“Walmart this morning unveiled a new “store of the future” and test grounds for emerging technologies, including AI-enabled cameras and interactive displays. The store, a working concept called the Intelligent Retail Lab — or “IRL” for short — operates out of a Walmart Neighborhood Market in Levittown, N.Y.
Similar to Amazon Go’s convenience stores, the store has a suite of cameras mounted in the ceiling…the cameras will monitor inventory levels to determine, for example, if staff needs to bring out more meat from the back-room refrigerators to restock the shelves, or if some fresh items have been sitting too long on the shelf and need to be pulled.
For store associates, the system allows them to stop constantly walking the store to replace inventory — instead, they’ll know what to bring out from the back room before the doors even open to customers that day.
An interactive wall lets customers have fun with AI — it demonstrates how an AI system can estimate body positioning. But really it’s meant to make all this new technology seem less intimidating.
the future concepts Walmart will test at IRL after meat inventory levels are using the AI system to ensure that there are shopping carts available at all times and that registers are open and staffed.
IRL is a concept designed by Walmart’s tech incubator Store No 8, which runs several ventures to test new ideas in retail. Earlier this year, it launched a startup that offers VR tours to enhance the shopping experience, and in 2017 it began testing a personal shopping service called Code Eight in NYC.”
“For perspective, it’s worth noting that eMarketer expects Walmart to account for 4.6% of ecommerce sales this year, up from around 4% in 2018. The company expects to come off its 40% growth in 2018 with 35% growth in 2019. This doesn’t compare with Amazon’s strong double digit growth rate especially off its 50% share. At the same time, Amazon’s share of physical retail sales is next to nil and that’s where Walmart generates most of its business.
Both companies have a ton of data on their users. But while Amazon has transformed that into tech-enabled market intelligence, Walmart is a little behind in that race (although it’s already testing its own AI, visual search techniques, AR capabilities and the like). Additionally, Walmart has a much more comprehensive physical presence, so it is far better able to cater to popular formats with greater near-term relevance like order online and pick up at store.
So the race is far from over and both companies look about evenly poised to capture a growing share of the market mostly at the cost of smaller players, or those with limited resources to really take technology support to all it can be, i.e. artificial intelligence, robotics, AR, et al.”
“But AI is changing all of this, and adding tools which make the arsenal owned by e-commerce companies look archaic. Many malls in India and abroad are already adopting AI services which allow them to learn who the customer actually is.
The cameras installed in the malls are performing face recognition, and matching it back to the available database, where very rich and contextual information is stored about the customers.
Companies like Inkers are providing advanced retail analytics to offline retain chains which can tell retailers whether the customer walking in is a high-value customer or not, or whether he/she is walking in with the family, or the kind of stores visited prior to visiting their store, or even whether they came in a luxury car or simply walked in.
AI is bringing a new battlefield for the e-commerce players and AI analytics are helping offline retailers fight back.