1. Analysis
November 5, 2021

Filings buzz in retail: 39% increase in artificial intelligence mentions since Q2 of 2020

By Patrick Scott

Mentions of artificial intelligence within the filings of companies in the retail sector were 39% higher in the second quarter of 2021 than in Q2 of 2020.

In total, the frequency of sentences related to artificial intelligence between July 2020 and June 2021 was 118% increase than in 2016 when GlobalData, from whom our data for this article is taken, first began to track the key issues referred to in company filings.

When retail companies publish annual and quarterly reports, ESG reports and other filings, GlobalData analyses the text and identifies individual sentences that relate to disruptive forces facing companies in the coming years. Artificial intelligence is one of these topics - companies that excel and invest in these areas are thought to be better prepared for the future business landscape and better equipped to survive unforeseen challenges.

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To assess whether artificial intelligence is featuring more in the summaries and strategies of retail companies, two measures were calculated. Firstly, we looked at the percentage of companies which have mentioned artificial intelligence at least once in filings during the past twelve months - this was 69% compared to 42% in 2016. Secondly, we calculated the percentage of total analysed sentences that referred to artificial intelligence.

Of the 50 biggest employers in the retail sector, Amazon.com Inc was the company which referred to artificial intelligence the most between July 2020 and June 2021. GlobalData identified 83 artificial intelligence-related sentences in the United States-based company's filings - 1.2% of all sentences. JD.com Inc mentioned artificial intelligence the second most - the issue was referred to in 0.9% of sentences in the company's filings. Other top employers with high artificial intelligence mentions included Metro Inc, Fast Retailing Co Ltd and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.

Across all retail companies the filing published in the second quarter of 2021 which exhibited the greatest focus on artificial intelligence came from M.video. Of the document's 2,747 sentences, 36 (1.3%) referred to artificial intelligence.

This analysis provides an approximate indication of which companies are focusing on artificial intelligence and how important the issue is considered within the retail sector, but it also has limitations and should be interpreted carefully. For example, a company mentioning artificial intelligence more regularly is not necessarily proof that they are utilising new techniques or prioritising the issue, nor does it indicate whether the company's ventures into artificial intelligence have been successes or failures.

GlobalData also categorises artificial intelligence mentions by a series of subthemes. Of these subthemes, the most commonly referred to topic in the second quarter of 2021 was 'smart robots', which made up 71% of all artificial intelligence subtheme mentions by retail companies.