Artificial intelligence conquers physical points of sale

Among book professionals, the FNAC campaign was received with some caution. “Today we offer booksellers or libraries the opportunity to enrich their sites with this dual know-how: that of algorithms that promote the discoverability of content and that of human recommendation”, suggests Pierre Fremaux, founder of Babelio, a social network dedicated to readers, for the specialized webmagazine Actualittéwhich also points out that “these two dimensions complement and come together more often than it seems”.

Market prospects are particularly promising for artificial intelligence applied to marketing and customer relations. According to Juniper Research, a technology consulting firm, chatbots alone are expected to save more than 2.5 billion man-hours by 2023, especially for the most basic tasks and thus redirect employees towards higher value tasks. A win-win model defended by defenders of artificial intelligence, particularly in call centers and all services dedicated to customer relations, where these solutions are destined to become widespread.

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Physical outlets also want to follow the trend

More surprisingly, the trend is also emerging in physical sales, where the environment may seem less suited to the deployment of operational applications of artificial intelligence solutions. But the health crisis has played a catalytic role and has thus greatly accelerated the digital transition of physical points of sale, many of which feared being overwhelmed by online sales, to which consumers have willy-nilly acculturated. . In the first quarter of 2021, the frequentation of specialist stores in the city center had indeed fallen by almost 75% in the footwear sector, by 68% for beauty and health and by around 70% in clothing. In all areas of AI, it is more specifically computer vision that wins the satisfaction of traders.

Although it is still relatively anecdotal in France, the conversion of retailers to computer vision should accelerate in the years to come. A study unveiled by Orange Business Service in 2020 thus affirmed that 30% of merchants wanted to acquire computer vision tools in the coming year. For retailers, the objective is to know the routes taken on the shelves, the precise moment during which customers choose their products or even the repair of products that were not ultimately purchased. And, ultimately, use the data reported to understand the drivers of the purchasing decision, adapt and personalize the customer journey. “Until now, store traffic and the physical route have been less identifiable due to a lack of precise indicators” says Virgile Dier, Artificial Intelligence and Big Data marketing product manager at Orange Business Services.

More and more players are positioning themselves in this buoyant segment. In the United States, Remark Holdings, a group listed on NASDAQ, has thus developed a complete suite of artificial intelligence solutions, intended to allow store managers to better understand their customers, in order to improve their experience by store. Three times winner of Conference on Computer Vision Championships in the Visual Object TrackingRemark Holdings promises a “AI easily adaptable to all industries and configurable on different systems”, in the words of its CEO Kai-Shing Tao. This approach complements traditional in-store computer vision applications, most often focused on anti-theft or self-checkout.

Relieve employees of their most repetitive tasks

Another field of application of artificial intelligence directly used in retailers is operational support for store employees. At the Intermarché in Amiens, for example, fixed cameras, powered by computer vision technology using deep learning methods, have been installed to identify gaps in the shelves, misplaced products or cleanliness problems. Tools, the lessons of which are ultimately intended to be used at all levels of management. The data collected is indeed, according to François Company of the start-up Belivefirst transmitted “to the manager who has a number of KPIs, but also to top management who can compare data from different stores”.

Still in mass distribution, Auchan has offered the services of the start-up Smartway, whose role is to optimize the journey of end-of-life products in the some 350 stores in the French network. A way, again, to relieve store employees of their most repetitive tasks. “That’s as much time as they can devote to welcoming the customer. By detecting short dates earlier, we also restore purchasing power to the customer, whereas with manual work, it was sometimes too late to sell at a reduced price or to make a donation », explains Olivier Delpierredirector in charge of strategic projects at Auchan Retail France, at La Tribune.

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Artificial intelligence conquers physical points of sale

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