SalesTechStar Interview with Stuart Ford, COO and president at DropIt Shopping

Stuart Ford, COO and president at DropIt Shopping discusses the impact of AI on modern retail workflows in this Q&A:


Welcome to this SalesTechStar chat Stuart, tell us more about DropIt Shopping and its key features, how did the idea for the platform come about?

Dropit Shopping is all about solving some of the most pressing challenges in the retail industry. We are a retail technology company that facilitates an integrated view of all data within a retailer’s existing legacy systems to address a range of issues, from speeding up fulfillment processes to tackling complex inventory imbalances and reducing logistics costs.

Our platform is powered by an AI decision engine that consolidates information to make more informed choices around inventory, fulfillment, and returns. Our journey began on London’s High Street, where we introduced hands-free shopping to enhance omnichannel capabilities for top brands. This experience laid the foundation for our commitment to helping retailers navigate the ever-changing landscape of the industry. With the rapid pace of changes and disruptions, from e-commerce growth to global supply chain disruptions, retailers need comprehensive tools to make the best decisions.

Dropit’s platform brings together various components of their operations, enabling smarter choices in the face of these challenges, empowering retailers to work smarter and achieve better operational efficiency.

We’d love to hear about your latest AI solution and how it can effectively help end users better manage returns processes. In addition, how are you seeing AI impact the retail tech segment as a whole today?

We’ve recently announced Smart Returns, an AI-driven solution that simplifies how retailers manage returns. Returns have become a significant pain point in the retail industry, especially given the current market dynamics. Margins have been squeezed and return volumes are soaring. Now, Smart Returns steps in as a game-changer. Just as our core technology optimizes outbound fulfillment, we realized we could apply the same principles to the returns process.

We’re essentially helping retailers bridge the gap between operational data and customer-centric service while making decisions that are cost-effective and efficient. Our AI decision engine acts as the brain behind it all, seamlessly blending 1st and 3rd party data to offer more informed decisions. We’re talking about everything from inventory levels and sales patterns to external factors like weather and seasonality. This holistic approach empowers retailers to make informed, automated choices, maximizing value from each return and mitigating operational losses. It’s like having a retail expert by your side, always ready to guide you toward the best decisions for your bottom line.

When we talk about AI’s analytical impact on the retail tech landscape, we’re essentially looking at a transformative force. It’s not just about making things efficient; it’s about crafting exceptional customer experiences through intelligent, data-backed solutions. With AI in the driver’s seat, companies gain the power to make swift, well-informed decisions that directly impact their bottom line. It’s a game-changer that’s all about cutting costs and optimizing performance.

What truly resonates with me is AI’s pivotal role in waste reduction across the retail industry. Think about it this way, in retail, if we can’t manage our inventory effectively, the whole business would suffer. This is where AI can step in as a guardian, helping to audit waste out of our supply chains.

Here’s a tangible scenario: Imagine our Smart Returns solution using AI to analyze historical sales, real-time demand, and other factors. The AI engine detects where an item is most likely to resell, avoiding unnecessary dead stock. By doing so, we’re not only saving on emissions but also significantly reducing future waste. This is a clear testament to how AI isn’t just a buzzword, it’s a force that empowers us to create a more sustainable and efficient future.

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Can you share a little about the most exciting AI driven experiences you’ve seen across global retail (leading brands)?

Most of the developments we are seeing in the market are focusing on generative AI, creating and optimizing content for retailers. Where we see the biggest opportunities, however, is in the analytical use of AI, using complex and diverse data sources to identify insights that can fuel efficiencies, provide insights, and reduce costs in increasingly complex supply and logistics channels.

One particularly exciting area is demand forecasting. Retailers are starting to leverage AI’s ability to sift through extensive historical sales data, market trends, and external influences to better predict future product demand with increasing accuracy.

We are also starting to see AI’s ability to optimize the complexities of supply chain management. The integration of various data sources— such as sales trends, shipping times, weather patterns, and geopolitical events— can facilitate AI-driven decision-making. This includes optimizing inventory levels, fine-tuning distribution strategies, and even identifying the most efficient shipping routes.

What are the five things you feel retailers should keep in mind before implementing AI driven solutions for the first time?

Here are five pieces of advice for retailers thinking about AI-driven solutions:

  • Set clear objectives: Clearly define your goals and expectations from AI integration. Whether it’s improving operational efficiency, enhancing customer experiences, or optimizing inventory, having specific objectives will guide your implementation strategy.
  • Refine the data: Ensure your data is clean, accurate, and abundant as AI relies heavily on data inputs.
  • Measure and optimize: Continuously track the impact of AI on your business and refine your strategies accordingly.
  • Flexibility for growth: Choose AI solutions that can adapt and scale as your business evolves. The retail landscape is dynamic, and your AI tools should be able to accommodate changing market trends and demands.
  • Focus on the customer: AI should enhance, not replace, the human touch. Use it to better understand and serve your customers’ needs.

Can you highlight more about the future of AI in retail in your view – how do you see this shaping up down the line?  

The future of AI in retail holds incredible promise. I foresee a landscape where personalized shopping experiences, efficient operations, and advanced insights from AI-driven solutions take center stage. What truly excites me are these advancements:

Unified Data Impact: AI will empower retailers to unite diverse data sources, creating a brighter future for supply chain management, inventory management, and fulfillment. This will enable us to face future challenges with more resilience and foresight.

Operational Efficiency: By leveraging AI to optimize inventory and curb waste, retailers can refocus on their core strengths – crafting and delivering products that resonate with customers.

As we navigate the evolving retail landscape, the integration of AI will usher in a new era of strategic resilience and enhanced customer experiences.

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Dropit layers AI into existing fulfillment systems for a smarter retail ecosystem.

Stuart Ford is COO and president at DropIt Shopping

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