AI and Robotics and the Evolution of Retail – CES 2018

We don’t have to imagine the release from the burden of life’s mundane tasks as today’s innovations can provide us a friction-free experience.

Not enough eggs for tomorrow’s breakfast? Check what you have from your smartphone. The stock of groceries in your fridge can offer you a myriad of health-conscious dinner suggestions and recipes.

While preparing, your fridge corresponds with your oven to get it heated to the correct temperature.

Dinner is ready and you are seated in the dining room where you can ask your smart home assistant to dim the lights and to stream music to set the ambiance accordingly.

CES 2018 certainly was a year of innovation and disruption for all industries. From AI, VR, 5G to IOT, digital applications are present in all elements of life for both B2B and B2C.

One of this year’s biggest trend at CES was integrating artificial intelligence and robots in our daily lives. The meaning of connected home changed when industry leaders in technology debuted their portfolio of AI appliances and gadgets. Brands such as Nvidia, Samsung, Sony, LG and Panasonic created experiences and environments demonstrating machines that not only do what they are asked, but understand you and anticipate your needs.

The advent of smart home devices is pushing businesses to adapt AI and robotics into smarter supply chain solutions. Companies are re-imagining the omni-channel customer experience by integrating autonomous solutions every step of the way.

Automated assistants are being used for various manufacturing applications incorporated with AI to mimic the movement of hands, producing the highest quality of craftsmanship. The same robot can be used by consumers to inspect the exterior of their customized products from remote locations before it’s ready for delivery.

Forklifts are being reimagined as robots, equipped with capabilities of delivering loaded pallets to destinations while avoiding obstacles. They can adapt to any change in layout, as pre-installed tracks will not be required to be followed for much longer.

Not only are these progressive tools being used in the back-end process, they will start materializing in more customer-facing retail settings. As self-checkouts are becoming increasingly popular, they will be fused with facial recognition and AI capabilities, changing the definition of shopping. As a counter scans your face, it predicts a variety of recommendations on products you may like based on your purchase history. When placing an item on the counter, it will bring up the price, product description and options for immediate checkout or a postponed delivery at any desired destination.

Consumer devices are getting smarter, they can follow our instructions and anticipate our needs. They are understanding our habits to create a better and more efficient environment. Companies are recognizing that their consumers have busy lifestyles and the success of voice-integrated technologies like Amazon Alexa and Google Home and taking it a step further.

The AI war was particularly relevant between Google and Amazon. Machine learning is meant to better our life experiences and create friction free engagements. It also is creating the 4th commerce channel. Voice will become the preferred user interface and a new shopping channel.

So, what does this mean for the future of retail?

This advancement of AI and automation means retailers will now be pushed to shift their attention toward revolutionizing their brick-and-mortar space. There is a need to incorporate this progression into customer touch points in order to improve the path to purchase and stay on pace with today’s consumers. Businesses that are not predicting this change in step now, will find themselves behind and struggling to catch up as this innovation and its capabilities will be similar to the transformative effect that was experienced when e-commerce and online shopping were initiated.

From discovery to delivery, these technologies are simplifying and curating a more personalized shopping experience for the consumer. Likewise, for retailers this continuous learning technology is allowing them to track and learn from their shoppers’ buying habits, thus resulting in sales advantages. Retailers will need to work on what the next step is to improve on their current marketing models. The traditional format of overcrowding the retail floor with stock will need to convert to resemble a museum showcase, with minimal products and more focus on making a meaningful and memorable experience.

Using AI and automation, is the solution to curate that meaningful experience for shoppers and businesses alike, by incorporating ways that excite consumers while streamlining their path to purchase. Whether it’s by introducing cash desks equipped with facial recognition, simplifying the checkout process or bringing in robotic assistants to satisfy the customer experience; businesses will find that these technologies will become a part of the new standard. Moving to an experience-based retail model with the use of AI, can target and engage the new generation of shoppers that are being cultured in this digital era.