AI is expensive to implement, but applications for mobile payments and other mobile functions were top of mind at a big conference. Baird analysts weigh in.
Gaps are widening among companies embracing artificial intelligence tools to facilitate retail transactions.
After day two of ShopTalk Online Retail conference presentations focused on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, Baird analysts Colin Sebastian, Benjamin C. Galther and Dalton Kern weighed in on the key drivers of growth from intelligent assistants, augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) and mobile payments. They observe:
"... The clear takeaway is adapt or die: as many online/offline retailers "catch-up" to mobile-first, there are rapid developments in technology creating another wave of "have" vs. "have-nots" and "super apps" in an AI-first landscape. Companies directly benefiting from AI in our coverage include Amazon.com (AMZN), Alibaba Group Holding (BABA), Facebook (FB), eBay (EBAY) and PayPal Holdings (PYPL).
Tech companies are racing to provide AI services... artificial intelligence/machine learning is still really early, and very expensive to implement (data scientists can earn $1 million in Silicon Valley.) While some online retailers are reporting meaningful benefits from AI-powered functionality, our conversations suggest the majority of "AI" currently deployed in e-commerce does not really qualify as true artificial intelligence. As such, there is a big opportunity for companies such as Google (GOOGL), Salesforce.com (CRM) and International Business Machines (IBM) to power AI for the vast majority of companies that don't have the resources to build their own internal capabilities.
With Amazon presenting a meaningful competitive threat to Google in commerce search, the company sees AI and AR as innovative technologies where Google can maintain a leadership position. By the end of 2018, Google expects there will be nearly one billion AR-enabled smartphones in the market, along with an increasing number of smart glasses (from Magic Leap, Apple (AAPL), and Amazon, etc.) Google views the broad move towards "immersive computing" as playing to the company's strengths, with voice-first quickly evolving to voice-and-visual (gesture) interactions, leveraging the ubiquitous Google Assistant. Google also highlighted YouTube as an increasingly important partner for online and offline retailers, driving significant store visits from local video ads.
Mobile payment companies embracing opportunities in Voice/Visual identity. At ShopTalk, Amazon, Google, Samsung Electronics (005930.KR), Adyen, Mastercard (MA) and Braintree (PayPal), among others, were on hand to discuss the evolving mobile payment ecosystem. Of particular interest was commentary around declines in the number of apps that mobile users are downloading and using, which augurs a more voice and gesture-based web, and offers a lot of opportunity for payment companies to authenticate via voice and visual means. Mobile payment companies also view the upcoming PSD2 regulations in Europe as a potential catalyst for greater usage..."