On face value, it’s easy to assume the rise in artificial intelligence (AI) means the subsequent decline of physical retail. On the contrary, AI is being applied in new ways to transform the entire product and service cycle, from assembly to post-sale customer service interactions.
That’s why today we’re discussing how AI can be effectively utilized in physical retail, from stock management to the shopper experience – demonstrating how digital and physical can go hand-in-hand to transform your brick-and-mortar retail space.
Revolutionize stock management
For retailers who are utilizing AI in inventory, impressive improvements are being made due to the availability of real-time data interconnected in software systems and smart products.
Companies such as Walmart are using robots to help patrol their aisles, with self-scanning robots detecting missing items which need to be restocked or price tags which need to be altered. Robots with installed navigating hardware can even help shoppers find their way around the store while sharing specialty knowledge with them. This frees employees to spend more time with their shoppers and ensures customers aren’t faced with empty shelves in the process. Tailoring your practical shelving displays to make them more AI-friendly could save your employees valuable time spent with shoppers, subsequently improving the overall customer experience.
Rather than taking away the role of retail staff, robots are being used to team up with human oversight. In short, they’re being incorporated into the system rather than replacing the system. This saves staff valuable customer-facing time, increasing the efficiency of sales while ensuring the human aspect of the workplace is left uncompromised.
Using AI to analyze receipts and returns is another way to minimize efforts to keep popular items stocked. Using algorithms, the store knows which items to promote and which to stock more of – this means spending less time picking through paperwork and more time interacting with shoppers and customers. With AI, inventory can seamlessly correlate to match what shoppers want with minimal time and effort being spent.
Transform the customer experience
From fitting rooms of the future to optimizing pick-up services, AI is transforming the customer experience from start to finish.
If your customers are struggling with what to buy, don’t panic – AI has it covered. Cognitive computing technology asks the customer questions about what exactly she needs and what it’ll be used for. Using this information, personalized recommendations can be made to help customers find exactly what they’re looking for based on functionality – a huge help for customers who dread the stress of finding the perfect item by trial and error.
Alternatively, if shoppers are looking for something in particular, searching for twenty minutes through endless racks or shelves is now history. AI allows customers to capture items they see when they’re out and about, then search a store’s inventory to find the same or a similar product – working alongside human capacity to create a seamless shopping experience so customers can find exactly what they need.
For make-up retailers, finding the perfect foundation shade has never been easier. Tech-savvy cosmetic brands have developed a shade-matching algorithm which can find your perfect skin tone without seeing your face. By incorporating technology in your retail space, you could improve your offerings, and customers will have peace of mind in knowing that they are going to find the right product using a system which eliminates human error.
Optimize demand forecasting
Create a fitting room of the future to make the fitting room process more efficient and streamlined. There’s nothing worse than getting into a fitting room and realizing the size on the hanger doesn’t correspond to the size of the clothing – instead of having to get dressed and attempt to catch an overstretched employee, interactive dressing rooms speed up the process.
With the help of AI, it’s as simple as scanning the items you want and seeing what’s in stock. AI systems notify an employee if a shopper needs an item delivered to the fitting room, while also finding great alternatives and recommendations based on what the shopper has tried on.
Installing touch-screen smart mirrors in fitting rooms is another way for shoppers to browse through clothing items and gain inspiration. Shoppers can try clothing on in an interactive fitting room with customized lighting options, meaning AI can gain access to sales strategies which are above the scope of human employees – ultimately making customers feel better and subsequently increasing sales for your company.
Artificial Intelligence has the potential to fully transform the traditional retail experience by optimizing it with next level personalization, automation and increased efficiency. It’s all about making the customer experience more effective, productive and cost-effective, and by utilizing both your employees’ and AI’s skill set in cohesion, you’ll ultimately improve your business. I hope you’ll be inspired to utilize artificial intelligence in your retail space by allowing digital and physical to work hand-in-hand.
About the writer: Tom Brialey has run successful companies in Europe and the U.S. that are focused on delivering exceptional value to clients. He is the founder and non-executive chairman of Action Storage Systems LTD + Shanghai Mammoth International Trading Company, whose subsidiary Action Storage offers a diverse range of storage products, along with the technical expertise to help clients’ businesses operate more efficiently.
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