Businesses can achieve maximum success during the holiday season by utilizing AI and automation in their retail shipping operations. The holiday season is critical for companies, but the increased sales often come with shipping headaches. Luckily, artificial intelligence (AI) and automation provide key solutions for simplifying shipping for businesses and customers.

The predictive and analytical capabilities of AI are especially useful for shipping. Collaborative robots can be used to automate stages of the shipping process, ensuring things move through warehouses and fulfillment centers as efficiently as possible. AI can even put a stop to holiday cybercrime. These top four applications of AI and automation are revolutionizing holiday retail shipping.


1. Autonomous pick-and-pack

Often the part of the shipping process that needs to be optimized is the physical packaging of each and every order. Automation is the perfect solution for this, especially with the use of collaborative robots, or cobots. Automating key stages of the shipping process allows orders to be processed with greater safety and efficiency. In fact, business experts have found that automation can double or even triple productivity while also increasing security and decreasing labor requirements.

Automation has been the key to Amazon’s incredibly fast delivery standards, and the tactic can work for other businesses, too. For example, a robot can be used to seal boxes after an employee verifies they have been packed correctly. Similarly, robots can use RFID tags to locate and transport items around warehouses and fulfillment centers, saving employees precious time and energy.


2. AI logistics planning

One of the key challenges of holiday season shipping is unpredictable events that slow the process. Many areas have to contend with severe weather conditions that block roads and create power outages. The turbulent surge in orders to process makes things even more complicated.

AI offers a way for businesses to plan for the unpredictable and optimize shipping routes. It can also generate big data that is incredibly valuable. Logistics simulations and digital twins have become popular tools in commerce for these exact purposes.

This technology works by creating a simulated copy of the supply chain, warehouse, fulfillment center, shipping process or whatever system is needed. Logistics and safety officers can then test different strategies in the simulation. The AI predicts detailed outcomes and can even simulate random events, such as traffic issues and weather delays.

This data can then be used to predict shipping rates, anticipate staffing needs and create weather emergency plans. An AI simulation makes the shipping process as optimized as possible, so it is running at peak efficiency when the holiday season rolls around.


3. AI customer service

Businesses and shipping companies alike struggle with an influx of customer service requests during the holiday season, but AI can help. Many people are familiar with rudimentary chatbots, but these are vastly different from today's advanced AI tools. Chatbots operate by scanning client input for keywords and returning a preprogrammed response, which typically leads to the customer requesting to speak to an agent anyway.

On the other hand, AI customer service programs use natural language processing and machine learning to offer full-service support. Natural language processing allows the AI to understand normal human speech and return logical and nuanced responses. The AI’s machine learning improves its performance over time by analyzing customer interactions to see what worked and what did not.


4. AI transaction security

Unfortunately, the holiday season is just as busy for hackers as for shoppers. Deterring cybercriminals is extremely difficult, but AI enables flexible solutions that protect businesses as well as customers. The surge in holiday cybercrime is the result of the inherent nature of seasonal shopping. People spend more money than usual and buy things they would not normally purchase. This makes it easy for hackers to sneak extra transactions onto stolen credit or debit cards.

AI helps put a stop to this using advanced pattern recognition. The AI can analyze purchasing habits to create a standard for the cardholder’s holiday activity. This data is then used to recognize unusual spending, even in the midst of holiday behavior changes. The AI could spot a strange shipping address or identify a large order that was placed quickly. This ensures every online transaction that gets shipped is a real purchase and isn’t going into the hands of cybercriminals.


Safer, smarter holiday shipping

Retail shipping can operate just as quickly as shopping with the help of AI and automation. These technological tools are invaluable for businesses right now, as more people are going online for their holiday purchases. AI and automation are the perfect tools for ensuring customers get the items they need while keeping everyone safe along the way.