Tag Archives: Retail

Building AI Is Hard—So Facebook Is Building AI That Builds AI

“…companies like Google and Facebook pay top dollar for some really smart people. Only a few hundred souls on Earth have the talent and the training needed to really push the state-of-the-art [AI] forward, and paying for these top minds is a lot like paying for an NFL quarterback. That’s a bottleneck in the continued progress of artificial intelligence. And it’s not the only one. Even the top researchers can’t build these services without trial and error on an enormous scale. To build a deep neural network that cracks the next big AI problem, researchers must first try countless options that don’t work, running each one across dozens and potentially hundreds of machines.”


This article represents a true picture of where we are today for the average consumer and producer of information, and the companies that repurpose information, e.g. in the form of advertisements.  
The advancement and current progress of Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, analogously paints a picture akin to the 1970s with computers that fill rooms, and accept punch cards as input.
Today’s consumers have mobile computing power that is on par to the whole rooms of the 1970s; however, “more compute power” in a tinier package may not be the path to AI sentience.  How AI algorithm models are computed might need to take an alternate approach.  
In a classical computation system, a bit would have to be in one state or the other. However quantum mechanics allows the qubit to be in a superposition of both states at the same time, a property which is fundamental to quantum computing.
The construction, and validation of Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, algorithm models should be engineered on a Quantum Computing framework.

Shopify Launches Point-Of-Sale System To Unify Online And Brick-And-Mortar Retail | TechCrunch

Shopify Launches Point-Of-Sale System To Unify Online And Brick-And-Mortar Retail | TechCrunch.

Interesting tie in to unify Brick and Mortar Retail and online presence.  The combined POS System and the Online storefront may continue to join and align, and the store sales associate may use this platform as an opportunity to expand their capabilities, providing instant access to inventory, enabling the sales associate to present alternative to product accessories, and core products based on template models, and the whole catalog of stock inventory.

QR Code Customer Surveys on Customer Printed Receipts

A new type of customer survey might come to a retail store near you.  If you’ve ever received a receipt with a customer survey, they tell you to go home on line, and take the survey and you may receive thousands of dollars. You probably threw out the survey.

Now, to have a higher rate of return on these receipt surveys, there will be a mini QR code under each letter answer, and the user just scans in QR code answer 2.B. The result is then uploaded to the retail chains site, and registers the answer so you can easily perform the customer survey with your smartphone, or they may even provide an extra scanning tool in the store, as you leave.  Thank goodness I won’t miss out on all those opportunities to win 5 thousand dollars!

Retail Boutique Model a Good Move for Electronics Manufacturers?

Samsung To Open Retail Boutiques In 1,400 Best Buy Stores | TechCrunch.

In large retail stores like Bloomingdales, they commonly have sections within a floor, that contain sales representatives that work directly for the manufacturer.   For example, a Ralph Lauren representative works in their section, and is indirectly motivated by Bloomingdales, but is directly motivated by their sales manufacturer, Ralph Lauren.  This happens with many retail manufacturers, from cutlery to clothing.  Retail manufacturers ae embedded in the retail stores, and speaking with a manager of one of these retail departments, it seems to work.  The representative didn’t report directly to the store manager, it was more like a matrix management, but they were aligned to the manufacturer and the manager stated in some good years, these manufacturing sales representatives did extremely well financially.

So, does this model work?  It sure seems like it.  When I was at the 2013 CES show this year, I saw several amazing booths, including the Samsung booth.  It’s style was amazing, and the layout was beautiful.  In retail outlets like the Bloomingdales example I mentioned, the manufacturer representative has a certain amount of design and layout abilities, so long as it fits in with the store main style guidelines.  This is a perfect opportunity for Samsung and Best Buy to make the concept wildly successful, and they are betting big.  When I go into electronics stores, the sales representatives are not typically motivated one way or the other by which product to motivate the consumer.  I was in Target, where there ws one sales representative / manager that handled all of the carriers, as well as all of the handset models.   What if these carriers, and/or manufacturers were parsed off, botiques were created, and sales representatives were now incentised by the manufacturers, their layouts may conform to their corporate standards, and they were additionally monetarily incentized by their sales.

