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The Most Exciting Frontier Of Retail Technology Is In-Store AI

The Most Exciting Frontier Of Retail Technology Is In-Store AI

Trevor Sumner is Head of AI and Innovation at Raydiant and a successful NYC entrepreneur, investor, scuba diver, and amateur cook.

The retail landscape is rapidly transforming, and at the heart of this evolution is the burgeoning field of computer vision. As venture capitalist Peter Thiel suggests in his book Zero To One, the most thrilling entrepreneurial endeavors are those merging high-tech innovations with our physical reality - a principle evidenced by disruptors like Uber and AirBnB and now revolutionizing in-store experiences and operations through computer vision.  While you can eek out a bit more efficiency in eCommerce  personalization, content optimization or live shopping, the physical retail storefront has not improved meaningfully in decades and is a blank slate for technological innovation.  And because brick-and-mortar still represents 85% of transactions, it's also the largest opportunity. 

In an industry often characterized by slim profit margins and intense competition, retailers are on a perpetual quest to optimize operations, understand customer behaviors, and personalize shopping experiences. Leading the charge are pioneering companies employing computer vision and AI technologies to reinvent retail media and enhance customer interaction profoundly and entrepreneurs who embrace AI have a window to to capture large markets. 

Computer Vision in Retail Media Measurement and Personalization

I lead AI and Innovation at Raydiant, an in-store digital experience platform that harnesses computer vision to tailor in-store advertising dynamically and measure the actual impact of messaging on verified viewers.  We also measure what products shoppers pickup and takeaway, and ultimately, the corresponding sales lift, providing a full funnel of visibility. Through real-time analysis of customer demographics and engagement, Raydiant's platform ensures that in-store content and apps are relevant, engaging, and likely to convert, ushering in a new age of personalized retail media.  This is a far cry from the current measurement based on directional geodata of entire locations, vendors with "impression multipliers" to inflate numbers, or those that use inaccurate RF or bluetooth signals.  Verified data is the key to unlocking the scale and profitability of retail media through accurate measurement, content optimization and personalization.  More data creates a flywheel for better AI.


Understanding Shopper Journeys With Computer Vision

Retail analytics have been a consistently growing industry accelerated by new AI techniques and computer vision object detection.  RetailNext and Pathr are good examples of platforms known for their spatial intelligence analysis, utilizing computer vision to gain insights into shopper flow and behavior. By mapping customers' movements within stores, computer vision helps retailers optimize store layouts, product placements, and even staff allocation to improve the overall shopping experience and efficiency. "Our technology doesn’t recognize individuals but rather movement patterns that are predictive of sales potential," states the CTO of Pathr, suggesting the non-invasive and analytics-focused application of these solutions.  Onsights.io takes this to the next level by measuring traffic across large malls to see the affinity between store, how events affect shopping behaviors, and how to properly value each storefront. 


Managing Product Merchandising By Knowing What Is And Isn't On The Shelf

Anyone in mass market retail will tell you that products being shelved in the wrong places (aka planogram compliance) and out-of-stocks are extremely costly. Unilever uses CoolR Group to measure inventories in coolers so they can restock when needed and have seen a 30% sales lift.  Schnucks and Wakefern have integrated Simbe's TallE  and Walmart has it's own robots to navigate aisles and provide inventory updates, removing mundane operations tasks to empower sales associates to manage exceptions.  And platforms like Clobotics and Arpalus are putting these capabilities on sales associate's mobile phones.  Brands can now see how well retailers merchandise their products and collaborate on in-store execution-  a better experience for shoppers.


Augmenting Sales Associates

It's not just computer vision but voice and natural language processing by AI having monumental impacts.  Theatro empowers sales associates by providing them with hands-free, voice-command access to inventory information, co-worker assistance, and customer service enhancements, all aimed at elevating the in-store service standards.  RillaVoice listens to sales associate conversations in a privacy compliant way and can recommend sales coaching based on each and every conversation super-scaling sales management.  


Loss Prevention And Crime Reduction

Retail crime has become a dominant issue in the media and to the bottom line according to the National Retail Federation.  Supplying intelligent license plate readers to giants like Lowe's, Flock Safety bolsters retail security, connects data on crimes across locations and times and ultimately reduces crime by an astounding 30%, by providing law enforcement the evidence they need.  Many are investing in computer vision AI to help detect criminal behavior as it occurs in the store, although enforcement is an unresolved concern. 


Why The Future Of AI Is In-Store - Data Unlocks Better Shopping Experiences

"In a world that is increasingly data-driven, the ability to capture and analyze in-store customer interactions brings retail analytics full circle," writes Andrew Lipsman, a leading retail media analyst. Store AI is not about replacing the human touch in retail, but rather augmenting it with informed insights to deliver customer delight.

Chris Walton of Omnitalk adds, "Computer vision could be the cornerstone of the future retail experience, enabling stores to operate with greater efficiency and agility while simultaneously creating highly personalized shopping journeys."

For startups, there is a brief window to capture market share before incumbent vendor adapt to a new AI and data centric platform model. Jason Goldberg, the Chief Commerce Strategy Officer at Publicis: "Adopting in-store AI and computer vision isn't a sci-fi fantasy; it's a strategic necessity for any retailer wanting to remain competitive in today's market." As machine learning and AI continue to develop at an accelerated pace, the intertwining of digital intelligence with brick-and-mortar establishments sets the stage for an unprecedented era of retail innovation and customer satisfaction.

As this technological wave unfurls, retailers who embrace these tools will better connect with customers, streamline their operations, and possibly redefine the very essence of physical shopping for the digital age. In line with Thiel's observations, these exciting amalgamations of technology in the tangible world of retail are not just transforming the center of the industry—they're shaping the future of commerce itself.

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