AI won’t replace personal connection, say retailers

AI won’t replace personal connection, emotion or design reasoning, but KBB retailers need to embrace change, were the thoughts of the panel at the Kbsa conference. 

17 Oct, 23

AI won’t replace personal connection, emotion or design reasoning, but KBB retailers need to embrace change, were the thoughts of the retail panel at the Kbsa conference.

AI won’t replace personal connection, say retailers

It followed on from a talk by founder of Mike Bradley who said there was nothing to be scared of using AI.

In his presentation, he said AI could help retailers’ businesses, for example through storytelling, but to truly grasp the potential they just need to use it.

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He explained success will be about knowing the questions to ask, however humans will still be required to curate the answers.

Despite stating he was still quite sceptical about AI, as he liked human contact, design and showroom manager of Halcyon Interiors Graham Robinson said as part of The Big Debate: “Use it but don’t lose that personal contact.”

Design director of top-end retailer Kitchens by J.S.Geddes Joanne Geddes said she doesn’t fear losing work to AI, as she commented: “I think at the lower end of the kitchen market, it could take those jobs because people are looking for standard solutions – they’re looking for an L-shape or they’re looking for an island.

“I see it being helpful tool during design but am I going to sell a kitchen that’s been generated by AI? I’d probably say no and the reasons I would say no are that human connection.

“It can’t replicate human emotion, human feeling, sounds, smells, tastes, so how it’s going to be able to interpret how designers think and feel? I’m not sure.”

However, Joanna Geddes said designers need embrace change “but with real conviction that, as independents, we still have the upper hand on AI.”

CEO of Coalville Kitchens and owner of Kutchenhaus Lutterworth franchise Luke Wedgbury suggested AI could become commonplace, as he pointed to the example of CAD, which was new to the industry 20-30 years’ ago.

He added: “We can either bury our head in the sand or choose to embrace technology which is available and build it into our business.

While owner of The Myers Touch Keith Myers commented from the floor that AI gave independents an opportunity to showcase their design skills. “It is the opportunity we have as design professionals to being something exceptional into the marketplace that nobody else can do.

“People buy from people – and the emotion that they bring, they’re not just buying a box on the wall. I think it’s a great opportunity for us but we have to grow and we have to develop.”

Answering a question from the floor about whether AI designers would lose out as AI is able to copy work, design and marketing director of Lima Kitchens Elizabeth Pantling-Jones replied: “Our portfolio is already out there online, so it’s already easy for someone to do, but what AI isn’t necessarily going to know is the technology, reasoning and what’s behind those doors.

“We add value. So need to continue to evolve and remain relevant and add value and experience