Vertical Markets

AI for retail experience

by Mark Rowe

The retail sector has seen the impact of Covid-19 with footfall plunging during the spring 2020 lockdown; but the pandemic has provided the opportunity for AI to update the retail experience. This emerged from a panel discussion on Covid-19 technology recovery in retail, hosted by the business body Resilience First with Intel.

Rebuilding public confidence is key to seeing a return of shoppers to the High Street post-lockdown and safety concerns will drive rapid adoption of new technology by business and acceptance of the new shopping experience by customers. AI can meet the challenge of social distancing and infection control whilst providing an immersive customer experience, the websinar heard.

David Allinson, Centre Director of Manchester’s Arndale Centre (pictured), said: “Post-lockdown there are significant challenges to the customer experience, which include travel difficulties, lack of personal interaction with sales staff and closed fitting rooms. Shopping has become functional rather than social, with less time but more money spent in store per visit than is usual.”

“A balance needs to be struck for the future on virtual versus physical interaction with further merging of physical and online retail. Shopper behaviour has changed and needs to be fully understood in order to redesign the shop floor to meet new requirements and expectations long-term.”

Remus Pop, Co-Founder and COO, Neurolabs, an object recognition software company, said: “We have seen a huge demand in the hospitality and grocery sectors to digitalise and automate the checkout process. We can use AI powered food recognition technology to meet this demand. One solution identifies food items on a tray using object recognition technology allowing the payment process to be completed without any human cashier interaction. A second solution monitors on-shelf availability in grocery stores and sends information to the back office to ensure that shelves remain full.”

Jaume Portell, CEO and Co-Founder, Beabloo, a digital signage and analytics company said: “We can use AI technology with thermal sensing at the entrance and monitoring of customer density and face mask wearing inside the store. We can detect face masks and display a message to wear a mask if the customer is not wearing one, which avoids personal conflict with the customer.”

“Using video cameras to monitor customers and digital signage to signal safety we can make stores smarter to return customer emotional interaction and confidence. Now is the right time to introduce this technology because customers will understand why we are doing it.”

And Sam Ihsan, COO at Sodaclick, a cloud-based graphics app, said: “One of the big problems we are trying to solve is touch, with health concerns around disinfection of customer touch kiosks. At the same time, we need to create a more intuitive and immersive customer experience.

“The solution is digital signage content platforms using speech recognition and speech synthesis with a personalised voice assistant that will allow the customer to ask questions around products and special offers. The impact of Covid19 in the retail sector will lead to a quicker adoption rate for new technology by retail outlets and quicker acceptance by customers of their new experience.”

David Dobson, Industry Director Retail Hospitality & Consumer Goods at Intel, said: “At Intel we believe that Covid-19 has accelerated the digital transformation that was happening in retail as shown by the huge growth in online sales and the push towards frictionless and experiential shopping.”

“As shoppers start to return to the high street and shopping centres around the UK the number one priority for business is providing a safe environment for both their employers and their customers. In the webinar we have three great examples of Intel partners who are providing solutions that show how technology can help support this new way of working.”

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