03/08/2016 13:42 BST | Updated 04/08/2017 06:12 BST

It May Sound Like Science-fiction but Artificial Intelligence Is Already Improving Your Visit to the Supermarket

Throughout the UK we're used to seeing a familiar shadow on our pavements as birds fly over-head. But in the coming years a new object could be filling our skies and casting a new, unfamiliar shadow - drones.

With our shopping habits changing retailers are increasingly looking at new ways technology can help boost sales and drive online traffic. Major retailers are therefore looking at drones as a way of using technology to speed up delivery times.

However, statistics show that Brits still love to shop inside physical stores, particular when purchasing food and drink. Therefore, Artificial Intelligence is being used by big brands and supermarkets alike, not to boost online sales, but to improve the in-store experience and to keep people buying products inside physical stores.

"Big data" and AI may be terms commonly heard in tandem with tech giants like Facebook and Google, but it's becoming increasingly important in all walks of life. And it just may affect what you're looking at on supermarket shelves.

According to recent figures released by the Office of National Statistics, the amount of money spent online by Brits has almost tripled - in 2008 just 5p of every £1 spent in shops was spent online but by 2015 this had risen to 13p.

It is clear that the UK's shopping habits are changing and supermarkets face a challenging few years, especially when you couple this with the uncertain post-Brexit market conditions. However, by investing in technology, like AI, both leading supermarkets and brands can gain a competitive edge over their rivals and keep shoppers in store.

Despite the increase of internet spending, nearly nine-tenths of all shopping in the UK is still done in physical stores. This rings particularly true when Brits shop for food and drink, so it's clear that the UK will not be moving exclusively online any time soon.

This figure may sound extremely positive for bricks and mortar stores but supermarkets and big brands cannot rest on their laurels and assume this will continue. Having items out of stock on the shelves is a huge issue and will simply turn shoppers out of the store and onto their laptops. For example, at Trax, we worked with a global brewer who was noticing a dip in sales of beer in the weekend. Trax's AI discovered that an average of one in five of the brewer's brands were out of stock on the weekend across stores in a number of different countries.

We have all experienced the situation where you go into a store for a particular item and find it is out of stock or simply nowhere to be found on the shelves. This happens more often than not during particular events, like a heatwave, when certain items go off the shelves faster than normal.

The reason this happens is because both supermarkets and brands have been essentially using outdated methods to monitor stock levels, with a sales executive manually walking around the store with a clipboard and pen. This method is not only cumbersome but also prone to human error. With the march of internet shopping continuing, supermarkets must innovate to keep shoppers in store.

In today's fiercely competitive retail environment understanding how products look, how they perform, and how they persuade on the shelves has never been so business critical. So from Nestle to Coca-Cola these brands need big data in real time and technology like AI makes it possible to analyse and gain reliable data from thousands of shelves in less time than it takes to boil a kettle.

To give an example of how AI is being used, with Trax consumer packaged goods manufacturers can take a single photograph, on a smartphone, of a supermarket shelf and generate data about the performance of every brand on that shelf within minutes, due to Trax's deep-learning AI system.

This means store managers can ensure that the shelves are constantly stocked, predict trends, and see which promotions are working particular well.

So, the next time you walk into store and see a new beer on the shelf, for instance, its positioning in the supermarket, the stock levels, the promotion launching the product, and its pricing could all well be influenced by artificial intelligence.

Technology may be making it easier for you to shop online, but artificial intelligence is also giving big brands and retailers the analysis and power to improve your shopping experience at physical stores.