the cognistx blog

Cognitive Computing in Retail

August 12, 2019

Based on the principles of artificial intelligence and signal processing, cognitive computing, or CC, is a technology that mimics the operation of the human brain. CC has the unique ability to adapt, meaning it learns as information changes and responds in a manner that takes account ever-changing goals. Furthermore, CC is interactive, in that it can effectively communicate with a wide array of actors throughout the process, including other processors, devices, the cloud, and people. Additionally, CC is iterative and stateful, meaning that it is designed to remember previous events. Using its memory, CC can base its future actions on observed trends and predictions. This feature is the machine equivalent of human memory. And lastly, CC is contextual in that it can extract and interpret meaning. By drawing from several different sources, CC is able to isolate and identify the nuances of contextual elements. All these features make CC particularly transformative for retail.

AI and retail are a destined match, with more and more customers forgoing malls for online shopping. However, deeper than that, CC technology is especially applicable in the analysis of vast and unstructured datasets, like retail creates. For example, documents, emails, videos, images, sound files, and social media posts, to name a few, require manual metadata tagging so that they can be analyzed, even with big data analytics. However, with CC, that step is obsolete, and such large raw datasets can be immediately processed. The brilliance of creating a technology based on the human brain is that it requires minimal human supervision, which is a hassle when it comes immensely large amounts of data, typical to retail.

CC technology can be used to dramatically enhance customer experience by implementing robotic process automation and voice recognition. CC can directly communicate contextual information to customers as they are shopping, at every step. CC can listen to the customer and answer any questions they may have at any time, without providing irrelevant details that are of no use to the customer. This can look like CC using voice recognition to help customers find items within a store. The result is a much more satisfied customer, with unprecedented levels of personalization in their retail experience.

Cognitive computing can also enhance employee performance by automating menial tasks and freeing up time for innovation, creative thinking, and problem-solving. This upgrade is a win-win situation; not only do customers get an improved and personalized experience, but employees can give their attention to tasks other than catering to customers.

Furthermore, CC can prove to be essential to supply chain efficiency. CC technology can automatically sense what orders are needed to be made, which products are most popular depending on the season and weather when to order stock such that money is saved, how to ship goods most efficiently based on traffic and so much more. At every step of the supply chain process, CC can present the most efficient option and provide venues for companies to achieve even the most monumental of their goals.

Cognistx has successfully leveraged this technology with well known, as well as small companies. For example, Cognistx developed an AI-powered barista for Nestlé, called SmartBart. SmartBart remembers your face and your drink preferences and uses real-time data like time and weather to recommend beverages just for you, completely changing the coffee ordering experience.

Additionally, Cognistx worked with Monro Inc. in the automotive service industry, to strengthen customer loyalty. Our team developed MotoManager, an AI program which captures a 360 degree profile of user preferences, behavior and vehicle data to understand the ever-changing needs of individual customers. With real-time data ingestion from multiple sources including CRM databases, MotoManager engages customers by presenting personalized, relevant content and offers to drive incremental purchases, more frequent store visits, and share of service wallet.

Despite such innovations, only large companies with big budgets have adopted Cognitive Computing. Cognistx, however, is working against that trend and goes to small companies, with more limited budgets, to deliver the same world-class solutions. Cognistx wants to show that CC is not just for the corporate giants.

Ultimately, a retailer will jump into the world of cognitive computing because it will significantly benefit their business. That being said, the most significant hurdle is finding the will to make the leap. Companies need to put their short term views aside and take a good look at their long term vision for how the technology will revolutionize their business.

A company must brainstorm and report its analytical objectives that AI can solve, such as streamlining supply chain. With this goal in mind, the company must collaborate with its technology developers, enterprises, and individuals affiliated with it to simplify the adoption process. The resulting changes will be along the lines of having to effectively plan and implement strategies, along with the AI company.

People may be hesitant to adopt AI for their company because they believe it will replace the humans that work for them. However, cognitive technology is designed to enhance humans rather than replace them. Human and CC, in order to be successful, need to work together.

Initially, adopting CC requires a lot of time, effort, and money. But CC makes up for that instantly as it is adopted. The real issues arise with late adoption. Our bold prediction is that you either embrace CC, or you perish, meaning companies that wait to adopt CC will be left behind. A company that fails to offer the same convenience, efficiency, and personalized attention to customers as its counterpart with CC, it will fail to compete in the demanding market. It is undoubtedly better to be ahead of the curve than behind it.

We are at the precipice of a surge in the development and implementation of cognitive computing and artificial intelligence in general. Mammoth companies like Amazon, are forcing their smaller competitors in retail to innovate and jump on the AI bandwagon or risk their demise.

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