Much has been said about the impact of Artificial intelligence in online retail. Amazon has been using deep machine learning to improve customer experience, suggest products, and send communication for over 20 years.

But what about the in-store retail experience? Traditional retailers, often seen as behind their ecommerce cousins in adopting cutting-edge tech, are starting to catch up. Target, in particular, as started to leverage AI to improve customer enjoyment in their stores.



Target is considered by many as a “hip” retailer—popular among millennial shoppers and frequented by young parents. But amidst dropping share prices and stalling growth, they got back to their innovative roots. (You might remember them getting in hot water when their trailblazing analysis of customer purchase behavior let them identify and market to pregnant women).

To optimize the shopping experience, the retailer plans to use their app to follow customers while they move around their stores. This is similar to how the Google’s GPS blue dot follows people in the Maps app. The app helps shoppers find their way around the store, locate products, and show if the item is on sale. The new technology is also merging with their Cartwheel app to send push notifications on deals based on the products close by (thanks to AI).

“The consumer wants what they want, how and when they want it,” says Gokul Solai, founder of AI firm Novatio Solutions. “Businesses are trying to figure out unique ways they can give it to them so that both benefit.”

When they decided to update their store with new energy efficient LED lighting, they chose fixtures with Bluetooth beacon technology built in. It’s these fixtures that allow them to activate the app functionality and leaves the door open for future techniques that partner Bluetooth connectivity with AI.

The additional uses of in-store AI opens almost limitless ways for retail to improve shopping and make marketing more targeted:

  • AI can produce product suggestions based on app searches and in-store movement
  • Companies can collect and analyze shopping movement to optimize store layouts
  • Layouts can be customized based on a location’s demographics and shopping behavior
  • Promos can be tested at different time intervals and store locations to measure effectiveness
  • Coupons can be sent to customers heading for the exit without making a purchase



By updating stores and using the latest tech, retail chains are trying to compete with the shift to online shopping, and away from competitors like Amazon. The one advantage, that is until recently, that traditional retailers is the tactile nature of shopping in a physical location.

If Target and other retailers can match (or trump) cell phone price checking, make finding products easier, and push promos on-site, they have a chance to lure its customers to buying more in-store.

“There is a lot of potential to his tech, and it can be disruptive,” says Solai. “Everyone who is buying online can’t get a dimensional understanding of the product. But you can put this in brick and mortar stores to facilitate the buying experience.”

Partnering AI with Augmented Reality, for example, could help you visualize furniture in a room at home without it physically being there. Just hold up a photo of your room on your smartphone to see if it fits and how it looks.


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