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Enterprise hits and misses - retailers grapple with generative AI, Reddit grapples with itself, and low-code gets real

Jon Reed Profile picture for user jreed June 19, 2023
This week - retailers see generative AI's potential - but acting on it is another matter. Reddit's user-generated content turmoil grabs the headlines, and brings enterprise lessons. Low-code isn't magic, and the whiffs keeping rolling in.


Lead story - When will retailers move on generative AI?

Dumb question, I know. The correct answer is, of course, yesterday. But what are the plans, and what will this realistically take? Stuart provides answers in Making generative AI speak retail - Walmart and Kroger have big plans for LLMs:

But while generative AI in particular is a major talking point, how soon that translates into action is unclear. Only seven percent of grocery execs polled have actually invested in net new AI capabilities in 2023. The top challenges to adoption of AI are seen as budget (71%), proof of performance (69%), and infrastructure limits (63%), according to the data. That said, three-quarters (74%) of respondents are building AI into tech RFPs.

On Kroger's generative AI shortlist? More sophisticated personalization abilities. How about Walmart? AI is not exactly new to Walmart's pursuits. Stuart:

The rise of generative AI is very significant, according to  Suresh Kumar, Walmart Global CTO and Chief Development Officer, but it’s only the most recent step in a long journey.

Walmart sees two main areas of generative AI pursuits: customer experience and changing how store associates work. Stuart quotes Walmart's CTO:

It will be able to help our customers go through their shopping mission, if you will. We have given some examples before of, ‘Hey, I’m looking for a cell phone for my daughter, what is the best cell phone that I want to find?’. For those kinds of shopping journeys, I think generative AI can have a really positive impact.

In my Salesforce Connections review, I shared reactions to generative AI from retailers on the ground. The consensus: start small, with internal-facing projects, but don't mess about. Don't wait to get started. Often, the best place to start, as PacSun demonstrates, is getting your customer data platform together. Mediocre/incomplete data -> underperforming AI.

Retailers will find ways to incorporate generative AI into the 2023 holiday season; I reported that Salesforce is predicting $194 billion in spend impacted by AI, including generative AI. However, I argue that generative AI isn't going to revolutionize personalization - because 1:1 personalization is an AI overreach. But increased segmentation is a valid (and likely achievable) generative AI goal. AI has already impacted e-commerce personalization in a significant way - so we have to give pre-existing AI credit for personalization advances, and measure generative AI's impact from there.

On a panel at Salesforce Connections, Salesforce's Rob Garf noted that inventory integration with generative AI was probably out of scope for this year's holiday season. But that doesn't mean other generative AI use cases aren't possible. Garf hit the data point home:

The data is so important. It has been important for a long time, but now there is a better way to access it.

A typical customer has data across 44 different systems. If you can get the data from all those systems informing your AI models, including all shopping preferences, Garf says that will make generative AI worthy of this fanfare. Then again, with today's inflation-conscious, price-ruthless consumers, retailers need all the help they can get. How much can AI change the equation? We're about to find out. As always in retail there will be winners and losers. Sorry, but new tech will not lift all.

Diginomica picks - my top stories on diginomica this week

  • AI-enabled digital assistants - a development worth having a conversation about for revenue teams - Barb hits a different AI angle... I found this quote worthy of debate: "Conversica's perspective is to advocate for transparency, making it clear that people are interacting with an AI-assisted persona. There are even recommended best practices for persona titles. However, Kaskade reveals that 99% of customers elect not to declare it is an AI-assisted persona." What say you?
  • MACH TWO - MACH Alliance warns off monolith giants from MACH 'washing' - Phil's back from the MACH TWO conference - one of the most interesting events we cover. So what's all the fuss about? Think cloudwashing, but with a higher bar, and a more complete architecture. Phil: "The industry body was established three years ago to promote adoption of a composable approach to IT, centered on the four principles represented in its name — Microservices, API-first, Cloud-based SaaS and Headless, in contrast to the monolithic stacks of conventional enterprise applications. But it has stringent criteria for MACH compliance that many vendors do not adhere to." See also: Phil's MACH TWO - Netlify data orchestration and Valtech commerce accelerator ease enterprise path to composable.
  • The rise of the microgrid - building the electrical internet - George asks whether open source can address a pressing real world problem: "While the factories are running full blast, it’s shocking the technical and regulatory challenges facing the grid to bring this new power online. It feels somewhat reminiscent of the shipping bottlenecks that caused empty containers to pile up at ports during COVID-times."

Vendor analysis, diginomica style. Here's my three top choices from our vendor coverage:

Adobe's big week - it was a big week (or two) for Abobe, with notable generative AI news, as well as regional events. Here's a sampling of diginomica's coverage and customer profiles:

Use cases from the road: the diginomica team hit the tarmac again, and pulled in fresh customer stories:

Jon's grab bag - Funny how things change: last year it was the Metaverse and WebMe that were supposed to change Accenture's everything. Now that seems like pocket change and online regrets. Via Stuart: As Accenture plans a $3 billion spend on AI, CEO Julie Sweet outlines her tips on the generative phenomenon.

Neil took on the "macro-economic headwinds" that seem to come up in every enterprise earnings report: Inflation and the macro-economy are enterprise concerns - a recent IMF and World Bank meeting sheds light. Chris wraps the diginomica week with a vivid contrast on the UK's AI strategy: The UK is undoubtedly an AI powerhouse - but it's the EU that's leading global AI policy without Brexit Britain.

Best of the entrprise web

Waiter suggesting a bottle of wine to a customer

My top seven

Overworked businessman


Speaking of getting high on generative AI, I'll have whatever you're smoking (we do realize GPT4 doesn't understand language like humans do, right - or do we need a refresher?)

I'm so proud of my healthcare provider. Is there anything more comforting than PR bromides and scrambling for diligence after the damage is done?

Air travel is super fun. Would this add to your enjoyment? Police robots go on patrol in Singapore airports...

On a more inspirational note, Molly White has never made it into hits/misses, because crypto isn't my beat. But, she's overdue:

If you find an #ensw piece that qualifies for hits and misses - in a good or bad way - let me know in the comments as Clive (almost) always does. Most Enterprise hits and misses articles are selected from my curated @jonerpnewsfeed.

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