Sixty-seven percent of retail organizations in Asia Pacific have not started on their artificial intelligence journeys and risk missing out on competitive benefits, according to the latest findings from Microsoft Asia and IDC Asia/Pacific's “Future Ready Business: Assessing Asia-Pacific's Retail Sector with AI” study.
According to the study, retail organizations that have adopted AI are already seeing improvements of 16 to 19% in customer engagement, business intelligence, profit margins, competitiveness and innovation.By 2021, retail organizations in the region expect AI to drive a further improvement of between 37 to 44% in these areas.
"Upended by a US$1.5 trillion e-commerce market, retailers in the region must quickly adapt to savvy, connected consumers that generate a trail of digital and omnichannel footprints that can be analysed," said Raj Raguneethan, regional business lead, Retail and Consumer Goods, Microsoft Asia. "These footprints are generated from consumers combining channels like mobile, app, in-store and desktop throughout the purchasing process."
"To stay competitive, a shift to intelligent retail is required to add ease, convenience, customization and automation -- across business processes and operations, customer experiences, and the very products and services offered," said Raguneethan. "This can be done by turning to cloud and AI tools as the underlying, connective tissue for digitization and business transformation."
Trakomatic, a Singapore-based video and sensor technology start-up, is investing in AI solutions to deliver intelligent retail experiences. With consumers increasingly demanding seamless online-offline shopping solutions and sustainable business practices, these organizations are selecting Microsoft Azure as the platform of choice to transform inventory management and turn fragmented data into actionable insights. Together with companies like Coles, Harvey Norman and EZR, Trakomatic is using AI to become a leader in its field.
Integrating Omnichannel Data to 'Know Your Customer' and Reimagine Retail Experiences
With AI and facial recognition technologies built on Microsoft Azure, Trakomatic offers retailers a "customer service ecosystem" solution that is integrated with their customer loyalty programs. These solutions have been accredited by the SG:D program – which is part of the Singapore government's Digital Economy growth strategy.
Trakomatic's AI technology recognizes a VIP once they enter the mall if they have opted into the program by signing up for the service and proactively providing an image. It then sends them a personalized message like an SMS recommending a pair of trainers if they are a sports enthusiast, for example, and directs them to the store.
Along the way, the mall's digital signage knows when the VIP is near and changes its content to reinforce the sent SMS. When the VIP arrives at the store, the system alerts the service staff via their devices, who can then engage the customer and offer a personalized experience -- or additional discounts.
Trakomatic's shopper engagement module was introduced at the Lenovo Flagship Store to address these demands, enabling the on-ground team to recognize, anticipate and serve customers proactively with data and insights.
"Delivering great customer service is never easy for any brick and mortar store, as customers now increasingly demand nothing less than seamless shopper experiences across traditional and digital touch points. Ultimately, this helps staff make more informed business decisions," shared Constantia Ang, Sales Director, AddOn, a Lenovo distributor in Singapore.
Besides enhancing the customer experience, Trakomatic's tools help retailers measure and improve the effectiveness of marketing campaigns, track sales conversion rates, and discover shoppers' average basket size, as well as forecast which days and locations are likely to experience heavy traffic.
"Even as e-commerce is growing, consumers still want to touch and feel products. Merchants are therefore looking to marry the physical and digital to reduce their stores' footprint, engage omnichannel consumers and grow their sales at the same time," said Shaun Kwan, Co-founder and COO, Trakomatic. "Through the years, we have developed technology to securely collect and anonymize shopper data streams and have partnered with Microsoft to bring to life capabilities that are integrating digital and offline retail experiences."
Double Down on Building Capabilities and Infrastructure to Maximize AI's Potential
While the infusion of AI is proving to be a winning strategy for the likes of Trakomatic, the following findings from Microsoft Asia and IDC Asia/Pacific also reveal that more needs to be done for the region's retail sector to maximize AI's potential:
- Seventy one percent of decision-makers in retail believe AI is instrumental to their organization's competitiveness over the next three years, but only 33% have embarked on their AI journeys, putting retail behind other industry sectors.
- While retailers in the region prioritize transforming the customer experience and leveraging data for operational efficiency and insights, many currently lack the infrastructure and capabilities to successfully implement AI to achieve business growth
- Decision-makers in retail underestimate their workers' intent to reskill
EZR is another example of a retail player that has transformed its capabilities and infrastructure to enable AI. As China's next-generation customer relationship management (CRM) platform, EZR is integrating fragmented information on brands and customers onto its unified commerce platform. Powered by Microsoft Azure Machine Learning Service and Microsoft Dynamics 365, EZR allows retailers to understand customers' digital behaviour and deliver tailored interactions in-store and on social channels to shape purchase decision journeys.
"Retail is in the process of being reimagined in the Asia-Pacific region. Through the research commissioned with Microsoft, we are seeing how, across sectors, the convergence of the physical and digital worlds brings the opportunity for data to be responsibly and intelligently utilized with AI. The retail sector continues to show promise in the new year, and enabling investments in AI-enabling capabilities and infrastructure will be necessary for retailers to unlock the full potential of their operations and employees – and ultimately, future-proof their businesses," said Victor Lim, vice president, Consulting Operations, IDC Asia/Pacific.