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Your cognitive future in the retail industry


Thinking like a customer

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Welcome to the age of cognitive computing, where intelligent machines simulate human brain capabilities to help solve society’s most vexing problems. For retail, cognitive computing has already arrived, and its potential to transform the industry is enormous. Cognitive systems are driving more personalized shopping experiences and helping unearth customer trends. Our research reveals that retail leaders globally are poised to embrace this groundbreaking technology more holistically and, by doing so, will redefine the future in retail.

As the quantity of customer data continues to grow, retail executives fear that existing analytics capabilities are not sufficient to gain the necessary insights to fully meet ever-growing and ever-changing customer imperatives. Customers today are demanding completely personalized shopping experiences –in which products, services and communications are delivered to them at the time, place and medium of their choosing. Cognitive computing, with its near real-time learning and decision support, provides a new set of capabilities that can open fresh opportunities for the retail industry by scaling human expertise. Cognitive is already helping retailers provide more personalized experiences, and it is poised to enable a broader range of innovation that promises to redefine the retail industry.

The retail industry is experiencing unprecedented change. Over the past decade, emergence of technology-enabled “smarter consumers” has upended traditional retail business models. The days when department stores or large discount chains targeted promotions to mass audiences according to broad-brush definitions of age, gender and income are giving way to market segments composed of single individuals.

In response, many retailers have attempted to ride the wave of technological disruption by using predictive analytics to discover how to better reach today’s empowered customer, generate higher revenues and gain a much broader and deeper perspective of shifting marketplace mandates. However, as the quantity of customer data continues to grow, retail executives fear that existing analytics capabilities are not sufficient to gain the necessary insights to fully meet ever-growing and ever-changing customer imperatives. Customers today are demanding completely personalized shopping experiences – in which products, services and communications are delivered to them at the time, place and medium of their choosing.

Cognitive computing, with its near real-time learning and decision support, provides a new set of capabilities that can open fresh opportunities for the retail industry by scaling human expertise. Cognitive is already helping retailers provide more personalized experiences, and it is poised to enable a broader range of innovation that promises to redefine the retail industry.

Our research, based on a survey of 100 retail executives from around the world, reveals that cognitive solutions are already helping organizations across industries realize value. Retail leaders recognize the potential to transform their industry, and they are set to exploit cognitive capabilities to accomplish this.


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Meet the authors

Dr. Sandipan Sarkar

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, Distinguished Engineer - Cognitive Enterprise, Global Business Services


Anthony Marshall, Senior Research Director, IBM Institute for Business Value

Jane Cheung

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, Consumer Industry Research Lead, IBM Institute for Business Value



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