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AI: ECI Software Solutions 

John Maiuri
President of the LBM & Hardlines Group, Building & Construction Division
ECI Software Solutions

Hardware Retailing (HR): What are some of the AI tools you’re seeing lumber and building material retailers using right now?
John Maiuri (JM): There seem to be two ends of the spectrum in this industry, but many of our customers are forward-thinking and ahead of the curve and are currently using AI for search on their websites, within their analytic tools, and finding third-party providers for purpose-built utilization concepts. We are slowly bringing into the realm of possibility for our clients within our web e-commerce a tool they can use it to write blogs that allow them to optimize SEO. 

Within the analytic tools we deliver, we are embedding a natural language interpreter that allows people to write pretty advanced SQL queries through the analytic tool. We’re trying to be pretty pragmatic about how we bring any AI technologies to the market based on what the market acceptance will be and what will be our return on investment. There is a bit of a slow start for people in this industry who are largely focused on the logistical difficulties of running these sizable enterprises.

HR: What AI solutions does ECI Software Solutions offer to its customers?
JM: We are trying to make engagement with our technology easier for our customers. That’s the high-level premise of what we’re doing. People adapt to and utilize technology differently depending upon their aptitude and their ability to embrace it well. If we can use AI to help them do so in an easier fashion, then we are obtaining equity as a result.

HR: How are you seeing AI helping retailers be more efficient? Will AI take jobs?
JM: I think people need to be very pragmatic about things like AI and deeper investments in technology. From Day 1, tech has always had the best of intentions of allowing people to do more with less, and if you think about the bigger picture, that’s the opportunity with AI. But I don’t think retailers will have to worry about AI taking jobs. You’re not going to get technology to load and unload trucks or interpret what people want or put things on the shelves in a store. AI and tech will serve a purpose, but I don’t perceive that there’s any sort of wholesale elimination of workers as a result of using them. 

About Lindsey Thompson

Lindsey joined the NHPA staff in 2021 as an associate editor for Hardware Retailing magazine. A native of Ohio, Lindsey earned a B.S. in journalism and minors in business and sociology from Ohio University. She loves spending time with her husband, two kids, two cats and one dog, as well as doing DIY projects around the house, going to concerts, boating and cheering on the Cleveland Indians.

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