Bricks & mortar: Compete through AI, etc.

FULL DISCLOSURE - Fidel O. Abalos (The Freeman) - September 12, 2020 - 12:00am

Undeniably, even before the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) wreaked havoc globally, the bricks and mortar businesses were already on the receiving end of online retail’s surge.   Online retail’s advantage though rose exponentially during the onslaught of COVID-19.

We can all see this happening in our midst. Inarguably, e-commerce or online retail platforms are sprouting and are into their own sorts of competition. Just like the usual bricks and mortar businesses that we’ve seen growing up, they are also on sale, more often, to increase traffic or patronage.

True enough, online retail’s dominance is well demonstrated by Amazon. A company that only started selling books online is now into everything we can imagine. Impressively, just established in July 5, 1994, it has expanded into cloud computing, digital streaming, and artificial intelligence. Consequently, it is now considered as one of the Big Four technology companies along with Google, Apple, and Facebook. 

As a testament to its dominance, its CEO (and majority owner), Jeff Bezos, is now the world’s richest with a net worth of over US$200 billion. He happens to be the first human being on Earth to accumulate that much wealth. Notably, he surpassed Warren Buffet, the investment guru, and Bill Gates, a fellow tech giant, with ease. That’s no easy feat. 

COVID-19 though had so much influence in the rapid accumulation of his wealth.  Obviously, because most consumers have not much choices these days but to go online for health reasons. However, when the vaccine shall be available and COVID-19 is neutralized, the bricks and mortar will certainly redeem their heydays. 

For one, not everyone is happy shopping online. When the pandemic is over, these bad experiences will surely be more pronounced. Among others, frauds in online shopping have remained unabated. Delays in deliveries are rampant. The lack of interactivity, touch and feel of merchandise and close verification in online shopping make it difficult for shoppers to make the right decisions. More importantly, the huge discounts only the bricks and mortar stores can offer and the shopping experiences are truly irreplaceable.

For bricks and mortar businesses though, these online shopping disadvantages are not enough to sustain their operations. They must be more analytical. Not only that, they must be able to see the future vividly not by guesswork but by the use of reliable information.  Information that are scientifically gathered, simply put, through the use of appropriate tools that are already available.

Probably, never heard by most of us, there is a platform that analyzes traffic in physical stores or bricks and mortar. Cosmose, a start-up, has three products that tracks foot traffic in bricks and mortar stores to “help predict customer behavior.” These are Cosmose Analytics, Cosmose AI and Cosmose Media. 

Cosmose Analytics “tracks customers’ movements inside brick-and-mortar stores.”  It analyses “consumers’ offline shopping habits and learn how the stores are doing against competitors.” It “analyzes shopper’s behavior from many perspectives (store, brand, category, shopping mall) across weeks, days and hours.” A store, therefore, can easily “get valuable shoppers insights.” It helps the store understands “who are its customers, which stores they visit most often, which competitors it should pay attention to and where to open a new store.”

Cosmose AI, on the other hand, is a data analytics and prediction platform. It helps “retailers create marketing campaigns and increase sales.” It uses “artificial neural networks to increase the accuracy of location positioning, predict who is likely to visit a certain store and predict who should see store’s campaign in order to achieve its sales goals.” Every day, it “tracks offline shopping habits of 1B smartphones and matches this against online advertising and online behavioral data.” 

Cosmose Media is used for “targeting online ads.” It is used “to connect with offline audiences via online ads.” It keeps “track offline shopping behavior of over 1 billion people.”  Therefore, the store can “finally take advantage of this data and increase its advertising ROI.”

Clearly, therefore, if the bricks and mortar stores will do purely the same traditional way of doing things, they are bound to fold up. Remember, physical stores’ competitors are not just their fellow bricks and mortars. If they have to stay in business, they must also strive to influence a shift (by online customers) back to bricks and mortar. How?  By knowing their behavior “through analytics and artificial intelligence” and proper use of online ads. 


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