Artificial intelligence and analytics are increasingly critical to retailers’ ability to win, serve, and retain their customers. But the landscape of technologies is vast and advancing rapidly, so it can be hard to understand which technologies are overhyped and which have real business value. Retail execs read about initiatives such as Amazon Go and Walmart Intelligent Retail Labs — but how do retailers and brands know which technologies are worth investing in today?

Our newly published “The Forrester Tech Tide™: AI And Analytics For Retail, Q2 2021” analyzes the maturity and business value of the most commonly implemented or discussed technology categories that support AI and analytics for retail. The retail AI solutions in this report run the gamut, from solutions that employ simple forms of robotic process automation (RPA) to AI technologies that use deep learning frameworks to large AI operation technologies like autonomous stores. The AI and analytics solutions we discuss affect all players in the retail ecosystem — consumers, store associates, and knowledge workers such as buyers, planners, consumer insights pros, and IT developers. We classify each of the technologies into one of four quadrants:

  • Low maturity and low business value characterize technologies in the Experiment zone. Most enterprises should limit their exposure to these technologies to bounded experiments, waiting for the expected business value of these newer categories to improve before investing.
  • Low maturity and high business value characterize technologies in the Invest zone. These new technologies have ripened to the point where enterprises can confidently invest.
  • High maturity and high business value characterize technologies in the Maintain zone. These are the bread-and-butter technologies that most enterprises rely on to run their business. They’re generally stable, well-understood technologies that continue to have high returns to the business. Most enterprises should maintain their installations and usage of these technologies.
  • High maturity and low business value characterize technologies in the Divest zone. These older technology categories have reached a point where their business value has dropped. Most enterprises should look for newer, higher-value replacements and divest from these categories.

For each technology, we also provide a list of sample vendors and ranking of cost of implementation.

Use this research to ensure your organization’s investments are sourced around value rather than hype. If you’d like a deeper dive, please set up an inquiry with Sucharita Kodali, George Lawrie, or Brendan Witcher.


Co-written with Madeline Cyr, Researcher.