Samsung, Chevron Testing AI-Driven Virtual Advisor For Buying Wine … At A C-Store???

January 22, 2024 by Dave Haynes

Buying wine at a convenience store strikes me as the kind of thing semi-desperate, had-a-bad-day people do when regular options like grocery or liquor stores are unavailable, or not on the way. C-stores aren’t really the sort of place where the buying decisions are gratefully shaped by the recommendations of a sommelier.

But that’s kinda sorta what you’d have available if you popped in to a specific ExtraMile store in San Diego, via a trial being run by operator Chevron in collaboration with Samsung.

The electronics giant is running an in-store digital marketing pilot in three west coast US ExtraMile stores – with one of them having “a hyper-realistic generative AI-powered virtual being” called Sam the Sommelier.

Developed by Samsung’s AI research lab, it’s a tablet mounted at eye-level on the wine aisle at the San Diego store. It can: “interact with customers via voice or live chat through an app and provide recommendations for wine pairings with their food purchases. Customers can learn about each wine’s tasting notes, take a quiz to find their ideal bottle and get immediate assistance to complete their transaction – all through a natural conversation with this virtual being.”

The three-store pilot also involves a series of 4K Samsung smart displays installed around the ExtraMiles – in high-traffic areas such as the soda fountain, snack aisles, refrigerated sections and behind the register.

The PR on the pilot calls out a couple of trial-specific content tests:

“Stores today need to deliver interactive experiences to engage with the digital-savvy shopper,” says Sara Grofcsik, Executive Director of U.S. Commercial Sales for Samsung. “However, it’s difficult to meet current expectations for dynamic content with traditional signs and banners. This approach combines digital signage and real consumer data to reach customers at the right time with the right message. Customers stay up to date on hot products and deals, and this helps them keep coming back to ExtraMile stores for more.”

Samsung says it is also integrating FastSensor’s foot traffic analytics software at these ExtraMile locations with connectivity powered by T-Mobile’s 5G business internet solutions. FastSensor provides e-commerce-style metrics about a customer’s physical journey as they move throughout an ExtraMile store, helping CSI understand actionable customer behavior to guide improvements to the shopping experience. In addition, the software can analyze data on traffic flow, customer purchase intent, sales conversions and store sections with the highest traffic to suggest digital content or hardware changes to improve customer engagement.

The Sommelier thing doesn’t seem all that applicable to a c-store with a fraction of the choices of a real wine store. But it does offer a way to get the concept out of a lab and into real-world use. In the right setting, I could see this being helpful. I like BIG red wines and actually shop, in part, by looking at the alcohol content – in search of bottles with 15% or even 16%. If Sam could save me time, spinning bottles around and squinting at the fine print on labels, I’d be happy.

The tablet is in occupying prime visual real estate and blocking product on the shelf, which is not normally something a retailer is happy about. I suspect a more lasting solution would find a way to get this on a support column or somewhere that doesn’t directly affect merchandising.

The other stuff is pretty standard for that sort of environment – and triggering content based on weather conditions is straight out 2014 (and really, earlier).

This is the second press release from Samsung lately that was talking about MAGICinfo, even with Samsung officially launching VXT and intending to wind down its legacy CMS.

  1. craig Allen keefner says:

    Good luck… Until they become useful and not just an upsell mechanism consumers will have zero faith in them. Foot traffic analytics are very useful.

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