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AI Can Help Ease Labor Challenges During Holiday Season

E-tailers and retailers alike are prepping for another holiday season. While the retail industry’s labor shortage isn’t as dire as it was in 2020 and 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that there are still nearly 800,000 retail-based job openings across the country to contend with.

These labor shortages make it difficult to run in-store, online, delivery, and curbside pickup operations during a busy holiday season. However, AI can help.

Despite concerns around technology taking over jobs in the retail sector, AI can augment online and in-store personnel during the hustle and bustle of the holiday shopping season. Dev and design teams can save time, managers can be more efficient, and, best of all, shoppers will have the online and in-store shopping experiences they expect every holiday season.

Let’s explore how AI can be an elf on the e-tail and retail shelf.

Omnichannel shopping continues to be on the rise, driven in part by younger shoppers buying items both in a retailer’s physical store and website. 

A February 2023 survey from Digital Commerce 360 and Bizrate Insights found that in six months, shoppers aged 18-29 made 11 or more omnichannel transactions. The survey discovered 40% of shoppers in that group were high-volume shoppers, and 38% said they have used in-store or curbside pickup more in 2023 than they did in 2022.

This is an active digital shopping demographic that can be reached with AI during the holiday season. One tactic retailers rely on year-round but is especially useful during the busy holiday season, placing QR codes through the store. Shoppers who utilize the code are rewarded with a dynamic and reliable e-commerce experience along with promotions, discounts, or exposure to  a wider selection of products that can’t be displayed in-store. Retailers can also incentivise shoppers with a code for free delivery. 

A dynamic digital presence is especially important to retailers as they’re investing in retail media networks and will want to drive shoppers to visual-heavy digital experiences. Through its AI-powered programmable media tools, Cloudinary ensures that the images and video are delivered in the highest quality, properly formatted for any device. Cloudinary also enhances visuals with auto-generated spin sets, product galleries, and artistic overlay options.

Retailers can get creative with how they drive shoppers to an AI-powered online experience. 

Another way AI and Cloudinary can elevate the online experience is through personalization, which can be an asset to store associates helping shoppers in the physical store. 

For example, an associate at a fashion retailer can use a mobile device to show a shopper different color options or what an item would look like monogrammed or customized. Cloudinary’s functional AI auto-swaps colors and highlights personalized touches in real time, giving associates a leg up in engaging with shoppers.

Cloudinary supports retailers at scale, optimizing millions of product images and videos to elevate an online experience. Having tablets available for shoppers to engage with the website in-store or working to be assistants for store associates can be a tremendously effective way to engage and ultimately, sell. 

Cloudinary is also working with a new creative platform called FinalTouch, developing advanced use cases of generative AI to auto-edit and update images and videos with AI. The AI-powered FinalTouch instantly transforms existing product images with holiday-themed backgrounds and scenes with emotionally relevant and cheerful holiday scenes and background images.

Retailers can leverage generative AI to change backgrounds on an existing photo, remove unwanted items in a photo, or add more holiday-inspired elements to an existing image. The tools can support marketing teams racing to get the e-commerce channel ready for the season. 

AI helps an entire retail operation run more efficiently — from the supply chain to the online storefront. By embracing a powerful, optimized, and AI-enhanced visual online storefront, retailers can support staff in stores where it’s very much needed. Get creative and promote better omnichannel experiences that help in-store associates. 
Sign up today for a free Cloudinary account and see how Cloudinary can help unlock new ideas for the holiday season.

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