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Koji Sasahara / AP

Retailers are suffering the twin headwinds of slow productivity growth and a competitive e-commerce environment that pits stores against each other on price. With retail stocks sputtering — The SPDR S&P Retail ETF is down 4% over twelve months — it's no wonder retailers are turning to AI technology as a potential lifeline.

RetailWeek's Friday report on AI impacting retail touts tools like AI-enabled systems that sort through customer emails to surface those that are most urgent, without wasting man hours on triage decisions. And it highlights an experimental robot that answers simple questions while helping shoppers navigate a San Francisco-based Lowes.

Why it matters: Amazonization is leading to a retail environment where a few stores thrive at the expense of a great struggling mass of competitors. If traditional retailers want to break this spell, they will have to boldly experiment with these technologies in the hopes of gaining an edge.

Go deeper

Republicans gear up for day-of and post-Election Day litigation

Voters wait in line to cast their early ballots Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Republican Party officials say they're already looking to Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Nevada as likely battlegrounds for post-election lawsuits if the results are close.

The big picture: As pre-election lawsuits draw to a close, and with President Trump running behind Joe Biden in national and many battleground state polls, Republicans are turning their attention to preparations for Election Day and beyond, and potential recounts.

Federal Reserve expands lending program for small businesses

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell at a news conference in 2019. Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

The Federal Reserve said on Friday it would again lower the minimum loan size for its pandemic-era small business program.

Details: Businesses and nonprofits will be able to borrow a minimum of $100,000 from the facility, down from $250,000 — a move that might attract smaller businesses that don't need as hefty of a loan. Since the program launched earlier this year, the minimum loan size has been reduced twice.

2 hours ago - Economy & Business

How Trump and Biden would steer the future of transportation

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden would likely steer automotive policy in different directions over the next four years, potentially changing the industry's road map to the future.

Why it matters: The auto industry is on the cusp of historic technological changes and the next president — as well as the next Congress — could have an extraordinary influence on how the future of transportation plays out.