We could be in unique situation for an uptick in Brick and Mortar retail sales.

Wal-Mart to compete with Amazon Locker Concept

Wal-Mart steps up its online game with help from stores | Reuters.

This is a very interesting perspective.  From the corporate side, they are mazimizing the logistics of their order workflow, gaining more control, and perhaps cost savings.  We MAY see fewer options with free shipping on items, e.g. over N dollar value orders, across retail if this process workflow catches on in the industry.

The consumer, for lower cost items, where they shop on line, and already pick up their orders, we will see a positive result in the customer service experience, e.g. the consumer does not have to wait on lines to pick up their order.  However, if the consumer would have, under the old program, had free shipping, this may alter the perspective of the customer, that they are getting less service, i.e. before they did not have to leave their homes.

All and all, if these stores balance their models, and continue to offer the free shipping option for high price items, whatever the watermark, e.g. $50 USD, and this option is available for all items which can fit in the locker, many consumers may be pleased.  If Amazon was smart, they might take advantage of as many partners as possible, as well as leveraging many of the small ‘long standing’ for rent shops, with one employee, if their logistics workflow includes not just leveraging partner’s shipping workflow.

In addition, this option, if progressed or evolved for retail, B&M, we may see fewer shortages.  That is for another article.

Ride the Near Field Communications Wave

At the 2013 Computer Electronics Show, there were only a few vendors touting Near Field Communications (NFC) technology integrated into their products, that I could see, and I did try to get to as many booths as possible.  Last week I mentioned people in Korea use NFC business cards to exchange and play music on their devices.  After that post, I did see a company’s tweet saying they were going to get into the distribution of NFC cards to store music, movies, and more, as the advertisement stated.  The benefits of this technology over Bluetooth simply low / near null power signature, inexpensive relative to the Bluetooth technology, and the potential shortcoming is it has a very short range.  Smartphones equipped with NFC can be paired with NFC tags or stickers which can be programmed by NFC apps to automate tasks.   NFC always involves an initiator and a target; the initiator actively generates an RF field that can power a passive target. This enables NFC targets to take very simple form factors such as tags, stickers, key fobs, or cards that do not require batteries. NFC peer-to-peer communication is possible, provided both devices are powered. NFC tags contain data and are typically read-only, but may be rewriteable.  I also had a conversation with someone that implied the storage on the NFC tags may be limited, so an easy workaround would be to store unique keys, such as a reverse domain name, and other pointers to data in a structured storage data web cloud, which is hosted by any number of verticals.

In this post I wanted to highlight a few potential uses.  Unfortunately, this is the second time I am writing the blog post because the first one didn’t get saved.  Annoying!

Automobile Servicing

Instead of the sticker a car dealer, or your mechanic, may put in the top left hand corner of your window to remind you to change your oil at N miles or Z months, an NFC sticker can be encrypted with your car’s VIN number, the complete required and suggested maintenance for the vehicle, as well as when and by who these services were completed.  The NFC Sticker may be placed in the console where you might place your smartphone.

Food Storage, Food Savings

On your refrigerator, you may place an NFC Sticker, that is overlaid on a magnet.  Every time food is removed or placed in a refrigerator or pantry, you can swipe the food NFC tagged with the cooperation of the food manufacturer.  An average usage model can be derived and encoded on the tag, as well as a proximity timer.  If the food item, such as milk, is not returned to refregerator within a given period of time, a notification on your smartphone, and/or a depreciation counter can be reprogrammed on the NFC tag to indicate approximate usage.  Once the item needs to be restocked, or placed back, a notification may appear on your smartphone, and/or added to your shopping list.

