New Technologies for Brick-and-Mortar Retail

From Facial Recognition to Robots

The grand opening of the new Amazon Go store in Seattle has created a stir. As the first grocery store in the world to operate without cash registers, Amazon Go combines a variety of different technologies. Amazon itself is laying low and speaks only of a fusion of sensors. The systems „Computer Vision”, and „Machine Learning” furtively work so flawlessly together like never before. Many other technologies as digital mirror, augmented reality, and ultrasound signals are on the rise as well. In addition to the mentioned methods, robots and face recognition are promising technologies that offer numerous advantages to brick-and-mortar retailers.

The use of robots in retail is becoming more frequent

In logistics, robots are already common. These little helpers move goods from A to B, they can perform an inventory and therefore, support the automation of processes. In the context of customer contact, robots have not been used a lot although they have a lot of potential.

Since the end of 2016, a robot named Paul is supporting the day-to-day business of the German consumer electronic market Saturn in Ingolstadt. He does not only share information on the wanted products, but also accompanies customers to the right location of the products. Furthermore, Paul points out additional services, advertises special promotions and even knows a little small talk. Store visitors have been welcoming the robot with great enthusiasm since the very first day. The pilot project found so much favor that the stores in Berlin and Hamburg also benefit from Paul’s brothers now.

Retail Technology Robot
Picture: Media-Saturn

Advising customers in retail through robots

In retail, robots could share information on on-hand quantity with customers in real time. For instance, consumers can get information on whether a pair of pants is available in a different size or color. This way, store visitors get information fast and efficiently, without having to wait for store associates. Moreover, robots can also take online-orders if no items are in-stock which leads to a full merge of retail and e-commerce.

Assistant robots don’t even have to work autonomously either. Instead, they can take on a supportive role in various situations. These little helpers can feed store associates with information on product availabilities or get items from the stock for your employees. By the latter, staff can stay longer at the customers resulting in a better consultation and thus, an improved shopping atmosphere for the customer.

In big malls, robots would surely add tremendous value to the overall experience as well. As of right now, visitors are still asking the information desk for the location of certain stores instead of having a simple look at the floor plan. To help out employees, this tedious task could be adopted by robots. With the right software, a multilingual addressing of customers is also possible – an ideal scenario for big metropolises like Berlin.

Facial recognition in retail is no longer a rarity

With the implementation of FaceID in the iPhone X, Apple has made facial recognition suitable for daily use. Not only is the catering industry increasingly adopting this technology, but also the transport sector is more and more interested in this technology.

Ordering and paying for burger in restaurants via facial recognition is reality since a month. CaliBurger has introduced a new system in California in which customers stand in front of big displays and can access their customer accounts via facial scan. Former order histories and payment methods are then shown. Another example in the fastfood industry is KFC. In certain stores, hungry visitors can also pay with a simple smile.

At CaliBurger in California, Burger can be ordered and paid for via facial recognition

Furthermore, the American Airline Delta is planning to introduce facial recognition at the gate so that printed tickets will no longer be needed, and passenger data can be matched with more ease. With technologies such as facial recognition, retail stores and its customers will profit in the long run. Store associates will no longer have to guess customers’ fashion styles. Instead, they can have a look in existing purchases beforehand and thus, make a tailored recommendation.

New assets for consumers through new technologies

Robots and facial recognition are two technologies which will certainly be in the news more often in 2018. Numerous companies and start-ups are working diligently to create the perfect product. However, it remains to be seen where the journey goes. And don’t forget about Amazon. They will continue launching new technologies to optimize the shopping experience. These advances by the e-commerce giant are certainly needed impulses for the retail industry.