Clobotics uses AI to help physical stores compete in an online world

Companies working in ecommerce and digital abound, but some technology providers are bucking that trend. In just two years, Clobotics has gone from launch to supporting several global retail and manufacturer brands, enabling artifical intelligence technology to help traditional enterprises do more.

George Yan, founder and CEO, previously worked at Microsoft. His efforts during his tenure included a lot of time building cloud and other computing platforms, “but we always felt we were missing that last mile of enabling the services for the enterprises,” Yan says. Bricks-and-mortar retailers stood out to him as a segment that needed technology to help them remain competitive.

One decidedly manual task stores must tackle is arranging products on the shelves. Managing the details behind that placement can be a challenge, and Yan says the right strategy is key. The retailer isn’t the only one with skin in the game. “Since CPG companies are paying for the shelf space, they want to make sure their products are in the right places,” Yan says. That’s where Clobotics is ready to help brands close the gap.

With the company’s technology working behind the scenes, an associate can go into a store and take photos of a shelf or cooler. Pictures are then sent to the cloud platform and Clobotics processes the images in real time, indicating how products are placed. Even when shelves are 50 feet long or more — impossible to capture in just one picture — Clobotics can overlay a series of photos, stitching them together automatically instead of shackling the associate with hours of work and the potential for a miscount.

“With these types of technologies, we’re able to transform the bricks-and-mortar retailers and how they operate,” Yan says.

Not only can the AI-powered Clobotics technology help streamline and improve shelf space management, it also makes key information available for review and, more importantly, action. “Previously, a lot of information got massaged together, and that’s a week or a month later,” Yan says. “By that time, that promotion phase or the shelf space has already changed. It’s no longer relevant.”

Just as digital operations benefit from near-instantaneous data analysis, Clobotics makes shelf management information available in real time. “Getting that knowledge into decision makers’ hands and the business associates’ hands, that’s critical,” Yan says.

While many bricks-and-mortar retailers are keen to expand their online presence, deep down some might wonder if they’re trying to be something they’re not.

“I think their bread and butter — what they’re good at — is they have that space, that place of interaction between the shopper and the products on the shelf,” Yan says. The in-store experience remains a critical component in overall success.

By giving brands the ability to capitalize on their store assets, Clobotics helps them drive better value from what they already have.

Yan also sees the potential for future features that will focus on improving interactions between stores and on-premise shoppers. The Clobotics team is working to create a smaller footprint of the technology and push it into a mobile phone. One day, Yan envisions getting recognition capabilities into the hands of consumers.

“Imagine you’re walking into a store and standing in front of a shelf,” he says. “Wouldn’t it be great, looking at multiple brands and multiple flavors, if it was able to instantly tell you the ingredients, the reviews a product has and other information you might be interested in?”

There’s also the potential to offer discounts on the spot to entice customers further, something that’s common in ecommerce but a challenge for bricks-and-mortar retailers. With the AI technology behind Clobotics, Yan says, “we believe that experience will be mimicked offline, and retailers will be more competitive in that space.”