AI holds phenomenal promise for everyone in retail beyond anything we’ve seen before, except possibly the internet. But what is the true promise of artificial intelligence? If you want to compete with the likes of Amazon and Walmart, read on, as I share my perspective on some very real capabilities that Symphony RetailAI has and is currently working on with clients — and most important — how they matter.
First, artificial intelligence is only as good as it is easy to use. It must aid in quickly turning insights into business execution (and I can’t emphasize speed enough here). Let me start with data.
Deep understanding of retail data
It’s key to have the best data, accurate and fast analytic abilities, and the ability to put it to serve the customer – and fast.
We analyze about $120 billion of grocery retail transactions across roughly 70 million households every week. For that reason, we have a deep understanding of what consumers are buying from each of the retailers we serve. From this group, we have found at least three million people who bought something continuously for three years. This is a longitudinal panel of customers of sorts. Compare this massive pool of data to IRI or Nielsen whose panels typically cover about 100,000 consumers.
As mentioned previously, having the best data and the fast ability to do something with it is paramount. Our Customer 360° database gathers and analyzes customer attributes for online shopping, grocery, restaurant, apparel shopping, store location and customer location data (mobile location tracking) and other demographic data. It serves as the ever-evolving engine for where our AI-enabled solutions gather insights. We also work closely with a partner who tracks an additional 5 million peoples’ mobile devices every 15 minutes. I won’t belabor the point here; suffice to say that we get a massive amount of very critical current data from this source of very fluid shopper intelligence.
All the data in the world is meaningless unless you can act on it – and fast! As I mention above, today, no business can afford to wait long for insights into its data. That’s why, at our Xcelerate event in Paris in October, we announced CINDE, the first digital analytic assistant specific to grocery and hard goods retail. As I say in the press release, unlike other digital assistants that can perform simple tasks from voice input, CINDE has pervasive insights based on artificial intelligence and machine learning to understand retail business trends specific to grocery and hard goods. She continually learns and proactively alerts users to critical issues that need attention. But it’s not just about that – it’s about ease of use as well. Now, for example, a category manager can ask CINDE a question in plain English; she’ll respond immediately with deep insights, immersive visualization into stores at department, planogram, and product level. This is sea change for business users in grocery.
What offer does your customer really want?
If you’re still of the mind that retailers should create offers and force fit them to consumers, then I can’t make this next point more emphatically. Personalized marketing is key to success in today’s disruptive marketplace. This is something that Symphony Retail Solutions deeply believes and we’re helping our customer succeed in this today. We know there are a lot of ineffective promotions. So now we have a promotion forecasting product that allows us to intelligently say, “Do these promotions and you’ll actually get these kinds of sales or this kind of margin or volume.” You can create offers and contacts for each customer based on a deep learning model that understands shopping behavior, offer redemption behavior and location of each customer.
Next, we will help CPGs with product creation. Take, for example, this staggering fact:
Of all the new products that CPGs invest in, approximately 75% get taken off the shelf within one year … and 50% within six months.
CPGs can’t afford to operate in this way. On the other hand, private label companies are working with retailers and they seem to be able to get products that the customers are buying. So, we have a few areas in which we’ll be using AI and augmented reality and understanding what customers want to be able to get products that are really interesting to customers.
Symphony RetailAI is in the business of transforming retail
We do this by making today’s most prevalent “natural resource” – data – immediately available to the practitioners who need it – now! Consider that many firms are still taking data and sending it off to a team of analysts and then waiting 10 days for a report back. But that time, it’s stale and opportunities have been missed. But of equal importance to speed, we make it easy to mine data through conversational exchanges that yield immediate insights. We enable business users to quickly take these insights and execute on well-informed business actions that serve the customers current needs, not the needs of yesterday.
We want to enable grocery retailers and CPGs to intelligently compete with and even out-maneuver the Amazons, Walmarts and the still-unknown, future disrupters that will inevitably enter the marketplace.