AWS for Industries

Enhancing the Retail Experience: The Power of Computer Vision

In retail’s ever-changing landscape, technology is rapidly advancing the operational equation. It’s never been more important for businesses to stay ahead of the curve, especially with technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), deep learning, and generative AI. These technologies can offer businesses more flexible cloud operating platforms, proliferation of data, and advanced data techniques.

One of the most transformative technologies reshaping the retail sector is computer vision. This cutting-edge technology is revolutionizing the way retailers operate their business, interact with customers, and streamline processes.

We’ll explore the role of computer vision in the retail industry and how it’s shaping the future of shopping.

Computer Vision 101

Computer vision is a field of artificial intelligence that helps computers interpret and understand the visual world. It involves teaching machines to process, analyze, and make decisions based on images or videos. This technology has been widely adopted across industries, but it holds a particularly extraordinary promise in retail.

Improving Customer Experiences

Personalized shopping: Computer vision allows retailers to provide personalized shopping experiences for its customers. By analyzing a customer’s in-store behavior, their movement and activity, retailers can recommend products tailored to their preferences. Online, computer vision equips ecommerce sites with the ability to suggest products based on past purchases and browsing history, making online shopping feel more like a personalized in-store experience.

Faster checkout: Automated checkout systems powered by computer vision can significantly reduce checkout times. For instance, Amazon Go stores use computer vision to automatically track items added to a shopping cart and charge customers accordingly as they leave the store, lessening the need for traditional cashiers.

Virtual try-on: For fashion and beauty retailers, computer vision powers virtual try-on experiences, where customers can see how clothes or makeup will look on them without trying them on physically. This experience reduces the likelihood of product returns, which drives significant cost to retailers and enhances customer satisfaction.

Effective inventory management is crucial for retailers to meet customer demands while minimizing costs. So, does computer vision hold the same promise when it comes to supply chain, sourcing, and inventory management?

The answer is yes.

In fact, computer vision aids in these areas through:

  • Real-time inventory monitoring: Many retailers still use the “physical count” method to inventory stores and warehouses, a highly manual and inaccurate process. With computer vision, retailers can monitor inventory levels on store shelves in real-time, restocking products as soon as they run low to reduce out-of-stock situations and lost sales.
  • Automated shelf auditing: Computer vision systems can perform routine shelf audits, identifying misplaced items, stockouts, or expired products. With automated shelf auditing, retailers can maintain accurate inventory levels and improves store efficiency.
  • Enhanced supply chain visibility: Computer vision can be employed in logistics and supply chain operations to track the movement of goods. This visibility aids in managing shipments, preventing theft, and optimizing the distribution process.
  • Anomaly detection: Computer vision systems can detect suspicious behaviors in-store, such as unattended bags or unusual movements, allowing store personnel to respond quickly to potential threats.

Amazon, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Computer Vision

Amazon has been at the forefront of leveraging computer vision in the retail sector. We have implemented several innovative initiatives that showcase the potential of this technology:

Amazon Go stores: Our most notable application of computer vision in retail is the Amazon Go concept. These stores offer a cashier-less shopping experience. Shoppers simply walk in, pick up the items they want, and leave.

The entire shopping process is tracked and automated using a combination of computer vision, sensors, and machine learning algorithms. Cameras installed throughout the store track customers and the items they select. As customers exit the store, their Amazon accounts are charged for the items they’ve taken, reducing not only checkout time but also the need for traditional cashiers.

This same technology is present in Amazon Fresh grocery stores.

Amazon Shop the Look: Previously called ‘StyleSnap,’ it is an application of computer vision for fashion retail. Customers can take a picture or upload an image of a fashion item they like. Amazon Shop the Look uses computer vision to find similar products available on Amazon—helping customers discover fashion items which match their preferences.

Ring security cameras: Acquired by Amazon in 2018, Ring cameras use computer vision to detect motion, recognize people, and enhance home security.

AWS computer vision services: AWS offers various computer vision services. These services, such as Amazon Rekognition, allow businesses to build their own computer vision applications, from facial recognition to object detection, content moderation, and more.

Our extensive use of computer vision in retail demonstrates our commitment to improving customer experiences, increasing operational efficiency, and exploring innovative ways to merge technology with the shopping process.

Looking Ahead with Computer Vision

As technology advances, we can expect even more innovative applications of computer vision in the retail industry. Some potential future developments include:

  • Augmented reality (AR) shopping: Retailers may use AR glasses or apps that integrate computer vision to overlay product information, reviews, and pricing on real-world items, enhancing the in-store shopping experience.
  • Advanced customer analytics: Deeper insights into customer behavior and preferences give retailers the tools to create hyper-personalized marketing campaigns and fine-tune store layouts for maximum sales.
  • Seamless multichannel experiences: The integration of computer vision in physical and digital retail spaces creates a more cohesive and convenient shopping experience for customers.

Computer vision is reshaping the retail industry, enabling retailers to provide highly personalized shopping experiences, improve inventory management, and enhance security. As technology continues to advance, the future holds even more exciting possibilities for this game-changing technology.

Learn how AWS can help you, and your business, stay ahead of the retail curve by contacting an AWS representative today.

Further Reading

Justin Honaman

Justin Honaman

Justin Honaman leads the worldwide Retail and Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) Go-to-Market team at Amazon Web Services (AWS). He is also the worldwide segment leader for Food & Beverage. His team’s focus within CPG and Retail is on delivering supply chain, ecommerce, data, analytics, and digital engagement business solutions for customers globally.