The retail industry is abuzz with talk of a renaissance, driven in large part by the newfound capabilities extended to retailers by artificial intelligence (AI) innovation. Within the tidal wave of emerging AI applications, video AI stands out in its ability to quickly and effectively help retailers bolster brick-and-mortar sales performance. It does so by generating new, previously unavailable data on the physical retail environment, using that data to pinpoint what does and doesn’t work, and enabling greater agility for retailers in responding to issues and opportunities.
Insights From Data Unseen
The discussion of AI in retail has largely been dominated by back-end solutions, which help companies better understand and leverage existing data that makes up their ecosystem, but don’t necessarily carve a clear, direct path to sales impact. Video AI on the other hand digitizes the physical retail setting, creating brand new data sets that weren’t available before, yielding grounded, easy-to-understand insights that can be put to use immediately to improve sales.
Imagine the same anecdotal or empirical evidence retailers may have gathered and used in the past to inform their brick-and-mortar strategy — now scaled significantly, digitized comprehensively and capable of being trusted with unparalleled confidence. With this level of precise insight into the physical goings-on within a store, retailers have a new view into what’s actually driving brick-and-mortar sales performance. No longer do they have to deduce based solely on what transaction data and inventory levels can tell them.
Identifying What Works and What Doesn’t
For retailers, trying out new things in their stores to capture consumer interest — and wallets — can sometimes feel like a dart throw. These strategies can be backed by reliable historical data, but remain far from a sure thing and require a healthy dose of good faith. Video AI offers a different way. It plugs into a retailer’s physical environment in a manner that truly shows them what’s working and what isn’t.
Using only the feed from a standard security camera, a video AI solution can produce data on store occupancy, traffic flow, product interactions, in-store hot spots and more. The technology can also capture customer details such as demographics, in addition to emotions, gestures and facial expressions as they relate to a store visitor’s experience and in-store interactions. That information helps paint a vastly clearer picture, identifying all the variables and factors in play that may be influencing sales performance.
This past holiday season, a slew of retailers sought to claim a share of the toy sales left up for grab in the wake of Toys"R"Us’ demise. With post-holiday data, these retailers will have to make a call on whether selling toys is something they should continue doing. With insights available via video AI, they can gain a more accurate view into why their toy sales experiment failed or succeeded. Was it a lack of customer interest in the products? Was the toy section located in an area of the store that always receives poor foot traffic? This level of detail, possible through video AI, can help retailers approach new products or store experiences with confidence and evaluate their performance with specificity, as opposed to the somewhat blind trial-and-error process they’ve had to employ conventionally.
Sharper, Faster Reaction Times
Video AI not only generates new data and transforms how calculated retailers can be in enhancing the customer experience, it also does it all in real time. These solutions can often be configured to retailers’ needs, allowing them to rapidly capitalize on opportunities, mitigate issues and more.
If a product is flying off shelves, the system can automate alerts that ensure staff restock it in a timely fashion. If certain aisles consistently end up congested with customers, a store can redistribute the contents of the aisle to other locations to alleviate the issue. When checkout lines get long, a video AI solution can alert managers so they can have staff open up more checkout stations and minimize wait times for customers. The technology can even be programmed to identify when customer service is needed and where, enabling staff to quickly address questions rather than forcing store visitors to wander around looking for an employee.
Amidst an influx of AI solutions arriving to serve the retail sector, video AI is uniquely evolving how retailers manufacture the customer experience and grow sales — essentially turning ordinary businesses into super-powered operations. The retail renaissance continues to take shape gradually, but for companies leveraging video AI, the future is arriving early.
Michael Adair is president and CEO of Deep North, a deep learning and AI video analytics platform for enterprises.