Harnessing the power of AI for innovation and shrink reduction: A talk with David Wilkinson at NRF 2024


Harnessing the power of AI for innovation and shrink reduction: A talk with David Wilkinson at NRF 2024


In January, NCR Voyix CEO David Wilkinson took the stage at NRF to discuss one of the hottest topics in retail right now: artificial intelligence.  

He started the talk on a playful note, invoking writer Isaac Asimov’s work to set the tone for the session and highlighting how AI technology has transcended the novelty of science fiction to become a practical and impactful solution for retailers of all types.  

“We have real problems to solve today that will require great technology to solve,” emphasize Wilkinson. “We're going to drive practical use cases to solve practical problems, and... we're going to leverage AI in our technology to drive hard dollar return on investment.”

Joined by Clodagh Moriarty, Chief Retail & Technology Officer at Sainsbury's, the conversation delved into concrete examples of the transformative power of AI in the retail sector.  

Moriarty outlined the company’s strategic focus on value, item availability, and convenience for customers, as well as operational efficiency and shrink reduction.  

“There's three big areas that we're focused on as a business. The first is value...ensuring we're putting more money in customers' pockets,” she said. “The second is about availability and everything that we can do to drive availability of products that customers need and products that customers really love. And last but not least is about ease and speed of shop.” -

Moriarty highlighted the company’s use of AI to power their loyalty program, Nectar, which offers shoppers personalized shopping incentives, providing incredible value for customers. Now, with stronger customer data, Nectar is used to send shoppers incentives tailored to their personal shopping habits and the products they purchase most often. The result? “I have to say the customer sentiment around that has been immense,” remarked Moriarty.  

But the applications of AI don’t stop there. Sainsbury’s utilizes predictive technology to ensure that shelves remain stocked and inventory is organized in advance of busy shopping seasons. “We had clean, clear, really sharp warehouses and it meant that we didn't have a huge amount of working capital sitting in the back of house that we couldn't access,” said Moriarty.

Looking ahead, Moriarty shared Sainsbury’s vision of using additional AI-powered initiatives to to update the front-end shopping experience and improve the ease with which consumers can complete their shopping, as well as using it to reduce operational challenges, like shrink. “To be able to minimize shrink I think, overall, as an industry, is to ensure that we’re able to track that data and deploy this technology to be able to catch it and fix it in the moment."

In closing, the two took a moment to reflect on the transformational effects of AI at Sainsbury’s so far, as well as the new opportunities for innovation and market differentiation that the technology has created.  

“Value, availability, and ease of shop, all using technology to create a set of customer experiences [is] what will allow you to differentiate yourselves in the market,” summarized Wilkinson. “That's what's allowed you to create some market leadership and continue to do great things in the market that you serve.”