Six cool innovations from this year’s Retail Asia Expo

There was a lot to digest at this week’s Retail Asia Expo in Hong Kong, and the best way to contextualize some of it was a visit to the venue’s interactive experience center.

On display throughout the three-day event were booths and speaker content strongly skewed to omnichannel, proximity and O2O marketing.

Ecommerce strategies for China were also a big focus – with mobile at the forefront of all considerations.

But there was also a lot of cool stuff around interactive retail technology. Here are some of the highlights.

1. Red Ant: Antony the Chatbot

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AI and speech recognition technologies are a hot topic at the moment. And a centerpiece of the expo’s interactive center was Antony the Chatbot.

Antony is an artificial intelligence (AI) and speech recognition platform and was on hand as a virtual help desk to assist attendees at the expo with information on food and beverage options, key locations within the expo, and background on his company Red Ant, which specializes in retail customer experience and technology.

Red Ant’s regional director, Elisa Harca, is a regular contributor at ClickZ. Her most recent post covers in fascinating detail the different ways Asian and Western audiences are embracing (or not embracing) chatbot technologies.

Essentially, a chatbot like Antony can help retail marketers with commerce, customer service and content by providing a platform that allows a seamless exchange of information between the AI and a customer.

As the bot learns more about the consumer, it can also be used to make product recommendations (a bit like a human used to do).

For example, Antony could be on hand to make a mall’s directory more useful, in a store he could provide education or share product information. In an online context, he could be used to replace or enhance FAQs, support live chats and the customer journey.

It was lovely to meet Antony, but jet lag after his long trip from London may have impacted his ability to process all the different accents at the expo. As a proof of concept however, he is an early example of things to come as the technology improves.

2. Visionaries 777: 3D Real Time Configurators

Imagine flipping through a watch catalogue and being able to virtually “try” on a product that is yet to come to market? Or a property developer being able to show potential investors a 3D rendition of a skyscraper? How about the show rooming capabilities for an automaker to be able to showcase an entire product range despite the limited floor space?

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Visionaries 777 does not require fitted goggles to view any of these features. Line up a mobile phone or a tablet over the catalogue or an image and away you go.

For those of us in the market for a yacht, here’s how the same principle applies with interactive customization options.

3. Guardforce: Heat Mapping & Facial Recognition CRM

What can a well-established security brand like Guardforce offer the retail sector when it comes to innovative technologies?

Using its expertise in security monitoring via CCTV, Guardforce’s technology can channel data to map out the most popular parts of a retail space. This helps retailers better understand their customers’ buying habits and the most popular parts of the physical space.

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It’s easy to understand how marketers can build a more concise data profile of the individual consumer the more we interact online, but what happens when they can start to follow us offline as well?

Here Guardforce uses facial recognition technology to identify and analyze customer preferences. According to company information, the face recognition engine can quickly and accurately identify a person, even when they are on the move. The technology can also be applied to access control areas as well as recording attendances.

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4. Mirum: Chow Sang Sang Charme Table

Getting footfall into offline retail spaces is particularly acute in Hong Kong. Mirum is a digital agency helping brands with experiential marketing strategies and has helped jewelry retailer Chow Sang Sang with an O2O strategy.

Here’s an interactive “Charme” table Mirum has developed for the retailer.

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The customer can come in-store and select charms, threads and colors to customize a bracelet. A real time log shows the total cost of the accessory each time a charm is added. When the consumer is satisfied with the finished product, they press a complete button to receive a QR code.

They can then opt to have the Charme bracelet made up on the spot and buy in store, order online and have it delivered, or share the QR code on their social media channels allowing friends or family to make the purchase for them.

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5. AOPEN: Fitting Box

Here I am trying on a pair of virtual Valentino sunglasses.

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AOPEN’s Fitting Box is similar to a retail magic mirror concept allowing consumers to try stock online or in an offline store where the current product is not on site.

These technologies give retail brands the opportunity to showcase all of their stock (or even products which are yet to launch), within a limited floor space.

6. TRO: Eye Tracking

In this example, attendees at the expo were invited to build a hamburger… with their eyes. First we were asked to choose from three styles of buns.

The eye tracking software honed in on where the viewer spent the most time looking, and selected the most looked at bun. This was applied to the different types of cheeses and so on.

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Now, imagine how a retailer could use that technology in a showroom or a shop window. Retailers can identify what items they have on display which are the most ‘eye-catching’ and attention grabbing. Imagine then being able to provide said consumer with instant product information, details, discounts or flash sales.

*Featured image: Philip Stein / Visionaries 777

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