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AI is bringing ‘Minority Report’ payments and loyalty to life | PaymentsSource

Marc Benioff, CEO, Salesforce “We’re in this kind of crazy Minority Report world,” said Marc Benioff, CEO of SalesForce, which employs one of the film’s writers as an on-staff futurist.

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An iconic scene from the sci-fi film Minority Report depicts Tom Cruise walking through a mall, instantly identified through biometrics to bring up his character’s shopping history and personalized recommendations. Salesforce is so committed to making that future a reality that it hired one of the film’s writers, Peter Schwartz.

“We’re moving into that super fast,” said Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff in a fireside chat at the National Retail Federation’s Big Show this week in New York. “We’re in this kind of crazy Minority Report world, and Peter Schwartz, when he was on that team writing that … a few decades ago, wow, they really had it figured out. It’s amazing, and we’re kind seeing some of that emerge now.”

It’s been a long time coming. Schwartz, the company’s senior vice president of strategic planning, joined Salesforce back in 2011. And many other companies have been working toward the same goal.

Perhaps the version that is truest to the film’s vision — where Cruise’s character is identified by an eye scan and instantly pitched products or asked about past purchases by an automated system — is technology that PopID offers with NCR Voyix. The companies make a self-checkout system that uses computer vision to scan the shopper’s retina before pulling up a pre-enrolled payment card or loyalty account.

“You no longer need your [mobile] device or card. Your eyes are your device or card,” said Eric Schoch, executive vice president and president of retail for NCR Voyix, in an interview. 

This can be paired with technology that uses AI to identify the items the shopper is bringing through the checkout to further reduce friction — and this system is not the distant future, Schoch said. “That use case is two or three weeks away from being ready.” The system itself was built and running in NCR Voyix’s booth at the NRF conference.

Amazon does something similar with its Just Walk Out stores, which use AI and other technologies to detect what a customer picks up and carries through the door. The biggest difference to the consumer is that with Amazon’s stores, customers use a biometric palm reader instead of a retinal scan. For shoppers who aren’t quite ready to be a part of the Minority Report future, Amazon also takes payments at the turnstile via its app, a payment card or a store associate. 

Other companies that implement AI in their marketing and checkout are using it in ways that are more subtle than sci-fi. 

Sainsbury’s is working with NCR to add AI to its SmartShop system, which allows shoppers to scan items as they grab them from the shelves so that they don’t need to be scanned at checkout. 

To cut down on potential losses due to shoplifting or other forms of shrinkage, SmartShop users agree to random and targeted rescans. AI can help reduce this pain point, said Clodagh Moriarty, chief retail and technology officer for Sainsbury’s, in a fireside chat.

“Being able to deploy AI in the way that we are talking about … will stop us rescanning customers who we now have a much higher confidence [that] we don’t need to rescan,” Moriarty said. “The benefit there is that you improve that customer experience for everyone whilst improving the overall safety and security.”

Over the holiday season, Sainsbury’s used AI in its supply chain for the first time to determine how many items any of its shops would need, and when they would need them, by analyzing 10 times the data that the company had previously been able to use. This led to a 2% improvement in product availability, Moriarty said.

That level of impact was “candidly, immense,” she said. “And from a customer perspective, it meant that our customers weren’t disappointed.”

Target’s use of generative AI isn’t about scanning products or scanning eyeballs — at least, not literally. But it does care about how many views its product pages and ads get online. 

Large language models help Target rewrite product titles and descriptions to improve search engine optimization, Melissa Ludack, Target’s vice president of data science, said in a panel discussion.

“The performance we get out of that, but also the scale that we’re able to achieve, is phenomenal,” she said.

It also held an internal hackathon to find other uses for generative AI, and this led to the development of a performance insight engine that “can actually pull out insights on how well our ads are performing and then provide that back to our media analysts a lot faster than some of our traditional techniques have done historically,” Ludack said.

Christian Haeger, global industry lead for retail, consumer and service at the business consulting firm CGI, said retailers’ adoption of generative AI is a response to the inflation, margin pressure, buying patterns and other factors that weigh on stores’ costs.

“The retail industry is under heavy pressure to improve the customer … experience,” Haeger said in an email. “Automation and AI can be utilized to address these challenges, and make sure staff time is reallocated to improve service to customers.”

Self-checkout and AI are two technologies that go hand-in-hand, Haeger said.

“With the challenge of increased number of thefts in retail, the deployment of self-checkout is not obvious,” he said. “Many see the opportunity to use AI in order to prevent fraud and still allow for self-checkout.”

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