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Today, global computer vision retail solutions provider, Trax, announced that former Google AI and product leader, Barak Turovsky, is joining as the organization’s new chief product officer (CPO). The company says he will apply his AI expertise to help enhance the omnichannel shopping experience of retailers, brands, and consumers. 

Turovsky spent a decade at Google, most recently as director of product for Google AI, focusing on using AI to develop natural language understanding and computer vision technology. He also served as the head of product for Google’s mobile commerce team, helping to design and launch Google Pay.

With a decade of experience working to organize the world’s (online) information with Google, Turovsky hopes to leverage AI to organize product information in brick and mortar stores worldwide. The goal is, to assist brands and retailers with offering shoppers  a streamlined, enhanced experience across physical, mobile and online channels. 

Turovsky shared how modern organizations and retailers can use AI to improve the experience of partners and customers throughout the omnichannel ecosystem with VentureBeat. 


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VB: What do you mean when you talk about the world of omnichannel and the omnichannel customer journey? 

Turovsky: “People might still not be aware that ecommerce, which obviously had enormous growth for [the] last 10, 15 years, [but] it’s still only 13% of total U.S. commerce volume.

Ecommerce is around 900 billion in sales and it’s growing like 0.7% to 1% year-on-year on average, but physical commerce is almost $7 trillion in sales, so while ecommerce it’s obviously growing faster, but there’s still a ton of room to grow. So, physical sales are still [the] lion’s share of the overall commerce volume in the U.S.

So, we believe that instead of replacing in-store sales with ecommerce, we’re heading toward what’s called omnichannel experience where physical, online, and mobile experiences are kind of blending at this amazing pace. This is especially true for fast-moving consumer goods like foods, snacks etc. (see Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods as an example).

It’s basically a massive ecosystem. Where you have brands like let’s say Coca-Cola, retailers, let’s say Whole Foods, consumers, and for omnichannel you also have those delivery companies like DoorDash Instacart etc., all of them need information about the  inventory but also about  on-shelf availability and placement

VB: How is Omnichannel Influencing the In-store Experience? 

Turovsky: Before [the] internet came along, we actually had a seamless real-time experience, it was called just going to your local grocery store, right. It was not [a] super optimized experience, maybe you didn’t get the best price, maybe not the best selections, but it was a well-defined, closed, seamless experience.

In the last 25 years of commerce constantly exploding, the internet has given us multiple logistic, information, discounts, product selection options, and it’s definitely expanded our shopping universe greatly. Now you’re exposed to a lot more vendors and products, and prices etc.

But as you probably know, the human brain has limits on how much information it can process and, in many cases, giving you 20 choices doesn’t make your shopping experience better. 

It also created, to some extent, a disjointed experience for the average shopper because they’re now bombarded by all this information and they’re still worried about not quite getting the real deal, the right product, etc. 

VB: What is the most relevant use case for omnichannel AI for technical decision makers? 

Turovsky: “The next frontier for everyone is what I would call an area of fast perishable goods, you’re talking about vegetables, fruits, etc. 

One of the unique challenges there is that retailers today are suffering from significant loss of this fresh produce, for example, if fresh produce expires without selling, it could even be  a legal liability.

For example, let’s say you sold expired apples that could cause a huge lawsuit, plus it’s a logistical challenge to discard it, you need to remove it, you might need to donate it, maybe discard it in the right way. 

One of the things that I think [AI] is great for is here you can monitor sales trends for perishable goods, how much stock is still on the shelf, how fast it’s moving, and offer personalized promotions or maybe even coupons for accelerating sales. 

VB: How Trax is using AI in the market? 

Turovsky: Trax provides several solutions that basically enable this integrated experience. The first one is computer vision using AI, we also have what’s called IoT solutions, it’s a retailer offering where you put a Wi-Fi camera that covers an entire shelf space so to speak, to basically allow it to monitor and analyze, for brands monitoring the shelf placement, and for retailers monitoring inventory, out of stock etc

We also have a solution that’s called Dynamic Merchandising, and that’s basically a gig worker marketplace that helps brands and retailers with what’s called sales or shelf execution.

For example, if a brand needs to set up promotion to create a tasting station or create some kind of a promotional area, or even restock the items, Trax has kind of a solution via gig worker marketplace that [can] quickly send people to the store, not only to monitor but actually to execute some of those tasks.

And, finally shopper activation…if you could rapidly deliver personalized offers and promotions to users and to shoppers and bring them to [the] store to either interact with your item or better even buy it I think that’s a huge advantage for the entire ecosystem, both for shoppers that get a good deal, for retailers that potentially you know can move the inventory faster, and for brands as well because people get exposed to their brand or product. Shopkick (a Trax company) offers a pretty cool solution in that space. 

VB: What About Supply Chain Management? 

Turovsky: In the supply chain today, we obviously have temporary supply chain disruption for everyone, but retailers usually are very good at that  because they’re actually very optimized. I think where retailers are falling behind…is this ability to very quickly understand shelf shortages. In many cases, the inventory shows the item is there, but it’s actually not there. 

VB: So AI Helps Make the Customer Experience More Seamless? 

Turovsky: Absolutely, and it’s across the ecosystem because if you bring a lot of people to stores, but the item is not there on display that’s a horrible experience. 

If you don’t bring people to stores, in the example of perishable goods, and the item is rotting there, god forbid it stays on the shelf, that’s horrible. If you need to discard it, that’s a lot of expense. So if it works in tandem, and it grows brands, retailers, and shoppers, then it creates a really great seamless omnichannel experience.

VB: Where do you see in-store shopping experiences going in the next five years, and how do you think they will change?

Turovsky: So what I would say is we have physical, online, and mobile experiences blending in this amazing space, from going to physical stores, and basically engaging with solutions like ShopKick (a Trax company) where you basically can learn about some items and maybe get a discount to ordering it through a provider like Instacart or DoorDash or others, and get personalized promotions and rewards — there is a whole range of possibilities.

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