As the retail holiday sales figures continue to emerge, all signs indicate that 2018 is on track to break season records. But the good news isn’t quite celebrated by all, evident in the high-profile struggles and closures of Sears, Toys R Us and many other household names over the past year and beyond. The point is, success has long felt like a fickle, fleeting thing in the retail business. How do the retailers that had a strong 2018 holiday shopping season duplicate their success throughout 2019? How do those that had a down year bounce back? The answer for both lies in advents in video AI.
The daunting experience of doing “secret Santa” gifts shouldn’t apply to the retail industry, yet it does. Businesses so often establish what they think will win over shoppers and drive strong sales, and then — like any secret Santa — watch in nervous anticipation as consumers react to what they’ve been provided in stores. While this has been a conventional approach for years, video AI is making it so it doesn’t have to be. The capabilities afforded by video AI technology — which turns standard security camera feeds into a wealth of useful data — help retailers establish a much more concrete, specific understanding of what succeeds and fails in their stores, what their problem areas are, where the untapped opportunities might be, and so forth.
For retailers interested in cracking their own unique code for sales success in 2019, video AI delivers a few key ingredients: an insightful view into footfall within stores, a window into customer-product interactions and a new agility in testing new products and strategies. With these in hand, retailers can be empowered to create their own reliable recipe for stronger sales performance — and say goodbye to the “secret Santa” approach for good.
Understand customer traffic patterns
Interpreting standard camera footage of the goings-on in a store, video AI technology can provide crucial data insights on customer foot traffic patterns. This can be key all year-round, and especially useful during the holiday season — often the height of yearly traffic flow. Retailers can channel video AI to gain valuable insights on how they can optimize customer experiences to maximize occupancy both throughout the year and the next holiday season.
The AI-powered insights into customer foot traffic can help identify key bottlenecks and processes that negatively impact or slow the customer experience, including unruly checkout lines, constantly crowded sections of the store and long wait times for store associates. With video AI helping them identify the problem areas, retailers can make changes to store layouts, adjust where products are shelved and reallocate staff resources appropriately — all to improve the overall shopping experience for their customers. The technology takes the guesswork out of how to create a smoother in-store experience more likely to attract repeat customers and increase customer satisfaction.
Knowing how customer traffic tends to flow through a store can also help retailers optimize product placement and better use their retail space. When there’s specific inventory that a retailer would like to prioritize selling, its stores can have the products placed precisely in the areas that see the most footfall. Retailers can station their most high-demand products in areas of the store that see the weakest traffic, ensuring that customers walk through those sections more often while also giving lesser-seen products a chance to enjoy placement in areas with better visibility. Such insights only serve to help drive stronger sales — all while enhancing rather than compromising on customer experience.
Prioritize meaningful customer-product interactions
Through video AI, retailers can zero in on the factors behind product interactions and create more meaningful customer experiences. The technology gives businesses the chance to gauge customers’ interest in a product through its ability to understand physical behaviors and identify patterns — such as a certain product or display that seems to be received with total indifference by store visitors. Is the product simply a failure, or could it be that the packaging is unappealing? Or perhaps the product is just placed in an ill-fitting section of the store? Video AI goes beyond simple sales data when deciding if a product is a success or failure by giving greater insight into a customer’s reaction and interaction with the product.
Retailers can use the technology to better understand and tailor specific offerings and experiences in real-time to help enhance customer engagement. With live video from on-site cameras, video AI can constantly capture and analyze a customer’s in-store journey from start to finish, providing retailers with essential findings that help optimize the experience — including which products customers are spending the most time near, which products don’t receive much interest and might be worth removing from the mix, and which products need to be restocked more efficiently.
Furthermore, the capabilities of video AI can get far deeper into customer-product dynamics. The technology can capture visual cues and identifiers such as emotions, gestures and facial expressions to truly drill down into interest level among store visitors. With such key, previously unavailable insights, retailers can make adjustments to product mix, display location, product quality, and ease of access to store associates — all to ensure a more meaningful experience for customers.
Improve testing new products & strategies
Retail businesses regularly try out different approaches, experimenting with new products, store experiences and more in the pursuit of stronger sales performance. But with diverse product lines, untracked foot traffic and no view into customer-product interactions, they are often left guessing which products and strategies actually benefit sales. With video AI’s insights and functionality, retailers have the opportunity to see exactly what does well and what doesn’t — all with live, actionable data. The same benefits video AI enables in understanding customer traffic and creating meaningful product interactions can help redefine how retailers test out new offerings and experiences.
The recent downfall of Toys R Us, for instance, created an opportunity for retailers to fill the gap in holiday toy sales and experiment with offerings of their own. But just putting toys in the wrong aisle, for example, can hurt sales — and inaccurately have a retailer thinking their customers simply weren’t interested in the product. With video AI and the insights gleaned from its implementation, retailers gain a more accurate picture of what works, what doesn’t and why. If a retailer is considering a toy sales strategy, whether the toys are placed front and center at the entrance or in an aisle at the back of the store can be the deciding factor in their success. Not only can retailers see such patterns live with video AI solutions, but they can also build off their findings to quickly make necessary adjustments, ensuring they refine new installations and product lines in real-time for success.
By leveraging the power of video AI to identify, analyze and utilize data on their physical environment, retailers can be better equipped to shape an optimized in-store experience for customers — one that maximizes sales, builds loyalty and gives them much-needed agility when testing new things. With these capabilities, they can do away with having to guess what consumers will respond well to and instead start cultivating a brick-and-mortar customer journey that is designed to succeed — in the truest sense of the phrase.
Michael Adair is President and CEO of Deep North, a video AI pioneer with a suite of solutions designed specifically for retailers, grocers, shopping centers, and building management. To discover more about the benefits and capabilities of video AI in retail, visit http://deepnorth.com/.