The fast acceleration of e-commerce is owed in part to the development of artificial intelligence. AI is what allows retailers to know what to stock, where to stock it and how to ship it. And often, AI is working hard for consumers in the background without them even knowing it.“[AI] is the glue that can connect the good customer experience digitally to … the store [experience],” Sudhir Balebail, program director for IBM’s (NYSE: IBM) Sterling Order Management System, told Modern Shipper. “The worst thing you can do is [get a customer] excited about a product, and as they get closer to the cart, find out the product is not available.”The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the disparities between brands that are effectively using AI and machine learning to do everything from tracking orders to managing inventory and those that are not.Party City is one such company. The gift and party store increased its digital sales 36% in Q3 2020 thanks to the implementation of new order fulfillment capabilities, including buy online, pickup in store (BOPIS). Adidas also saw similar benefits in 2020, leveraging AI to reduce shipping cost per order, increase net sales and improve fulfillment reliability through an expansion of “ship-from-store.”Both companies are users of IBM’s AI platforms and because of that were positioned to benefit when the world changed in 2020.