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How Computer Vision is Revolutionizing Retail
Avery Sly
Avery Sly
November 16, 2022
6 min
How Computer Vision is Revolutionizing Retail

The retail industry is in the midst of a significant transformation. Thanks to technological advances, shoppers now have more options regarding where they buy their goods. To stay competitive, retailers must find new ways to attract and engage customers. Computer vision provides a promising solution.

The pandemic considerably shifted how customers make purchases. E-commerce saw a massive boom, and brick-and-mortar businesses struggled to keep up. In 2021, however, brick-and-mortar businesses saw an 8.2% uptick in in-store sales. The resilience of brick-and-mortar businesses combined with a desire to return to in-person shopping saw a resurgence of the in-store shopping experience after the pandemic.

Brick-and-mortar businesses must constantly look for ways to improve the customer experience and add value to shoppers. Computer vision is one of the key ways in which retailers can set themselves apart and create a competitive edge. Computer vision is still in the early adoption phase and stands as a massive opportunity for retailers worldwide.

What is Computer Vision?

Computer vision is a field of artificial intelligence wherein computers interpret input from cameras in the form of photos and videos. The computers then analyze, interpret, and respond to these inputs through machine learning algorithms. Computer vision enables computers to “see” their environment. They can then use sophisticated algorithms to take action based on what they see and interpret.

Computer vision technology is already present in several different industries, including retail. In the retail setting, computer vision can be used for things like product recognition and pricing and tracking customer behavior. Additionally, retailers can use computer vision for security purposes, such as monitoring suspicious activity.

The potential applications for computer vision are nearly limitless. As technology continues to develop, it will likely find its way into more and more industries. For now, though, computer vision is already making a significant impact in many different fields, retail being one of them.

The Benefits of Computer Vision

There are many potential benefits of using computer vision in retail. For one thing, it can help store employees become more efficient by automating tasks currently done manually. For example, inventory management will be a breeze if a convenience store uses computer vision for shelf stocking. Additionally, brick-and-mortar businesses can use computer vision to enhance the customer experience by providing interactive features such as product recommendations and virtual assistants. Finally, retailers can also use computer vision for security purposes, such as detecting shoplifting or unauthorized entrances into the store after hours.

More and more retail organizations are beginning to adopt computer vision. 95% of retailers believe that computer vision could be pivotal in increasing revenue, cutting costs, and improving efficiency. At this point, many retailers are in the early adoption stage of computer vision. According to a study by Insight, 10% of organizations are currently using computer vision. 81% of organizations state that they are presently adopting computer vision technologies.

What are some use cases for computer vision in a retail setting?

Computer vision has many applications in the retail setting. Some of these applications include:

Customer Tracking One such application is customer tracking. Customer tracking includes identifying the most popular areas in the store, queue times, or routes taken through the store by customers. Computer vision can provide better insights to retailers by providing detailed insights into customer behavior. These could include:

  • Which areas of the store are the busiest?
  • How long do customers spend in the store before they make a purchase?
  • Which product is purchased the most at a particular time of the day?
  • Which products are most likely to be returned to the shelf?

This data is obtainable by integrating RadiusAI technology into existing camera systems. Click here to learn more about how our technology can benefit your retail store!

Customer Volume

Computer vision can also play a role in determining how many people come in and out of a store. A retailer can quickly identify the busiest times of the day through deep learning and in-store cameras. By recognizing the busiest times, stores can ensure staff is available and inventory is stocked adequately in anticipation.

Analyzing the volume of passersby and foot traffic is also a beneficial application of computer vision. By noting which customers choose to enter the store after viewing your window display, for example, you can measure your conversion rate. Additionally, you can track how many passersby look at your store but choose not to enter. As a result, you can determine if your graphics or campaigns are indeed drawing people in.

Theft Detection

Computer vision can help identify shoplifting threats that employees may not be aware of. For example, sophisticated computer vision can recognize suspicious behavior and alert employees before a situation escalates. Individuals looking to rob a computer vision-enabled convenience store would be extremely regretful.

Stores may also use cameras and computer vision to determine whether items in a cart or basket were paid for. You can enjoy heightened security by adding computer vision technology to your retail environment.

