The FINANCIAL — Engaged personalization matters! Tailoring the shopping experience to meet customers’ expectations and deliver what they need before they even know they need, is the key to success in a competitive retail environment. This notion is no longer disputed. The big question, however, remains “how to pioneer in an everchanging technological era” instead of just barely keeping up with the competition.
Let us take a step back and look at a bigger picture from a perspective of mind-blowing innovation. How many of you have heard about Sophia? It, or should I say she, is a humanoid robot developed by Hong Kong-based company Hanson Robotics. Sophia has been designed to learn and adapt to human behavior and work with humans. According to the manufacturer, Mr. David Hanson, “Sophia has artificial intelligence (AI), visual data processing and facial recognition”. Sophia also imitates human gestures and facial expressions and she is capable of answering certain set of questions: “Each time her answers become more and more sophisticated as she is built to learn from past interactions” explained Mr. Hanson. In October 2017, she became a Saudi Arabian citizen, the first robot to receive citizenship of a country. This is an extraordinary step into the “future” we are all used to seeing in “futuristic movies” only. That future is materializing into now faster than most of us could imagine possible.
With this in mind, it no longer should be that hard for the retailers to process big data and personalize the offer to customers in real time, should it?
This week, Georgian IT Innovations Conference and Awards will be celebrating 10th Anniversary. Mr. Giga Shubitidze, the organizer of the GITI event and the President of the ICT Business Council of Georgia told Experto that “for the past decade, our conference has successfully provided a high-powered environment in which experts, information security professionals, government officials, businessmen and other “bright minds”, who strive to make life more challenging through the extensive use of ICTs are able to network, establish essential cooperation mechanisms and exchange views on best practices”.
Mr. Irakli Gvenetadze, one of the founders of GITI expressed appreciation to Experto: “our distinguished panel of keynote speakers yet again will bring a diverse set of insights on different advancements on IT initiatives around the world. This year, with the help of Experto we will be hosting the Founder and CEO of Beabloo, a leader in developing omnichannel digital marketing solutions and Big Data analytics for online and offline marketing”.
Beabloo is a Spanish technology company serving the international market needs based out of Barcelona. Mr. Jaume Portell, CEO of Beabloo has given Experto a sneak preview of what his speech at the upcoming GITI will focus on: “Digital Signage technology has been developing powerful capabilities to amaze customers in the retail space, visuals, formats, and resolutions. Sensing technologies have added eyes and ears to retail spaces and can now understand who, where and when in real time, with high precision. When those two technologies meet in the retail space, a new discipline arises with a strong voice: Active Retail Intelligence”.
With that level of sensing and having a powerful and efficient Proximity Digital Marketing solution in hand, the translation of all those learning points to action becomes a must. Mr. Portell further elaborated that: “Machine learning algorithms propose which content is most relevant for a certain audience, at any given point of time, and activating those content changes in real time converts an attractive Digital Signage system into an Artificial Intelligence system that creates value for retailers 24 x 7”.
With these solutions in hand, sensing systems observe customers, their age, gender, mood, where they are, what they touch, they listen to their voices and learn by understanding how they interact with content delivered in a retail space. In retail, digital signage has taken a leap forward with the help of innovative technologies and anonymous data analytics. Innovative shopping malls and stores have already started creating value with these new tools.
Logical question follows: where do Georgian players stand? Do retailers use video analytics to decide which ad to show to a person standing in front of a sign in real time, for instance? Closer examination showed that not yet. But there is a clear sign of willingness from the key players to jump onto this trending breakthrough. Experto spoke with Mr. Zurab Magradze, Business Development Director at UGT to better understand the local trends. UGT has been operating on the Georgian market for the past two decades. From the market leader’s perspective, the company has secured partnerships with world-class entities, such as Microsoft, HP, Cisco, Dell EMC, Oracle, Lenovo, Acer, Symantec and others with ease: “UGT is known as an implementer of complex integrative decisions and is trusted by a wide range of large-scale clients in both public and private sectors.”, explained Mr. Magradze.
UGT tries to always keep up with the latest trends: “right now we are actively working on the implementation of cloud technologies in Georgia”. The Business Development Director revealed to Experto that: “UGT plans to offer Cloud Services relying on its own infrastructure base. We attribute significant importance to the introduction of hybrid cloud solutions”. The company also takes an active part in many eGovernance projects. For instance, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, they are currently working on a project to service resource centers of public schools to ensure their streamlined IT infrastructure operation.
“The foremost challenge that exists in the Georgian IT space is the lack of competence and proper staff in the field of data processing and modern analytical means” candidly said Mr. Magradze. He went on that “there is a vivid need for specialized personnel with specific knowledge, i.e. Data Scientists, for instance, whose main task is to create complex correlations between massive data and generate relevant conclusions”.
UGT senses that large commercial banks and telecommunication companies are slowly beginning to show signs of curiosity towards the issue of processing big data efficiently. Zurab also recalled a project the State Services Development Agency of the Ministry of Justice has recently implemented. “The Agency is carrying out information support for operating Georgia’s migration profile with the help of Big Data Analytic. It is therefore obvious that the trend of using this type of technology will be constantly growing in Georgia in the coming years”, concluded the UGT representative.
It did not escape Experto’s attention that Clean House retail chain has recently installed displays in their stores. We have spoken to their Head of Marketing Department, Ms. Kato Petriashvili. She frankly spoke to us regarding their data analytics strategy: “We have our own centrally managed digital network that currently unites 85 screens and 25 taxi monitors.” The idea of creating and operating this network belongs to PixelArt: “together with this company we are actively working on developing digital channels, said Ms. Petriashvili. She expressed concern that “unfortunately, there is practically no infrastructure in place for swift digital development; inexperienced staff, low quality infrastructure and expensive internet are the main hindering factors. Nonetheless, digital development is considered as a vital component for our retail network and PixelArt specialists are actively working with us on new initiatives”.
Kato Petriashvili Head of marketing department at LTD clean house also chimed in on the topic: “Clean House wants to implement novel initiatives in digital direction. They would like to be able to give tailored offers to customers and meet their needs in real time already. We are working on developing efficient processing of data on ERP systems, but unfortunately, the process is significantly affected by the lack of Georgia’s inexperience in this regard. Existing ERP systems do not support certain features.”
Despite several attempts with one of the startup companies in Georgia, Clean House had to postpone the implementation of IOT 1000 device system: “but we are not discouraged – our technical team will continue to work with PixelArt to find, for instance, ways of how to count the viewers intelligently”.
Digital signage with AI technology provides a platform for retailers to take shopping experiences to a new level, wowing customers with unique interactions and exceptional service. In conclusion, if retailers continue to take advantage of data and AI, their digital signage could play a key role in driving sales. In other words, as Mr. Jaume Portell stated, “from Voice enabled Digital Signage Bots, to Digital Signage systems that leverage machine learning technologies to choose what to show and improve automatically conversion ratio”. Welcome to the future, which is being implemented right now!