Books, Music, and Movie Samplings from a Store

If you’re in a store, and pass by a book, music CD or movie DVD, an NFC tag may contain a URL to download a PDF sample of the book, a music track from the CD, only available in stores through use of the NFC tag, or bonus material from a movie that only can be accessed through the NFC tag in stores to drive traffic into a store.  I specified a URL to link to the content because the current specification seems to limit the amount of storage on the NFC tag, however, specs can change, and I might be a bit conservative on the amount of storage necessary, but with a ‘secure cloud’, the storage shouldn’t be a factor. Any information on the NFC tag can simply be pointers to unique keys to data in tables within the cloud, such as a VIN number, or other generated unique keys.

Accessory Matching

Imagine your in a store by yourself, and trying on an article of clothing, if the dress, pants or skirt contains an NFC tag, you can touch it with your smartphone, which links you to either advisors or AI,  perhaps sponsored by a fashion magazine, that may provide you with with ideas to match that article of clothing, such as complementary accessories.  This could be accomplished through a video camera, front facing camera, perhaps ads float across the bottom of the screen, and/or it could be a subscription service.

 Meeting People / Dating

If you find yourself in a crowed bar, or party, and want to exchange information with someone you just met,  you have an NFC tag or sticker placed on the back of your hand, or on your purse, when bumped, will automatically exchange a brief bio, picture, likes, interests, and an email address.  If your smartphone is GPS compatible, the data is loaded onto your smartphone with the captured NFC tag data in addition to the location, so you never ask, so where did I meet this guy again?

Supply Chain Management and Shortages

Every person in the supply chain from manufacturer to retailers may have an NFC tag embedded within their employee identification tag, and as each individual handles the product or package, they swipe their card to the other NFC tag, and their employee unique identifier, along with date time and location (optional) may be rewrite the tag to append the new information.  This may prevent product shortages, as well as help further optimize the supply chain.

 

Near Field Communications & WiFi Lure B&M Window Shoppers

I read articles today about free Brick and Mortar in store WiFi to utilize tech to enhance in store experiences. Another article I read about Nike embedding tech to enhance their products echos manufacturers might want to continue to pursue embedding chips, such as Near Field Communications (NFC) in conjunction with in store WiFi to offer both programmable manufacturer rebates as well as in store sale offers turning window shoppers into sales.  WiFi  would not just entice the prospective shopper, but also provides manufacturers with the ability to update rebate offers as seasons and styles are shifted to help move stock.  A win for the consumer, manufacturer, and retailer.

Big Data Creates Opportunities for Retail Vendors through Affinity Collective Marketing

In the Harvard Business Review, there is an article, Will Big Data Kill All but the Biggest Retailers?  In fact, one idea is to umbrella many independent retailers under affinity programs, such as charities, every N part of the purchase allows the charity to reach specific goals as defined by the consumer, for example, a group of consumers are working toward a common purchase goal for their affinity group.  Using trusted, independent marketing data warehouses independent retail vendors share ‘big data’ to enable them to compete and utilize the same pool of consumer [habitual] spending data.  As we have credit companies like Equifax, affinity marketing data companies can enable their independent vendors with the tools for Business Intelligence and pull consumer data.  Trusted, independent marketing data warehouses sprout up to collect consumer data and enable it’s retail vendor clients to mine the data, and also distribute a portion of the wealth collected to the affinity groups.  The opportunity for the enablement of consumer affinity goal, and distribution could be sub contracted.

These trusted loyalty affinity data warehouses, not to be affiliated with financial institutions, as previously implemented with credit cards, but more in line with, or analagous to supermarket style loyalty programs, however, all independent retail vendors may participate, OPTIONALLY capping these affinity program memberships from the retail vendor side to small to mid size capitalization.  To attract consumers,  affinities of ALL types of endeavors would be the competitive edge, and flexibility on the goal of the wealth, and varying degree of tangible assets to the affinity causes, with a progress bar to indicate when the goals are reached.

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