Is Smart Technology the Future of Retail? | Be Korea-savvy

Is Smart Technology the Future of Retail?

SK C&C's 'Unmanned Store'. (image: SK C&C)

SK C&C’s ‘Unmanned Store’. (image: SK C&C)

SEOUL, May 17 (Korea Bizwire)As a woman in her 40s enters a clothing store with her daughter, a “smart” CCTV camera recognizes her as a regular customer, delivering her personal information to a welcome robot, which then greets both the female customer and her daughter.

As the customer moves around the shop, custom-fit coupons and product recommendations appear on her smartphone.

As she prepares to pay for her purchases, she turns to smile for a camera that uses facial recognition to complete the payment using her credit card details registered previously.

Such is a scene from a type of store expected to be ubiquitous in the future, where innovative technology such as artificial intelligence and robots will replace human employees. Such technology will be able to offer customized services without the presence of a single human employee in the physical store.

At an information session held by SK C&C on Tuesday, the company revealed that the digital transformation of the distribution sector would start in physical stores through customized services.

According to SK C&C, the traditional retail industry has been declining recently with departments stores and supermarkets recording negative growth since 2013.

On the other hand, online retail shops have been growing close to 10 percent annually thanks to new technological developments including artificial intelligence and cloud technology.

One of the more well-known examples of such futuristic manifestations can be found at Starbucks. Due to rapid expansion and the global economic crisis that hit in 2008, sales at Starbucks fell dramatically that year.

The following year, the coffeehouse chain started to implement digital services integrated into its system from order to payment that customized the customer experience.

Based on information stored in its database, coupons for products favored by customers is appear on their smartphones.

Such efforts coupled with a restructuring of the company increased operating profits by three-fold last year from 2010.

In South Korea, customized marketing based on AI and big data is being integrated into business practices as well. SK C&C has introduced a new type of digital distribution service based on AI and cloud hosting.

The company’s “Vision AI” can be described as a next generation facial recognition program, extracting facial images from videos and photos to identify its owner.

SK C&C says its goal is to use “Vision AI” to recommend customized products to individuals, and use its facial recognition function to complete payment transactions.

In order to make this happen, the company is in talks with banks so that the facial recognition technology can be implemented at ATMs around the nation.

In addition, SK C&C is currently developing voice chat robots that are able to take orders over the phone during off-work hours and weekends.

For example, customers that call to order products after viewing them on a home shopping network will be answered by AI voice recognition robots.

SK C&C expects sales during off-hours evenings and weekends to increase by 30 percent by use of this technology.

Kevin Lee (

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