Rubikloud Technologies, a start-up that provides retailers with artificial intelligence applications meant to improve bottom lines and business functions, has raised $37 million from Intel Capital, iNovia Capital, OTEAF and others, according to a company press release.
The company's platform provides automated instructions to execution layers of retailer systems such as enterprise resource planning, supply chain system, marketing automation tools, and in-store experiences, to enable them to improve promotional revenue, inventory stock out rates and loyalty revenue.
"The first three levels of retail that AI will impact and transform will be the supply chain, corporate head office, and front of store," Stacey Shulman, chief innovation officer in the Retail Solutions Division at Intel Corporation, said in the press release announcing the funding. Shulman added that Intel can combine its focus on retail, Internet of Things and in-store devices with Rubikloud's intelligent decision automation technology.
This funding news comes as AI, more broadly, appears to be reaching a major tipping point in its use across the retail sector. One survey from last October, from SLI Systems, suggested more than half of retailers see AI in their futures, with at least 20% of them ready to invest in AI during the following 12 months.
Rubikloud is just one of many companies with an AI technology pitch for retailers to hear, but one particular sentence in the press release perfectly captures the state of AI in retail today: "Everyone talks about AI, but the reality is you must impact a significant P&L item to get mass adoption from a retailer."
That statement elucidates the current state of affairs, as some retailers are starting to aggressively experiment with AI-based solutions, and 86% of marketers are planning to invest in the tech, in the form of chatbots, voice-activated virtual assistants, cyber security protection systems, and other areas. In embracing AI early, retailers may have invested mostly on the hope that a single intelligently-driven app or service will pay off.
Bringing greater intelligence and automation to retail isn't just about working AI into different individual point solutions. For AI to transform retail it needs to become one of the industry's core technologies, moving beyond these frontline systems and solutions to become more deeply integrated in retailers' operations — and as of right now, we aren't there yet. Take chatbots, for example: nearly 60% of marketers say they're not a priority and only 22% of consumers have ever used one.
To better-integrate artificial intelligence, the AI innovators of the world will need to work with the likes of Intel to deliver an AI plan to retailers that is both grand and practical. While some retailers have been game to put new AI-based solutions out into the market quickly without much proof of ROI, others will need to see a detailed blueprint and some evidence of success stories first.