John Boumphrey live

John Boumphrey delivered a keynote address at Retail Week x The Grocer LIVE

Generative AI will be “the most transformational technology for the retail industry since the arrival of the internet” Amazon UK country manager John Boumphrey has said, revealing that “every single team at Amazon” is exploring its use.

Generative AI, a type of artificial intelligence that generates new and original content, using techniques like neural networks and deep learning, had “broken into the collective consciousness” in the past 18 months, Boumphrey said, adding its development and deployment was happening “right across our business”.

The technology is already being used at Amazon to generate summaries of customer reviews “so that you don’t have to read 100 entries to get a sense of what most people like or dislike about a product” Boumphrey told the Retail Week x The Grocer LIVE audience.

In the US, Amazon in February introduced Rufus – a generative AI-powered “expert shopping assistant” trained on its product catalogue and information from across the internet. Shoppers can interrogate it to answer questions on “shopping needs, products, and comparisons”, and it can “make recommendations based on this context, and facilitate product discovery”.

Similar capabilities are also being made available to customers of Amazon Web Services, such as the The Very Group, which late last year collaborated with AWS to “deliver interactive and personalised digital shopping experiences to millions of customers” the group said.

Generative AI is further being used by “100,000 small and medium-sized UK businesses” to create product listings.

“This is only the beginning. We are but a few steps into a marathon,” Boumphrey said.

In his keynote speech this morning, Boumphrey also spoke of Amazon’s efforts to increase automation across its warehouses, and Amazon’s plans to introduce drone deliveries in the UK later this year.

Several fmcg companies are already using generative AI or exploring its use within their businesses, among them Coca-Cola, Carrefour and Instacart. In May last year, Deliveroo CEO Will Shu told The Grocer the potential of the tech was “absolutely mind-blowing”.

“It’s not one of those things where it’s a theory – you think about crypto, blockchain all of that stuff where you’re like ‘OK, what is this really?’ This is live today. I feel as strongly about this as I do the iPhone,” Shu said.