Q&A: Kevin Howard, CEO, AWM Smart Shelf
AWM Smart Shelf is tapping AI and deep learning to re-imagine the online experience for the in-store marketplace. “There are not many companies out there helping retailers with the transition – and nobody offers what we do and how we do it,” CEO Kevin Howard tells RTIH
RTIH: Tell us about AWM Smart Shelf.
KH: AWM Smart Shelf is bringing the benefits of the online experience to physical retail. We utilise advanced computer vision and machine learning in our products to understand and interact with the retail environment in ways never before possible.
Our two main offerings are 1) our autonomous shopping application, AWM Frictionless, which automates checkout and payment, and 2) our market leading shelf edge display technology which allows for digital price tags, planogram compliance, and immersive video content.
When integrated together, these technologies offer an unparalleled retail experience.
RTIH: What was the inspiration behind setting the company up?
KH: Each year, more and more shoppers are becoming frustrated with the in-store retail experience and turning to online shopping, which has created a serious problem for bricks and mortar retailers.
The company was started to transform traditional retail and bring it into the 21st century, while cutting retailers’ carbon footprint via supply chain optimisation.
AWM Frictionless removes the hassle of checkout lines and payment, while maintaining the tangible interaction and instant delivery physical retail provides. It also adds operational efficiencies that reduce the required physical footprint of stores and brings retailers closer to a ‘just in time’ inventory model.
RTIH: What has been the industry reaction thus far?
KH: Reaction has been phenomenal. Traditional retail is beginning to see the writing on the wall and is eager to catch up and be ahead of the curve. It was only a matter of time for deep learning to go from autonomous cars to autonomous shopping in the form of AWM Frictionless. There are not many companies out there helping retailers with the transition – and nobody offers what we do and how we do it.
RTIH: What has been your biggest challenge/setback?
KH: The biggest challenge thus far has been managing growth while never compromising customer satisfaction. We are here to help walk retailers thru this watershed moment in their business. It is important that AWM Frictionless integrates seamlessly into retailers’ existing operations and that we’re there for them every step of the way.
RTIH: What are the biggest challenges facing the omnichannel retail sector right now?
KH: I think the biggest challenge is bringing the benefits of digital experiences into the physical space in ways that make sense for both the customer and retailer. Customers want the speed and convenience of online, while retailers want to provide experiences that generate lift. AWM Frictionless and our shelf edge display technology provides this for both parties.
RTIH: What's the best question about your company, or the market, asked of you recently by an investor and a customer?
KH: By an investor: “Can you be everywhere at once?” Investors see so many opportunities for the business it can sometimes be hard to reach consensus. You will see a lot of big things from us this year with AWM Frictionless, but each roll-out has come at the cost of not doing, or delaying others. These are good problems to have, and why I consider it the “best” question from investors.
By a customer: “Can I have it now?” Once customers realise the potential of AWM Frictionless, they want it delivered yesterday. Again, a good problem to have, but we will not compromise customer satisfaction in the interest of growth or unfulfilled promises.
RTIH: What can we expect to see from AVM Smart Shelf over the next 12 months?
KH: You will begin seeing several of our AWM Frictionless pilots at household name retailers around the world. The interest and feedback we’re getting is amazing, and we can’t wait to share what we’ve been building.