The pandemic has caused plenty of changes in terms of consumer behavior. One of the most prominent changes is the increased level of interest for online shopping. More and more people are attracted to buying products and services using online platforms and stores. This is a consequence of both the restrictions imposed during the pandemic in most countries and the fantastic evolution of online stores. However, online shopping will probably never be able to replace physical retail for good. This is because physical retail spaces provide consumers with the opportunity to touch, feel, and try the products before buying them, and indeed, also with an opportunity to get out of the house and socialize with the wider world. The history of physical retail shows that its evolution has made it easy for shop owners to offer valuable services efficiently and to understand customer behavior better.

It is evident that physical retail spaces have evolved over time, making interactions easier for both the customers and retailers. However, certain pain points continue to plague the physical retail business:

Queueing

Long lines at check-out counters is an imperative issue during a pandemic since most people want to avoid being in crowded spaces. The history of physical retail itself has always faced continued challenges with long waiting and check-out times. Initially, retail stores needed an available salesperson to help each client pick out articles for purchase. This process was changed not too long ago, when shopping carts were made available to clients in stores offering for self-service. Next, the problem of long waiting times was aggravated due to the use of rudimentary technologies at the check-out counters, making the entire selling process slow. All in all, retail stores have always moved towards better systems and processes designed to cut down waiting times for their clients, thus improving overall satisfaction levels.

Out-of-stock

In the absence of a stock monitoring tool, stores were very often put in a situation where they were not able to fulfill their customers’ needs due to in-store product unavailability. This was because product stock was maintained based on empirical estimations, often resulting in missing units of popular products on the shelves. Loss of revenue due to lack of in-store availability became substantial enough for businesses to consider devising intelligent solutions for optimal and timely stock taking and maintenance processes.

Shrinkage

Shrinkage due to un-scanned products has been a perpetual problem for retailers. Even today, with the availability of advanced technologies, retailers still lose up to 1.5% of annual revenues because of the un0scanned products.

Customer Behavior

Marketing and research directed towards customer behavior was not focus area for retailers at the beginning of commerce. The importance of understanding customer preferences and adapting to societal changes has grown exponentially as a means to expand businesses. Researching trends and studying market behavior has quickly evolved into an essential part of business activity. Rudimentary at first, marketing tools are now incredibly advanced.

While all of these issues have been solved or improved with the great help of technology, modern A.I. solutions are making it easier than ever for retail sellers to improve their interaction with clients. Here are the most essential changes made possible by A.I. during the past few years.

Queue-length Monitoring

An evolved A.I. solution can use the store’s existing CCTV feed to estimate how much time clients spend at checkout counters and send alerts to staff to alert them for the need for making available more counters. Thus, reducing waiting time for clients and avoiding crowding at the counters.

Stock Monitoring

An A.I.-First approach removes the need for manual stock taking. The system can today be set up to monitor shelves throughout retail stores to track and record stock movement in real time. Alerts sent to staff whenever the stock for a product reaches a minimum threshold makes restocking a breeze. Thus, saving time and effort, and increasing revenues.

Shrinkage Prevention

Self-checkout options for customers are increasingly becoming the norm. Clients with fewer articles to check-out can easily avail these facilities in most stores today. However, the loss from shrinkage is a genuine concern for businesses. Whether it is a self-checkout counter or a regular check-out counter, existing monitoring systems can be integrated with A.I. technology to register un-scanned items and thus cut down loss from shrinkage.

Understanding Customer Behavior

Retail stores can now use A.I. technology to study in-store sales patterns in real-time. Thus, removing the need for market research companies to provide analysis based on empirical data. These solutions can monitor patterns in movement for customers, study high traffic routes within the store, and give immediate and valuable insight into purchasing trends for new products. Thus, helping retailers improve their activity and adjust their use of space to fulfill the customer expectations better and therefore maximize revenues.

It is remarkable to see how many issues of physical retail are resolved with the help of technology. A.I. solutions have made physical retail an even more viable and profitable option even during a global pandemic.  It is evident that the signs are very encouraging for the future of the industry and that A.I. solutions are the way forward.