Queue Times

Frustrated shoppers can negatively impact your retail business. It’s essential to be aware of how long customers are spending in your retail environment.

Computer vision can track customer analytics, as discussed above, that can help stores improve their processes and facilities. For example, they are making highly desirable products more easily accessible or making more staff available.

Computer vision can help retailers determine the answers to some customer experience-based questions, such as:

How long are customers spending in line? Why are customers spending more time in queues? What part of the purchase journey takes customers the most time? Are more staff needed to accommodate customers?

Better Advertising

Computer vision can provide ample opportunity for retailers to serve their customers through targeted advertising. By analyzing shoppers’ behavior, retailers can target the ads that are more likely to result in a purchase. For example, if a customer frequently buys shampoo and conditioner together, the store might display an advertisement for 2-for-1 shampoo and conditioner when the customer is near the hair care aisle. This targeted advertising can increase sales and improve the customer experience.

The Future of Retail

Computer vision will play a significant role in the future of retail. This technology has the potential to revolutionize the way stores operate and the way customers shop. Since computer vision is still in the early adoption phase, retailers that put computer vision into production are more likely to expect ROI within one year.

Experience is vital in staying competitive in the shifting retail environment. 48% of respondents to a Raydiant study stated that they would prefer to shop at a physical store when given a choice. Furthermore, 82% of respondents are highly likely to return to a brick-and-mortar store when they have a good experience. There is evidence that customers value better in-person experiences at retail locations, and computer vision can be the solution.

Creating meaningful experiences helps customers connect with brands. For example, Budweiser hosts a tent at Coachella for customers to have an experience associated with the brand. Lululemon and Alo Yoga host live yoga classes and partner with local studios. Brands are looking to connect with customers more than ever before. Computer vision can play a massive role in collecting valuable data for retailers and brands to increase profits.

Owning and collecting data is another significant trend in the retail environment. Brands are looking to obtain vast amounts of consumer data to understand their audiences better and target them. For example, Purina created an experiential service during the pandemic in which people could take virtual puppy training classes over Zoom. Purina did this to learn how many people got puppies during the pandemic. Purina did not profit from the endeavor and gave 100% of the profits to the trainers. Purina’s actions demonstrate the company’s desire to collect data and the value of the information to its endeavors.

Humans are on a never-ending quest for convenience. The desire for convenient solutions has been around for centuries and is unlikely to disappear in the foreseeable future. Striving for convenience means that physical retailers must embrace the desire for ease and shape their in-store experience around customer convenience.

When Raydiant surveyed consumers, they found that the four most significant reasons people preferred to shop online were:

  1. The ability to shop anytime and anywhere
  2. It’s easier to access discount codes and tools/apps
  3. There’s no need to leave home
  4. It’s easier, in general

With computer vision, retailers can tackle many consumer objections to shopping in person. Here are some examples of computer vision-enhanced solutions to the above:

  1. Ability to shop anytime, anywhere: Online shopping allows customers to shop 24/7 from the comfort of their homes. To provide this same level of convenience to in-store shoppers, retailers can use computer vision to optimize the layout of their stores as well as provide in-store navigation assistance via an app. An app would help limit the time customers need to spend in-store and make their overall experience more convenient.

  2. Making it easier to access discount codes and tools/apps: Computer vision can automatically detect and apply discount codes at check-out and provide customized recommendations. Retailers can use computer vision to offer products based on past purchase history and allow customers to search for specific items, including discounted items.

  3. No need to leave home: With computer vision, retailers can offer customers the ability to shop from home without ever having to leave their houses. Retailers could provide a live feed of the store (or specific shelves/racks), allowing customers to interact with products virtually before making a purchase.

  4. It’s easier in general: In addition to the two points above, retail stores can also use computer vision to streamline the shopping experience by reducing waiting times, lines, and crowds. By automating various tasks (such as check-out) and providing a more personalized experience, retailers can make shopping easier and more enjoyable for everyone.

In conclusion, computer vision is rapidly growing in retail, and more businesses are embracing technology to improve their customer experience. To stay competitive, retailers need to keep up with the latest trends and technologies, and computer vision is one of the most promising. Thanks to its many benefits, computer vision is here to stay and will likely play an even more prominent role in the retail industry in the years to come.


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