As emerging technology offers new ways to help retailers drive sales, Rachel Badham takes a look at how AI can be used in bricks-and-mortar stores
With more retailers looking to streamline operations through the latest in-store technology, automated systems are being given an intelligent upgrade. From tracking consumer behaviour to helping retailers manage product inventory, artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to not only provide key sales data, but to improve its efficiency as the system adapts and acquires more knowledge with continued usage.
So, with promising capabilities and more developments to come in the world of AI, will these forms of technology become the norm for bricks-and-mortar drinks retailers?
Brede Bjørhovd, chief product officer at Recognition – a company that uses AI to provide in-store customer behaviour and traffic insights – says that AI could become the most effective way for retailers to learn more about their customer base.
“We use AI to detect customers’ certain attributes and track their movements throughout the shopper journey. We are able to count them as they come in, see where they stop and experience friction, and when that specific customer exits.”
Compatible with any CCTV system, Recognition uses camera imagery to anonymously track customer behaviour. And when it comes to identifying behavioural trends, Bjørhovd thinks that AI is the best solution for retailers looking to boost sales without the extra legwork.
“We believe that, since customer behaviour is changing more rapidly than ever, retailers need to be able to adapt,” he says. “AI helps you do that by getting insights into movement patterns. You can see more clearly than ever what engages customers, and where to influence their choices.”
As well as helping retailers to boost consumer interest, AI could prove helpful behind the scenes, with automation being one of the main draws for retailers looking to speed up operations. Tengiz Pataraia, co-founder of Envelope retail solutions, says the company’s software – which also functions through in-store CCTV cameras – can automatically monitor stock levels, while also “generating restocking alerts, which let staff know which product to restock and when”.
But benefits aside, how practical is AI-powered in-store tech, especially for independent retailers with fewer resources? For Recognition’s Bjørhovd, making AI tech a part of a retailer’s repertoire means making the systems as accessible as possible for store owners.
“We present all of the information collected by the AI system in easy-to-consume dashboards, where retailers can then use their industry expertise to decide what the best course of action is.”
For retailers wary of the price tag, Envelope’s Pataraia estimates that, while they vary from store to store, the price of subscribing to an AI tech programme rarely “exceeds the salary of one employee for a supermarket with up to 100 cameras”.
Pataraia also notes the long-term benefits of in-store AI tech, saying it could encourage employee productivity by automating routine tasks such as stocktaking. And as AI technology continues to develop, Bjørhovd says the tech will also become more “efficient, accurate and cost-effective”, highlighting that the rise in AI systems has made them more affordable for smaller retailers.
“AI can help retailers make more sales by enhancing the customer experience, optimising product placement and improving inventory management and operations. Based on the way retail is going, we think implementing AI into your workflow is a must to stay ahead.”