The ‘big guys’ of the online retail industry predicted that AI is the key to the future of their industry, during the Telegraph Festival of Business in London, with Alex Baldock, chief executive of Shop Direct, which runs and Littlewoods deeming it the company’s “big bet”. 

“You have three seconds to seize the shopper’s attention – it’s called thumb stopping, the three-second audition,” Mr Baldock told The Telegraph, following up with: “That’s where personalisation comes in.”

The statement was made by Mr Baldock during a panel discussion about the role of technology in business by Adrian Blair, the Chief Executive of the food delivery website, Just Eat. Both Mr Blair and Mr Baldock confirmed that all of their online growth now comes from mobile, with JustEat currently taking 80% of its orders from mobile devices.

Both companies have now applied chatbots and artificial intelligence to provide its users with restaurant recommendations, as well as enabling the users to order food through the voice command device, Amazon’s Echo.

“When I was a student I would have dreamed of that,” Mr Blair said. “Through technology we have made it unbelievably simple to order food, and have cut out the payment step. Those sorts of things point the way to the future, making things unbelievably easier for the customer, and more efficient for the provider,” Blair told the audience.

JustEat’s implementing of AI does not stop with chatbots, and the food delivery company is now aiming towards using land-based drone deliveries that could deliver your food by road. JustEat is able to operate at a larger scale than competitors such as Deliveroo and UberEats, as they employ their own drivers and therefore avoid legal issues that their rivals have come across.

Also chairing this discussion was Dr David Landsman, executive director of industrial conglomerate Tata, who said that automated manufacture was used throughout his company, doing anything from creating teabags to steel and cars.

“Once you can bring in the five digital forces – cloud computing, big data, social media, artificial intelligence, mobile – you can start looking at whole process and virtualise the whole factory, and work out what’s going to happen before it does,” Landsman said.

Jenny Knott, chief executive of Icap’s Post Trade Risk and Information division, also emphasised that AI has a role to play in the future of financial services, particularly alongside blockchain, a type of digital ledger that can speed up secure transactions, The Telegraph writes.

Ms Knott expects big things from a blockchain combined with artificial intelligence, saying: “It’s incredibly empowering in creating transparency,” Ms Knott said. “It will be very powerful in affecting how we operate”, Ms Knott said.

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