Artificial intelligence will create a tsunami in retail that will have a huge impact on staffing levels, according to Thomas Cook’s John Straw.

John Straw

Speaking at a panel session at Retail Week Live 2015, Straw, Thomas Cook’s digital advisory board chairman, warned that retailers must start planning for the disruption that will caused by artificial intelligence.

He said: “The next wave, a tsunami, is artificial intelligence and that is happening now. Google has roomfuls of quantum physicists doing [artificial intelligence] experiments.”

Straw highlighted a Mckinsey study that forecasts 44 million white-collar workers will be out of a job by 2025 as a result of artificial intelligence developments and believes a service-heavy industry such as retail will be heavily hit.

“Are you ready for it, are you planning for it and what are the opportunities you can you create out of that?” asked Straw.

John Straw on artificial intelligence

Straw said that artificial intelligence will allow the deep mining of data to allow people to offer Amazon-style services such as predicting what consumers want to buy based on previous purchases.  

In a wide-ranging discussion, HMV digital managing director James Coughlan argued the only way to ensure businesses can react quickly to digital innovation is by giving digital experts a place on the board.

Coughlan said: “Digital representation on the board is extremely important, at HMV we have a strong process where I sit on the board and I can have conversations with the chief executive and make decisions quickly.”

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