and when to buy them. This is a very important decision that drives the profit and the gross income for all those retailers. AI technology definitely plays a big role in more accurately producing those forecasts. Because AI companies can forecast those numbers and occasions more accurately, the supply chains can be less disruptive. So you can plan your supply chain much longer before the operation launches. And you can identify those hot products much earlier, so you can buy them before they are running out of stock from the manufacturers. And also, you can plan the downstream supply chain better to arrange the delivery to your stores and arrange the delivery to the customers. So all those AI technologies can help you shape the operation and make it more streamlined and more cost effective. 

2. Personalization; anybody who has used any kind of retail website or an e-commerce website or has used YouTube or Netflix knows the power of recommendation. 70% of all YouTube videos are watched through a recommendation. 30% of all Amazon purchases are made because of a recommendation. And what we're seeing now is the other retailers, the non tech heavy retailers now really jump on that bandwagon to basically customize every aspect of their customer experience, whether it's personalized emails, personalized website, personalized app, and so on. So that you can actually really get to people at the right time and give them the right product.

3. Fulfillment aspect, which is basically making sure your fraud and your logistics happen correctly. This is where you want to make sure that you have zero fraud because again, retail is a very low margin business. And that should be ideally a deep learning model. And then you want to make sure that your product is actually delivered at the right time. And that's again, a model which can predict how long it takes to ship things from a particular fulfillment center, where you should ship this from. 

With these three parts of the business, you can actually infuse AI and get your business to be at least 15 to 50% more efficient, both in terms of revenue as well as cost.

When asked about the trends the following three were mentioned:

  1. Improved digital presence - companies like Target, Gap, Macy's, Walmart, have spent quite a bit of time and money on getting their digital presence up and running and getting their e-commerce sites up and running. However, most sales were still coming through brick and mortar. Now with the COVID 19 pandemic, people are getting more comfortable shopping online and there will be renewed efforts and interest to make digital properties more AI friendly or AI first and take the experience further. 
  1. Move towards “fancy features”, such as subscriptions  - think of Stitch Fix, Rent the Runway, where you build out user profiles and send out recommendations, customers can try things on and send back. In other cases, such as fashion and makeup where you have companies leveraging computer vision where you're basically trying to model a particular dress or have lipstick on your face, which you can see through your app. 
  1. In grocery there is a trend that all the AI goes to customized solutions, it’s not just one solution for all occasions, instead providing robust customized solutions for the location, for customers and for the products. 

Overall we can see that retail and eCommerce are ripe for AI applications and will only continue to mature and evolve to include sophisticated digital experiences and ability to optimize on the operations even further.  

View full event video below. Visit for full transcript.

Author Bio

Margaret Laffan

Vice President, Business Development @TalentSeer; Host @; Venture Partner @BoomingStar Ventures

Margaret Laffan is the Vice President of Business Development at TalentSeer—a specialized AI talent partner dedicated to building and nurturing AI teams for companies at various growth stages—and a venture partner with BoomingStar Ventures—a $1.5b fund focused on AI, robotics, and autonomous driving early stage startups. Margaret leads the development of new partnerships to accelerate the expansion of TalentSeer’s AI talent ecosystem. Previously, Margaret drove sales and business development at SAP and has held leadership roles in various startups. Laffan is published on Forbes and contributes to other media. She earned her master’s degree in political science from the University of Dublin, and has 15+ years working in industry, nonprofit and startup sector. Follow Margaret on Twitter @MargaretLaffan

Guest Speaker BIo

Bindu Reddy

CEO & Co-Founder @ RealityEngines.AI; Former General Manager, AI Vertical Services @ Amazon Web Services

Bindu Reddy is the CEO and Co-Founder of RealityEngines.AI. Before starting RealityEngines.AI, she was the General Manager for AI Verticals at AWS, AI. Her organization created and launched Amazon Personalize and Amazon Forecast, the first of their kind AI services that enable organizations to create custom deep-learning models easily. Prior to that, she was the CEO and co-founder of Post Intelligence, a deep-learning company that created services for social media influencers that was acquired by Uber. Bindu was previously at Google, where she was the Head of Product for Google Apps, including Docs, Spreadsheets, Slides, Sites and Blogger.

Yuqian Dong

Senior Research Lead @ Wormpex AI Research

Yuqian Dong is currently a Senior Research Lead at Wormpex AI Research, leading its Operations Research team. The focus of her team is to use Operations Research and Machine Learning techniques to drive retail operation decisions. Before joining Wormpex, she was a senior manager on Staples’ Supply Chain Team. There, her team was responsible for helping Staples’ customer delivery division to reduce operation cost, improve service level, enhance network infrastructure, and optimize carrier management strategies.

About WomenInAI

WomenInAI is a global nonprofit do-tank working towards gender-inclusive AI. Its mission is to increase female representation and participation in AI. It is a community-driven initiative bringing empowerment, knowledge, and active collaboration via education, research, events, and blogging.

About TalentSeer

TalentSeer is the fastest-growing AI talent platform in the U.S. providing integrated talent acquisition, market research, and employer branding services. With an engaged AI community –, an innovative AI recruiting approach, and deep domain knowledge, TalentSeer aims to be the go-to talent partner for companies at various stages. TalentSeer has a 200,000+ talent pool and helped with 100+ partners across autonomous driving, internet, finance, retail, and healthcare industries to build strong AI teams.

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