Imagine that you’re going camping – and before your trip, you visit a sporting goods retailer. The sales associate doesn’t seem that informed about the products or camping. After you locate the empty shelf where you hoped your ideal tent would be, you walk out empty handed. But at the next store, everything you need is in stock, you receive a discount as part of an in-store promotion, and the sales associate suggests useful products you actually need.
As a consumer, you might chalk up the difference to better management. But as a retail leader, you’ll recognize automation as the differentiator.
Retail automation unlocks smarter workflows across every step of the retail journey, from headquarters to warehouses to ecommerce sites and brick-and-mortar stores. By automating manual processes in inventory management, security, order fulfillment, and other areas, retailers enjoy lower shrinkage, stronger customer loyalty, higher profits, and other benefits.
The future of retail
While the pandemic gets a lot of credit for changing the way we shop, consumer expectations have been evolving for a while. The Harvard Business Review found 73% of consumers prefer shopping through multiple channels. Retailers have responded offering more personalization and omnichannel services, such as curbside pickups, special delivery options, and in-store only offers. Some luxury retailers have added refreshments and private shopping time and fashion shows for in-store experiences; many big box and budget retailers have expanded online inventory and expedited shipping times to rival Amazon Prime offers. Some forward-thinking retailers are using virtual and augmented reality to provide tailored browsing and buying options.
The key here is automation. A recent study showed retail AI will increase ninefold by 2025, with up to 70% of routine tasks at least partially automated by 2025. Those retailers who understand how to use technology, particularly automation and computer vision tools, are the most likely to dominate their market in the years to come.
Future proofing through automation
Here are a few ways retailers use automation to cater to your preferences while beating their competitors.
- Predicting shopper needs. Data from sales channels helps them recommend the right products to you, offer discount codes, and create personalized emails that provide an easier and more helpful experience – so you buy more without perceiving any upselling.
- Warehouse automation. Retailers like Walmart already use robots to clean, select and pack inventory, scan barcodes, and optimize warehouse layouts.
- Inventory management software. Retailers can accurately forecast demand, track stock, and track inventory across a mix of environments such as pop-up shops, e-commerce, brick and mortar stores, and partner channels.
- Smarter marketing. Data-driven insights unlock personalized campaigns, such as tailored messages on emailed receipts. If you abandon your online shopping cart after seeing the shipping costs, you may receive a special offer for free shipping.
- Automated billing and payments. Making customers wait for human-driven refunds or store credit card decisions can slow down transactions and lose shopper interest. Automating these processes can mean immediate payments, refunds, and credit decisions.
- Fraud and theft control. Instead of relying on a security guard’s eyes, monitoring tools can alert teams to suspicious and criminal behavior on the front end, while back-end tools can accurately spot signs of fraud and improve loss prevention efforts.
- Convenient customer experiences. Amazon Go stores use computer vision and machine learning technology to eliminate checkout lines. Shoppers grab the products they want and walk out – with their Amazon account charged automatically.
- Workforce optimization. Because there’s no need to focus on tedious manual work, staff can provide a human touch in resolving issues and helping consumers understand products.
All of this adds up to more informed decision-making, happier customers, improved efficiency, and lower operational costs. Human error is reduced; processes are streamlined. Profits are higher too. In fact, Walmart recently predicted that automation in stores and warehouses would boost sales by $130 billion in just five years.
Computer vision in retail
Returning to the sporting goods retailer in our earlier example, here are a few ways they might use Chooch’s AI-powered computer vision:
- By monitoring everything from an employee’s fall in the distribution center to a spill from a customer’s latte in the store, teams can quickly respond to incidents and keep both staff and shoppers safe.
- The retail staff no longer need to physically search for stock-outs and re-order inventory; computer vision tools automatically take care of it, along with identifying the most advantageous product placements and store layouts.
- The ecommerce team can improve image quality and placement on the website, resulting in better product presentation, faster searchability, and higher sales.
- Stock can be counted and inspected at every touchpoint. Theft is reduced while loading and unloading merchandise; defective products are collected before they make it to the shop floor.
- Shoppers can scan products with their phones to view other customer reviews and even video tutorials on using equipment. After viewing a lacrosse stick or cooler or golf balls, they receive content on their chosen sports and vacations – increasing the likelihood they’ll complete their purchase.
Building the foundation for a stronger future for retail
Retailers have worked hard for years now to improve their back-end operations while enhancing the front-end customer journey.
Chooch’s AI-powered computer vision solutions are helping retailers gain the data insights they need to improve the shopper experience and drive revenue. Chooch makes it easy for retailers to integrate AI models onto their existing video streams to witness real-time shopper insights in seconds. From loss prevention to monitoring stock out to planogram design and safety and security detection, Chooch helps retailers deploy AI quickly and easily scale as their use cases grow.
Automation is key to bringing retail into a higher level of efficiency while reducing costs and attracting new customers – it’s clear – computer vision is becoming the driving force behind it.