Artificial Intelligence: Have Irish Retailers Fallen Behind Their International Counterparts?

By Publications Checkout
Artificial Intelligence: Have Irish Retailers Fallen Behind Their International Counterparts?

Aidan O'Sullivan looks at Artificial Intelligence in the Irish retail industry. 

Irish companies appear to have fallen behind the pack in terms of embracing the world of Artificial Intelligence (AI), and, according to a report from PwC and the Analytics Institute, this will cost them serious business.

In the retail scene, Ireland is looking particularly far away from utilising such advanced technologies, but Checkout  has looked at some innovative actions from retailers across Europe to see where those at home could start.

Slow To Adapt

Research from analytics company Nielsen in August last year found that Irish and UK shoppers are among the slowest to adapt to new convenience technology, despite their increasing demand for it. So what sort of initiatives do those found wanting actually want?

According to the very same report, Irish consumers appear to be ahead of the curve in terms of the use of self-service checkouts, but many stores across mainland Europe have already moved beyond these, including the UK, and have made the transition to checkout-free stores.


Tesco, the UK retailer with a strong presence in Ireland, began testing the system in the UK last year, along with a host of the country’s top retailers. So too has Spar, the South African retailer that also features strongly in the Irish market, launched a checkout-free store in the Netherlands.

In fact, many retailers across Europe are already at the stage where they are launching self-driving delivery robots, rather than focusing on self-checkouts (unlike Russia, where retailer X5 is testing voice-activated systems and the emphasis is on in-store improvements).

Even in America, retailers like Kroger and Walmart have an automated delivery system. PepsiCo, a company’s whose big brands are heavily featured in Ireland, introduced self-driving robots that will deliver snacks and beverages to students at a Californian university.

Dutch Courage?

In the Netherlands, Albert Heijn (AH), the Dutch supermarket owned by Dutch-Belgian operator Ahold Delhaize, also uses a self-driving delivery robot to deliver orders placed on the retailer’s mobile app.

However, Ahold, in particular, has made great strides in working with AI and other advanced forms of technology.


In November last year, the retailer entered into a partnership with Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) and the Innovation Center for Artificial Intelligence (ICAI) in Amsterdam, to expand its Artificial Intelligence for Retail (AIR) Lab.

The expansion included a robotics research programme and a test site, to drive state-of-the-art innovations in the retail industry. AH even partnered with the NEMO Science Museum in Amsterdam for the new campaign ‘to make it cool’ for schoolchildren to learn more about technology and science.

Since these programmes, the retailer has tested a dynamic discounting system that uses artificial intelligence to deterring the value of discounts on products based on their shelf lives.

The algorithm takes into account factors such as location, bonus offers, weather conditions, historical sales trends, and stock in the store.

Another Dutch company, the material handling and logistics automation company Vanderlande, acquired a minority interest in robotics development company Smart Robotics in 2017.


The group wanted to increase its robotic technology development for logistic purposes. It is already making great use of AI through its smart item robotics (SIR) system which handles a diverse product range, with no need for training, and can intelligently and smoothly secure one item while bin-to-bin belt packing, making it an excellently efficient product sorter.

The First Steps?

It is more than likely, however, that any major adoption and implementation of AI into the Irish retail landscape will not be seen in the immediate future as their main priority right now is Brexit and the impacts associated with that.

While it can be argued that such technologies would streamline operations, thus saving costs, but to commit to serious investment into technologies that would require specialised training and handling, which is hard to see happening while there is such uncertainty surrounding the future.

At the end of the day, knowledge is king so looking around Europe could prove more than fruitful for Irish companies looking to make the first major steps in the industry.

The reality of it is - the implementation of artificial intelligence is soon to become a retail reality - whether businesses like it or not.

© 2019 Checkout – your source for the latest Irish retail news. Article by Aidan O’Sullivan. Click sign-up to subscribe to Checkout.

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