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New technologies that make retail stores smarter

New technologies that make retail stores smarter
More and more, physical retailers are pressured to compete with their online counterparts. To do this, physical retailers need to know more about customers so as to enhance the overall customer experience. In this regard, they can use various smart technologies under the AIoT (AI and IoT) scheme.
Needless to say, online retailers have become a force to be reckoned with. This presents pressure for physical stores or traditional moms and pops shops as they are now faced with stronger needs to compete and retain customers.
One strong weapon that online retailers hold against physical stores is the rich, comprehensive customer data they obtain during the customer’s online shopping process. This allows the online retailer to know more about customers and recommend future products that cater to their specific needs or preferences.
In the past, physical retailers might be losing to their online retailers in the data-mining aspect. But today, thanks to AIoT technologies including cameras, sensors and the software that fuses them together, physical retailers can be equally effective in learning customer patterns and behavior. How smart technologies can assist retailers and storeowners can be summarized as follows.

Cameras and video analytics

For the longest time, video surveillance, consisted of cameras and analytics, has been used for security purposes in retail. The system for example can tell whether a blacklisted or suspicious figure has walked into the store. It can also detect suspicious behavior to help prevent retail theft, which, whether perpetrated by dishonest employees or organized retail criminals, cost retailers about 1.33 percent of sales on average, or a total impact on the overall US retail economy of US$46.8 billion in 2017, said the National Retail Federation based on its 2018 survey.
However, more and more, video surveillance has moved beyond its security applications towards providing more intelligence and insights to retailers. With AI-based video analytics, retailers can find out whether the shop is visited by more men or women, what is the average age of the visitors, how long they visit the store and whether they take a product off the shelf and actually buy it, or put it back to the shelf. Video integrated with the point-of-sale (POS) system can further correlate the presence of visitors to the amount of purchases made.

Customer location

The whereabouts of customers in store, like which area or aisles they are visiting, can be measured by various sensors from floor pressure sensors to motion detection sensors to the customers’ BLE- or Wi-Fi-enabled smart devices. “Wi-Fi technology has introduced fine time measurement (FTM) for getting more accurate location measurements. Today it is conceivable to have decimeter-level (20 cm) accurate location of the user devices. The previous generation Wi-Fi-access points used BLE, or antenna arrays for location, and dense deployment making it very expensive, where these new methods can be deployed with software running on standard Wi-Fi Aps,” said a recent blog post by Gyrus.

Bringing it together

According to the post, solutions that combine video, customer location and POS can bring valuable insights to the retailer including time spent per aisle, conversion ratio, business lost ratio, marketability of the merchandise, product placement effectiveness, effectiveness of discounts and effectiveness of loyalty programs.
“The online stores develop rich buyer models and personas to target advertisements and provide custom merchandise to lure them to buying. Offline stores can have similar information and can do better targeting and with new technologies,” the post said. “Intelligently fusing the Wi-Fi sensing, POS systems with cameras just at the entrance and exits, intelligence can be brought to offline stores at par with the online stores.”

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