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If you shop for groceries in a superstore, you know it can be overwhelming. Endless aisles and options to choose from. Do you make a beeline to the items you need or wander around looking for the best deals?
The retailers who operate these stores want to know how you shop. Running on paper-thin margins, they need to optimize their marketing strategies and practices to improve the bottom line. But traditional in-store methods—from taste testing, to flyers, to static signage—aren’t doing the trick. And the benefits of online shopping data analytics aren’t available in street-side retail.
That’s why innovative businesses are transforming their digital signage displays into smart retail solutions with the latest artificial intelligence and computer vision technologies.
AI-powered retail digital signage offers high-value information that store managers have not had in the past. This ranges from knowing which advertisements are the most eye-catching, where shoppers dwell, and which areas have the highest traffic flow. And perhaps most important is real-time data about customer demographics such as their age range and gender. All these factors allow content to be tailored on the spot while monitoring trends over time.
“With the help of computer vision and edge AI computing technology, retailers can review their marketing effectiveness with a bigger scope,” says Kim Huang, Sales Manager at NEXCOM, a global leader in IOT solution development. “They can evaluate return on investment, do revenue comparisons before and after a certain marketing campaign, and quickly optimize the advertisement accordingly.”
Edge AI Power in Action
One of the largest supermarket chains in Asia needed an economical way to understand customer behavior and implement more targeted marketing efforts. The company worked with NEXCOM, deploying its AI Precision Marketing solution with 2,000 digital display screens across 200 stores.
The solution makes it possible to measure anonymously how long a shopper engages with an advertisement, demographics, and what kinds of products held their interest or went into their shopping cart. Not only did the retailer increase sales 30% over one year, but they also gained a new revenue stream by selling brand advertising.
“With the help of #ComputerVision and #edge #AI computing technology, #retailers can review their #marketing effectiveness with a bigger scope.” —Kim Huang, Sales Manager, @NEXCOMUSA via @insightdottech
The client specifically required a stable, fanless system that could run video cameras 24/7. The heart of the platform is the AIEdge-X® 100, which drives the content for two back-to-back digital displays while simultaneously handling audience measurement via two independent cameras. In this case, the retailer has 10 screens in each store.
“The software integrated inside this hardware doesn’t just work as a digital signage player, there is also the audience measurement in the background,” says Huang. “All the data is processed at the edge, and then uploaded to the cloud server for generating different kinds of reports to help the business owner make better decisions.”
The AIEdge-X® 100 is powered by an Intel® Celeron® processor and the NEXCOM AIBooster-X2 deep-learning accelerator card, which includes two Intel® Movidius™ Myriad™ X VPUs. This processing power makes the simultaneous operation of two cameras possible. The edge gateway also includes the Intel® OpenVINO™ Toolkit, and third-party 3D software for anonymized facial recognition.
“To do the computer vision at the edge you need quite a high-power computer system,” says Huang. “In this case, the Celeron processor combined with our adapted Movidius VPU provided the performance required.”
What’s next for the company? With more than 1,000 grocery stores, the success of this project has the retailer planning to roll out the AI Precision Marketing solution in another 200 locations over the next year.
Smart Digital Signage Provides Data You Can Count On
Big data analytics also provides a wide range of other business benefits. Marketing efforts can be tailored to the time of day and the type of customers coming into the store. For example, you might run a hot pizza and cold beer promotion after 6 p.m. targeted to office workers. Or a special on fresh fish and bread right out of the oven in the afternoon for stay-at-home parents.
Analyzing the purchasing habits of customer profiles informs messaging and content design. And all this dynamic content can be pushed out from a central management control system—to all stores or just one.
And there’s another significant advantage that you might not expect from a smart digital signage solution. Continued AI-enabled data collection can improve supermarket operations and cost savings. Ongoing information on purchasing patterns informs supply and demand forecasts so the right products are on the right shelves at the right time.
New Opportunities for Smart Retail Systems Integrators
For systems integrators (SIs), the AI Precision Marketing Solution is up and running almost like an off-the-shelf product. Primarily the SI only needs to make sure the client has an internet-ready network connection.
“Upon arrival of the equipment, the integrator only needs to pop in the camera, connect the screens to AIEdge-X® 100, and connect the AIEdge-X® 100 to the VPN router,” Huang says. “All data sent from the edge to the cloud goes through a VPN channel for security. After that, they adjust the camera angle, and the system is ready to go right to work.”
SIs that may have deep experience in serving retail customers but lack AI development skills now have a solution that offers new opportunities with existing and new customers, Huang explains.
Smart Retail Has a Bright Future
The future of AI and vision in supermarkets seems almost endless. The more retailers know about their customers, the better they can serve them with exceptional shopping experiences. And when digital displays are interactive, information becomes a two-way street.
People want to know more about the food they purchase: where their produce was grown, healthy food options, price comparisons, and much more. The latest innovations in AI, CV, and digital-signage displays are making these use cases a reality today and into the future.
This article was edited by Christina Cardoza, Senior Editor of insight.tech.