AI for retail – time to walk the walk

New year means out with the old, in with the new – it’s time to get rid of those half-functioning iPads and invest in some serious retail technology! If this Bytes issue gets you inspired but you need some face-to-face tech validation, don’t forget that The Retail Practice organises inspirational retail safaris across Europe – just email for more information.

Skinny or boot-cut? Levi’s own stores did not feature in the top 15 coolest denim stores on Earth, but their jeans certainly sell in most of the places listed. Where Levi’s scored high was with their pilot for an online AI-powered Virtual Fit assistant. When you’re in any store that stocks Levi’s, just pull your phone out of your pocket and use Facebook Messenger to ask which jeans are the best fit for you. Their AI is powered by the data from the years of store conversations and fit knowledge that Levi’s has accumulated, so it knows how to push your jeans’ fit buttons. For now the chat bot is text-based but Levi’s is exploring using voices to allow hands-free denim dialogue or use as a stand-alone Virtual Store assistant. Levi’s says that shoppers on the average try on five pairs of jeans before finding the right fit so saving them time and hassle with a personalised and accurate AI adviser should guarantee oodles of gratitude and loyalty.

Scan-on-the-go or Scam-on-the-go? Walmart is locked in a deadly fight with Amazon so it’s using Scan-and-Go in stores to gain an advantage. Shoppers can ramble on from aisle to aisle, picking up products, scanning them using their phone and paying onsite with Walmart Pay. The data gathered allows the seller to develop predictive analytics and if you forget a few things, the AI-powered alert service will remind you what should be in your basket and where to get it in the store. We reckon 4% ‘shrinkage’ (double the normal rate of disappearing garments) is a price worth paying for the kind of enthusiastic comments the new service is generating. Amazon, what have you got?


Smartwatch finds an unlikely useKate Spade is seducing millennials with a new smartwatch that asks what you’re wearing and lets you change the colour of your watch to suit your outfit. The watch has ears (ok, a microphone) so you can ask questions to the Google Assistant that’s pre-built into the device. Cute but not for runners: it’s got no GPS or Fitbit functions but it will have an AI-learning ability that gets the hang of your calendar so it can remind you about your next meeting. Rumour is that the staff at Kate Spade are using the watches themselves instead of walkie-talkies to speak to colleagues and asking them to get stock from the basement. Clever.

Robo-helpers in storeA helping hand from Canvas Autonomous Cart (well, a trolley-looking pod on wheels) is available in stores courtesy of an AI-powered visual recognition engine. Canvas has better eyes and ‘common sense’ than other devices: this robot-trolley can see where to go and how to find an optimal route as well as avoid obstacles and generally make itself useful without bumping into things. Its advanced vision system allows Canvas to see in 3D and could support humans at Argos, as well as a grocery store or warehouse worker. It’s worth keeping an eye on, as Walmart is about to acquire it, so Canvas must be doing something right.

Burger for your face: KFC in China will let you pay with your smile. Hungry diners can pay for their lunch by just facing a camera and entering their telephone number as a security check. KFC’s technical partner Ant Financial has seemingly cracked the notoriously difficult task of differentiating faces error-free, and is now attracting the younger generation by devising super-convenient payment methods. Retailers can also learn diners’ habits and use AI in the system to send individual alerts and reminders. Probably not the most secure payment method in the world if you are an identical twin, but everyone else might be ok.

Upcoming events: Need an update on unmanned technologies for your stores? Don’t miss Auvsi Exponential in Denver in a few months (ok, it’s not Paris but the tech is much better).

If you’re looking for a retail store tech update a bit closer to home, however, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us: we can help you plan your next European retail safari.