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April 11 2023

Artificial intelligence is coming for wholesale – Gilroy

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b2b.store's David Gilroy says that the wholesale industry should brace itself for the impact of AI across its operations

Artificial intelligence (AI) could wage war on humans – so says Stuart Russell, one of the Godfathers of AI. And wholesale could be next in the crosshairs.

According to Danny Fortson of the Sunday Times, Elon Musk set up Open AI in 2015 as a non-profit organisation designed to save humanity from being enslaved by super-intelligent machines.

The original idea was to develop the tech in the open and for the good of the species unconstrained by a need to generate a financial return”.  Elon is dismayed at the conversion of Open AI to a for-profit company and the deals it is doing with big multi-national corporations. Notably Microsoft for Bing.

Russell’s concern is, “if the machine is more capable than humans, it will get what it wants. And if that’s not aligned with human benefit, it could be potentially disastrous”. Remember the Terminator? 

The i-newspaper recently reported on an IPSOS predictor poll based across a 36-country survey of 24,471 adults. In India, 53% of respondents said it is likely that a rogue AI will wreak havoc globally. In China, the figure was 36% and the UK 21%. There is an awakening. We’re in trouble, we face wipe out – or maybe we don’t. 

After the termination, the resurrection – the development of AI and ChatGPT. Bill Gates cautions that we must guard against risks and spread the benefits of AI to as many people as possible. He states that AI is a revolutionary technological development that will change our lives. A creation as fundamental as microprocessors, personal computers, the internet and mobile phones. His view? “It will change the way people work, learn, travel, get health care and communicate”.

The i-newspaper's Hamish McRae predicts that ChatGPT will transform the service industries making them vastly more efficient. This makes it highly relevant for wholesale.

The resurrection digitises business enhanced by ChatGPT, offering the pathway to massively improving efficiency and service in customer-facing roles. Perfect for wholesalers.

Wholesale businesses will apply AI to telesales: voice recognition, order prompting, order taking, up-selling, cross-selling and substitution recommending – all at high speed and open 24/7. They will apply it to the field sales force (making it better informed, smarter and more effective) outlet reporting, information gathering, order placement, intelligence recording, competitor activity, unique customer requirements and feedback, unlocking the real power of the human assets. 

ChatGPT will open up digital innovation in the procurement and payment arena. Ilija Ugrinic at Proactis states that more than 80% of major businesses, spurred on by the constraints of Covid-19, are seeking to digitise their back office. In our industry this could be the junking the spreadsheets, opening up the master files and giving suppliers direct access. Serious manpower savings can be realised. 

Suppliers manage the efficacy of their own details, accurate terms of trade, product attribute updates, range changes, barcodes, product links, promotions plotted and cost price increases queued. This could go as far as allowing remote order placement within an agreed set of parameters.  Partnership taken to the next level. Then extending to an industry-wide framework of product categories and product abbreviations, which in turn will regularise data analysis right across the industry – thus enhancing performance, trend and comparative analysis.

Harness the machines. Hasta la vista baby.