ON4OFF research project launched: Integration of online and physical retail through artificial intelligence

Dortmund | 14. January 2019

In its role as implementation partner for the NRW research project ON4OFF, adesso will be responsible for back-end architecture and system integration. The project has a planned duration of three years and focuses on the merging of online and physical retail. The goal is to make local retailers in North Rhine-Westphalia more competitive.

Concepts and applications based on artificial intelligence (AI) form the core of the recently launched ON4OFF project, which aims to improve dialogue with consumers who prefer to shop in the region's stores. The figures show that small and medium-sized retail stores are struggling with decreasing customer numbers and stagnating revenue as a result of the online boom. While online retail achieved growth of ten percent in 2018, physical retail grew far less, with growth of just one percent. This development not only threatens physical retailers, but also has a direct impact on the quality of life in our towns and cities.

The challenge facing retailers today: the offline world is not connected with the online world ((c) ON4OFF consortium)

To change that situation, and to ensure that urban areas remain diverse and attractive, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Innovation, Digitalisation and Energy of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) are supporting the collaborative project with funding of approximately EUR 2.1 million. The concept: The aim is strengthen local retail and implement the idea of modern “smart cities” by intelligently integrating on- and offline retail. The consortium consists of adesso and five other partners from the commercial and academic spheres.

As system integrator, adesso is the consortium partner with responsibility for the design of the back end, which comprises a modern customer data platform. It will include AI modules and collaboration tools in the areas of chat, voice and video, allowing physical retailers to network with their customers just as well as competitors from the e-commerce segment do. The aim is to allow retailers in future to react individually to the needs of customers in their physical stores, thereby improving service quality. It will also give brick-and-mortar retailers the ability to offer customers tailored advice based on the data made available – for example regarding their preferences and purchase histories.

One of the commercial project partners, Stadt-Parfümerie Pieper, which is based in Herne, will field test the solution’s workability at selected stores. The first results of ON4OFF are expected in mid-2020. Further project partners include IN-telegence GmbH (consortium leader), Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH, the University of Duisburg-Essen and Hochschule Niederrhein.

ON4OFF is one of ten projects in the scope of the leading market contest ICT.NRW (Leitmarktwettbewerb IKT.NRW). It addresses the core areas of development with the greatest potential for growth in the industry, which will therefore be essential to the future development of the information technology and communications sectors. The chosen projects stand out thanks to their excellent ideas and concepts, which address challenges facing the economy and society. Areas of focus include cyber-physical systems, Industry 4.0, IT security, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

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