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Retail customer experience

How computer vision tech is revolutionizing brick-and-mortar retail

Trevor Sumner Retail Customer Experience Tuesday, 01 May 2018

Hope and vision are turning into reality and revenue as emerging technologies like AR/VR, AI and IoT live up to the promise that brick and mortar stores can reinvent retail.

In-aisle innovation is shifting how we perceive the future of retail, opening the possibilities of what can be done to shape customer experiences. The physical retail experience seems to have become an enjoyable, entertaining and informational experience for shoppers — and for the ones who get it right, a profitable endeavor for retailers.

Big-name players like Macy's have been forced to adapt or die amid the e-commerce boom, but are now beginning to see the payoff of their efforts to keep shoppers interested in brick and mortar stores — the company reported same-store sales rose by 3 percent in January alone, reversing a trend of 12 quarters of decline.

Macy's is among the old guard of retailers trying to find a blend between a physical and digital experience, however some are struggling to keep pace-JCPenney kicked off 2018 announcing it was cutting hundreds of employees amid anemic earnings. Retailers are eager to incorporate new ways to facilitate omnichannel shopping experiences in an increasingly mobile-first world. Leveraging smart technologies to collect data and insights on both in-store and online shopping behavior will allow retailers to keep up and compete with e-commerce giants like Amazon by creating a seamless, integrated customer experience.

The debut of Amazon Go early this year is only making it more complicated. Once again, Amazon is altering the retail landscape with brick and mortar stores that leverage a combination of AI, sensor and camera network-based systems. With these advanced technologies, Amazon Go can identify what shoppers grab from the store's shelves and let them walk out the store without a formal checkout process, making the shopping experience easier than ever before.

For traditional brick-and-mortars to have a fighting chance against digital natives like Amazon, they must embrace technologies that bring a personalized and streamlined in-store shopping experience. No one is going to beat Amazon. But they can play along with the same advanced technology that enables Amazon Go stores to offer smart, forward-looking visions for brick-and-mortar stores: computer vision technology.

Shoppers want unique, immersive and frictionless retail experiences. They may not know what computer vision technologies can do, but they are holding out for the promise. Retail needs to evolve to the point that every inanimate object interacted with can be enhanced by computer vision to tell the shopper more what they need and want to know. Here are ways computer vision technology can lead the way:

Market in the market
Leveraging interactive display technologies can merge the benefits of digital content with the physical world to deliver highly personalized product messaging, driving engagement and product sales lift. 3D cameras and RFID-sensing technologies can create mixed reality, immersive marketing experiences based on what products are being touched and interacted with. Additionally, companies like Ksubaka are consolidating online and in-store digital content, allowing retailers to deliver messaging to captivate customers in real time.By creating a "gamification model" for Topshop, Ksubaka increased customer survey responses by 50x, while educating consumers about products.

A change in the clouds
By utilizing cloud technology, retailers can measure store traffic by capturing insights in real-time. Integrating computer vision-based technologies can gather key data on how customers interact with products and behave in-store, identifying key trends to help personalize each shopping experience. Through computer vision, retailers have identified increased dwell times in particular retail locations amongst millennials, as preferences shift towards spending more time and money in-store.

Changing how retailers stock, utilizing inventory management solutions an AI
Smart cameras can easily detect and autonomously manage low stock and inventory supplies, notifying retailers ahead of time before issues arise.Startups who are making strides in this space include Bossa Nova Robotics, who engineered inventory-scanning retail robots with a built-in inventory database to help stores make informed decisions about what (and what not) to sell.

Changing how retailers merchandise through virtual planogram management solutions
Deploying augmented reality technologies will enable visualization of products in-store or at home, empowering shoppers to make their own purchasing decisions.The beauty industry is seeing the benefits first-hand, using AR to allow customers to virtually try on an unlimited inventory of makeup, hair care or sunglasses using technologies from Modiface and YouCam.

Facetime with customers
Retailers are reinventing how they greet customers at the point of sale by utilizing biometric authentication technologies like facial recognition to create more personalized in-store experiences. By doing so, companies like Facenote are facilitating more convenient checkouts, thus increasing customer loyalty and sales.

We are in an era where modern technologies can be seamlessly embedded within brick-and-mortars, enabling traditional retailers to compete with the convenience and variety of online shopping by creating unparalleled, immersive customer-centric experiences.The days of "digital" being relegated to looping videos in-store is over.

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