Retail Automation with AI, the right focus for disruption

Retail Assist  strategies has been one of the most important consumer retention strategies of most of the retailers. AI and cognitive approaches has been the primary approach to bring in disruption in the industry. Enabling assists who are equipped with a wide variety of real rime insight of the customer. This gives personalized offerings with a wide variety of humanization yet digital approaches. One of the researches by Barilliance  says an average eCommerce store loses over 75% of its sales to cart abandonment. Some industries experience average cart abandonment as high as 83.6%. 

Retail transformation by automation

It is essential to have the holistic strategies that can aid customer experience in store.  Stock management and the dispatch itself has become the first area of improvement where digital means have been deployed to accelerate the product delivery.

For Wallmart , Massachusetts-based retail automation company Alert Innovation solution – The Alphabot system — which was developed especially for Walmart. This  consists of automated carts that retrieve items from storage containers and deliver them to store clerks, who assemble orders and prep them for in-store pickup or delivery.

Amazon Go is a revolutionary concept of no checkout  available at one store  2131 7th Ave, Seattle, WA,  is one of the most advanced shopping experience. It is a connected ecosystem that adds value to customers with computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning technologies. Amazon has already deployed robots in warehouse automation as their accelerated fulfillment strategies.  Some interesting videos on the overall fulfillment -Robo Store is following. An interesting aspect is that navigation is guided by

 

Microsoft is developing a system that tracks what items, shoppers in a store place in their carts, eliminating the need for cashiers. Automatic checkout with computer vision and sensors with AI, power the cashless store solutions. However they might still want Dynamics 365 eco system to play a significant role in store automation though. 

One of the latest articles from Techemergence.com  gives a good coverage of latest use cases that uses AI in retail . Some of the key areas are 

  • Retail assists – Humanoid, Conversational Bots
  • B2C Recommendations by Cognitive computing 
  • Smart logistics and delivery

Some of the advanced scenarios include

  • Real time facial and advanced gesture recognition for understanding how a shopper perceived an item
  • AI powered virtual mirrors providing more flexibility to shoppers
  • Retail surveillance by Video Analytics to understand deeper aspects of customer engagement 
  • Retail robots with Assist + Kiosk support augmenting most of the assist tasks

Forbes has a great article on the impact of automation on employees that save labor costs, improve productivity, and make customers happier. These 3 aspects are always the need of a retailer irrespective of automation initiatives.  While we bring in new faces for engagements, the acceptance of models that are not humanized will also have additional impacts. The disruption can be quicker , while acceptance can be slower. AI or robots or even simple mechanization will disrupt the retail industry and not the employees . Automation will reduce the workforce in certain areas, the scale of business increases, employees will need to be added in other areas, whether that’s a simple shift like from cashiers to stock clerks, or a more complex shift like from a stock clerk to warehouse robot maintenance. 

Some of the links to key retail automation strategies of big players are the following ;

Walmart is testing grocery delivery robots

Amazon Retail Automation Story1

Amazon Retail Automation Story2

Microsoft Retail Automation Strategy

Kroger Retail Automation Story

 

Retail automation as a key disruption to industry is widely accepted and most of the retailers and vendors have lined up strategies that will drive more innovation in the space. This is an interesting segment to look in coming days.

 

~AKP
06-08-2018

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