I was fortunate to sit in on the live broadcast of a recent webinar on shelf intelligence featuring my colleagues and industry experts and moderated by Progressive Grocer Editorial Director Mike Troy. It was a lively, fast-paced discussion that gave retailers and CPG manufacturers a lot of insights into the power of robotics and AI-based shelf intelligence in the real world.
What exactly is shelf intelligence? Gaps between category plans and in-store execution have always existed, but it’s formidable to manually monitor all categories in all stores, process the information, and make timely remediation decisions. With AI, retailers and manufacturers can capture the real state of store shelves with computer vision, run that capture against category plans, identify issues that will likely erode category performance, determine effective actions, and collaborate with stores on resolutions.
If you missed the real-time experience, I encourage you to listen to the replay. The webinar explores how retailers can efficiently overcome store havoc.
Labor shortages and supply chain issues are further complicating planogram execution
Our first presenter was a featured guest, Forrester analyst George Lawrie. George discussed the increasing levels of uncertainty that were present in FMCG even pre-covid – and of course things are much more chaotic now, with not only pandemic-related shutdowns and shopper changes, but trade disruptions, tariff wars, etc., not to mention labor shortages.
Supply chains perform at their best with certainty and predictability. Complications increase the likelihood that goods won’t reach their destination on time, impeding the store from fully executing planograms. George explored the multiple aspects of both demand variability and supply variability, and stressed the importance of inventory planning that considers supply chain variability, ideally with multi-echelon inventory optimization.
George also noted that the increasingly digital economy requires the ability to do continuous replanning, and more and more retailers are focused on supply chain transformation technology as a top priority for them going into 2022.
AI is helping to close gaps between category planning and in-store execution
Next up was Sy Fahimi, SVP of Product for SymphonyAI. Sy noted that retail is in a profound transformation with a real opportunity for AI-based Shelf Intelligence to be applied by retailers to deliver value to their shoppers. He put it in the context of digital disruption, rising costs, increased competition and demanding shoppers wanting real-time retailing.
Retailers are turning to AI-based solutions and modernized business processes leveraging plug-and-play science – all of which plays into the imperative for AI-based shelf intelligence. Sy noted that FMCG out-of-stocks are averaging 8.3% globally currently, with only a 42% chance of a customer fulfilling their 10-item shopping list successfully. About 50% of items have incorrect inventory on the shelf. This misalignment causes lost sales/margins, customer dissatisfaction and lost shoppers, and a high cost through in-store reactive replenishment.
AI-based shelf intelligence can help improve CPG-retailer collaboration, and integrated with in-store robots it can help drive efficient restocking, store health and diagnostics. And SymphonyAI’s market-leading solution leverages our CINDE (Customer Insight and Decision Engine) technology to surface insights and support quick and effective decision making.
Leading retailers and CPG manufacturers are realizing results!
We finished off with insights from Abhi Beniwal, co-founder and CEO of ReTech labs, which was recently acquired by SymphonyAI. He walked us through how computer vision enables digitizing shelves with real-time price and price tag detection, edge detection, fixture information, product identification and section/freezer edges plus shelves, positions and in-store promotions. This digitized view enables improved compliance, finding and closing planogram gaps, promotion execution and execution of in-store inventory corrections, DVOID correction and shelf stocking, ultimately driving better productivity.
Abhi also shared some compelling real-world examples of the technology in action at a large club retailer, a major supermarket chain, and a large CPG. They’ve seen eye-popping results, like a 97% increase in product localization accuracy and a 22% increase in planogram compliance.
Our panelists took it home with some great QandA discussion that I urge you to hear for yourselves. Congrats to my colleagues and their industry counterparts for a great, engaging discussion of a topic that’s more relevant to retailers now than ever before.
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