#Shoptalk19: Retailers need to help customers understand AI and data, says Ahold Delhaize CEO

Ahold Delhaize said retailers who are deploying artificial intelligence (AI) and using customer data need to educate their customers and store associates about the ethics of these technologies.

During a keynote at Shoptalk 2019, Ahold Delhaize president and CEO, Frans Muller, said there are many people in the world who are scared of technology, because they do not understand what it means and what it can do for them.

“There’s a true concern that if we can’t take people with us and understand what we have in mind and the benefits of technology, we have a problem,” he told delegates in Las Vegas this week.

He described how in the company’s Dutch markets the grocer has spent time training everyday people on AI to help them gain a better understanding of the technology and realise that it may not be such a threat for retail and wider industry.

Muller said that other than food safety, ethics and transparency are the biggest concerns for Ahold Delhaize. “This is because we have more and more people asking ‘what are you going to do with customer data?’ Customers want to know if we have the right ethical behaviour.”

He added: “We will only use customer data if there is a benefit for customers – we have to be very transparent. And with facial recognition legislation coming up, data protection will be a big topic, not only about giving consent on the internet, but when customers come into stores and have their picture taken, there will be the same data protection rights.”

The grocery CEO also said customers are becoming more interested in the provenance of the food they are buying. Muller said retailers need to be able to answer questions when customers want to be reassured that products have been properly harvested or know the farmer has a good standard of life.

He said the grocer is already used blockchain for products including orange juice, pineapples and fish. “It can help us be a good retailer and differentiate us from the rest and answer those consumer questions.”