At the POMS 2024 conference held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, LIFT Lab PhD student Fabio Castro took the stage to present his groundbreaking research in collaboration with Dr. Sreedevi Rajagopalan and Dr. Josué Velázquez Martínez. Their presentation zeroed in on “Conversational AI Supporting Data-Driven Decisions for Micro-Retailers,” probing into how advanced technologies, particularly Large Language Models, can revolutionize the productivity of micro-retailers.

From the complexities of delivering small packages to navigating constraints of space and working capital, micro-retailers face an array of hurdles. Fabio Castro posed a crucial question: How can micro-retailers make better, data-driven decisions in such a dynamic environment?

His proposition lies in the potential of Conversational AI as a transformative tool capable of reshaping how decision-makers interact with their existing data and how data analytics communicates with the decision-makers. The motivation behind the research is the observation that more micro-retailers are adopting simple management systems that hold transaction data. Still, shop owners don’t use that valuable data to support their decisions. Meanwhile, WhatsApp is the most used mobile application in Latin America, providing a natural-language interface with which shop owners can interact with their data.

Through rigorous lab experiments, Fabio explored how Conversational AI can improve decision-making processes. The results yield compelling evidence of the viability and efficacy of conversational AI in enhancing businesses’ data-driven decision-making.

Buoyed by the promising outcomes of this research, the lab has developed WhatsApp chatbots that hold text and audio conversations with shopkeepers, advising them about their supply chain decisions via a data-driven approach based on analysis and optimization of their existing transaction data. The lab is now deploying pilot projects in Mexico and Brazil, in collaboration with partner universities Monterey TEC and TecMilenio, to assess the practicality and effectiveness of the tool in real-world settings

As Fabio Castro ventures into uncharted territory with his pilot project, the journey towards empowering micro-retailers through conversational-interfaced data analytics heralds a new era of data-driven decision-making and economic empowerment, with technology catalyzing positive change and inclusive development.