Google, Sony, Oracle to NRF: You Can’t Spell Retail Without ‘A-I’

retail tech

Officially it’s called Retail’s Big Show, but NRF 2023 was also about Retail’s Big Tech.

As in, the retail industry’s increasing embrace of Big Tech and the scores of artificial intelligence (AI) solutions being showcased at the just-wrapped annual National Retail Federation convention in New York aimed at solving myriad problems that are currently plaguing the business.

“Personalization and time matter; they drive conversion,” apparel store Express CEO Tim Baxter told the crowd at one dozens of NRF breakout sessions, pointing to the evolving customer preferences and the role of tech innovation.

The setting for a slew of announcements was NRF 2023: Retail’s Big Show, where suppliers including Lexmark, SymphonyAI and Oracle, Sony, SoundHound, and others either unveiled or demonstrated the applications for AI in improving various aspects of retail operations.

Google Cloud preempted NRF opening day on Sunday (Jan. 15) with its Jan. 13 introduction of a suite of AI tech built to tackle common issues among enterprise retailers.

Shelf-stocking and in-stock/out-of-stock monitoring features in several of the systems shown at the NRF expo. Google Cloud showed its Vertex AI Vision, utilizing “Google’s database of facts about people, places and things, giving retailers the ability to recognize billions of products to ensure in-store shelves are right-sized and well-stocked.”

Also on display was an update to its Discovery AI with improved personalization AI capabilities and AI browse feature “to help retailers upgrade their digital storefronts with more dynamic and intuitive shopping experiences,” per a press release. Its Recommendations AI rounded out the suite with “new machine learning capabilities that empower retailers to dynamically optimize product ordering and recommendations panels on their eCommerce pages and deliver personalized suggestions for repeat purchases.”

Read: Google Cloud Launches AI-Powered Tools for Inventory-Checking and Shopping

Forecasting purchasing trends is another area where AI is being deployed. SymphonyAI talked up its collaboration with Oracle in which SymphonyAI solutions are now running on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) and tapping into the Oracle Exadata Database Service.

Per a press release, the Oracle pact ensures “SymphonyAI’s customers’ ability to train AI models rapidly to forecast purchasing trends, making sure every customer’s store has the optimized number of products in the right place on the shelves.”

In a bid to help retailers visualize physical retail spaces virtually for salesfloor optimization, Sony Semiconductor Solutions showed its edge AITRIOS™ AI sensing platform, first unveiled late last year.

As Sony said, “The AITRIOS platform enables retail customers and partners to visualize and capture the physical world of brick-and-mortar to enable AI predictions and solve challenging problems such as on-shelf-availability, planogram compliance, staffing, merchandising, and store operation optimization.”

Eita Yanagisawa, senior general manager of the System Solution Business Division at Sony Semiconductor Solutions, said in an announcement that “The AITRIOS platform is designed to democratize visual AI beyond expensive and unwieldy moonshot projects and move toward solving narrower, concrete problems that have a clearer path to deliver ROI.”

See also: NRF 2023 Retail’s Big Show Celebrates Return to Physical Stores

Imaging and IoT products manufacturer Lexmark took to the NRF 2023 stage with its AI-driven Smart Retail Solution Suite, which can improve employee productivity and engagement, alert retail associates about stock-out events of high-margin items, and personalize signage based on customer behavior, according to a press release.

“The retail landscape has changed profoundly since we last attended NRF in person in 2020,” said Paul Merritt, industry director for retail at Lexmark. “Retailers are looking for new ways to increase profits while delivering an exceptional customer experience. We are thrilled to be back in person at NRF and look forward to demonstrating our newest and best retail-specific offerings that help connect a retailer’s physical and digital worlds.”

This activity is in line with industry trends around the digital transformation of physical stores, and the increasing need for AI and automation that limit adoption and implementation issues.

According to the study “Navigating Big Retail’s Digital Shift: The New Payments Strategy Evolution,” a PYMNTS and ACI Worldwide collaboration, “Retailers may find that launching a user experience improvement initiative presents multiple constraints. Organizations may face numerous barriers in implementing new technologies due to entrenched processes, limited staff, inadequate training resources, or a steep learning curve.”

Get the study: Navigating Big Retail’s Digital Shift: The New Payments Strategy Evolution

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