How to empower retail business with Artificial Intelligence

AI technologies are very useful for both brick and mortail retail shops as well as e-commerce establishments

Gayathri Venkataraman

Everything in this world is being made smarter, intelligent and automated. The need for faster, efficient, quicker and effective services has pushed humans to think beyond the computer box. Artificial intelligence turns this computer box into a smarter box which can enhance human experience and intelligence. Such a boost makes the services faster, efficient and available round the clock. Shopping is an interesting human experience which many equate it to being therapeutic and exciting. Going out with a group of friends and trying on clothes in different retail shops is very engaging and the very idea planning is very tempting.

Often, when we visit stores, we have noticed some issues and problems with management of the store. Either we have too few service staff or we have too many store people hovering over us. During the holiday season, there is too much crowd and we have to bear with long winding trial room queues. Also sometimes, we find that stock of certain items are not visible on the shelves and then find that they are not restocked as yet. Customer and inventory management becomes a challenge with increasing demands. With the current pandemic situation, we do not have luxury to visit retail stores and meet people and service personnel. Also physical contact with the products and trial rooms usage has also come into question due to social distancing and safety reasons. Currently, physical retail stores have started to see a dwindle in their customer visits and this affects their business in the long run. Technology has come to the rescue for such situations and business owners have been resilient and adopted these which largely has benefited them and their customer base

With advancements in technology, gradually online shopping became popular. People became more involved in their jobs and did not find the time or energy to visit retail stores all the time. Sometimes, bigger families with children find it difficult to retain the attention of having to shop physically at a retail store. Online shopping gave the customer the privilege of shopping from the comfort of their homes. Logistics to deliver the products became stronger and the flexibility to return the products when unfit also made it less strenuous for the customers. Of course, the fun of shopping and trying clothes at the retail store is lost and even though online shopping was gaining popularity, many still preferred going to the store and enjoying the experience.

Artificial Intelligence has revolutionized the world of virtual and the retail shopping experience. It has helped both the customers and the store managers improve their efficiency and made them more powerful and in control. It empowers the customers by allowing them to meander through the store choosing and trying stuff independently. Similarly store managers spend less effort in inventory and stock management and spend more time on customers and other important aspects of the store.


Let us discuss an example where a customer visits an apparel store. The customer wants to look for sunglasses and caps. An intelligent greeting device in the front of the store helps the customer to find what he is actually looking for. Once he tells or chooses the item he is looking for, then the system displays the location of the product in the store, saving time for the customer and the staff. The customer finds his way to the location where he can look for the accessories like sunglasses and caps. The sunglasses and cap section has an AI powered device which enables virtual try on for the accessories. This will help the customer to try on his accessories without touching them or spending effort on wearing each and every one of them. The device is equipped with a camera and a screen where the customer can see himself. He goes to the device and chooses the sunglasses or cap that he wants to wear and clicks a button. His image is then shown with the chosen sunglasses and he can clearly see how it looks on him without trying on the glasses physically. He can also choose a variety of glasses and caps, different shapes and sizes and then choose the one he exactly wants to purchase. This not only makes the customer independent but also saves the time for the staff who can concentrate on billing the product for the customer rather than spend time watching the customer try his products.This virtual try is very popular with products like apparel, accessories and make up. It can also track the stock and inventory and can let the store manager know the real-time status of the stock.

Apart from inventory and customer management, such systems can also help analyze the customer footfall and sentiment analysis. The customers entering the store can be recorded and their demographic information can be analyzed and we can predict patterns in the customer base like their age, gender, nationality, store visiting times etc. The store can be well prepared based on these inputs and equip themselves accordingly. Artificial intelligence can also track the customer movement across the store and can record frequently visited sections or racks. Predictive analytics can help the business owner plan his store in a manner that popular and highly visited sections are placed in a customer-friendly manner.

This technology does wonders to even online shopping. The major drawback of not being able to try the products that we are purchasing online is made to do away with virtual try ons. Customers can enter their measurements, create an avatar of themselves and then virtually try on their clothes to see its fit and look. Applications can also take a live feed and then help the customers to try on their products. This feature helps the customer to emulate the physical retail experience and gives him the comfort of having a trial room right at his house. Artificial Intelligence goes a step further in analyzing the customer who visits the online store frequently and takes a footprint of his preferences and choices. The next time he visits the online store, it does an analysis and creates a dedicated virtual shop based on his past purchases and preferences. This makes it even quicker for the customer to just look for what he came and not sift through the whole store.

Intelligent and smart retail empowers the business owners to create a virtual smarter shopping experience and customer friendly store management system. A customer on the other hand feels like the centre of the world, with a dedicated virtual shop ready to spill out his preferences and help him try on everything he chooses. Who does not like that ?

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