The critical role of shelf intelligence – in the holiday season and beyond

Every merchant and category manager aspires to 100% compliance on in-store execution – and every merchant and category manager knows that’s a mere pipe dream. At a time of painful labor shortages and fast-changing shopper preferences and behaviors, plus the heavy in-store and online traffic of the holiday season, the dream seems more unattainable than ever. In addition to labor shortages, temporary seasonal workers lack the training and experience of their more seasoned counterparts, creating even greater challenges. Fortunately, there’s hope – for retailers that tap the power of AI-based shelf intelligence solutions. Let’s look at some practical, real-world shelf execution challenges, and how well-crafted technology can overcome those. 

 The Undetected Disconnect: Planograms v. “Realograms”

Even the best-intentioned store associates often find themselves out of synch with a shelf’s assigned planogram. This pain is particularly acute in the holiday season and other peak shopping times, as the labor pinch and the Great Resignation create gaping staffing gaps and fast shelf-item turnover heightens the risk of out-of-stocks. How can a category manager gain real-time insights into store-level planogram disconnects and help prioritize remediation strategies? 

Today’s shelf intelligence leverages mobile devices, fixed cameras in the aisle or roving cameras on, say, cleaning robots to provide real-time views of each linear foot of the shelf, comparing real-time assortment, allocation, pricing and availability on the shelf (what we call the “realogram”) to the planogram to instantly identify the gaps.  

Real-time in-store images are compared with the most current plans to identify exactly which products are actually on the shelf and any out-of-stocks or out-of-compliance shelf conditions. Armed with these critical insights, you can collaborate with the store to restock or adjust a shelf area to best comply with the planogram and position your category to both satisfy customers and achieve financial targets. 

Timely Promotion Execution Monitoring

In addition to space allocation and stocking monitoring, AI-based Shelf Intelligence also provides real-time detailed promotion execution insights at the store level, including shelf tags, promotional materials, clip strips and other specified promotion-related items. Category managers, marketers and store associates can all collaborate to ensure that promoted items are optimally presented AND that they deliver the full potential of manufacturers’ available trade funds. In fact, ensuring end-to-end promotion execution can boost trade fund ROI by as much as 30%, closing critical margin and revenue gaps in the all-important holiday season – and beyond.  

In addition to boosting productive marketing/category manager/store associate collaboration, AI-based execution monitoring also creates a framework for more effective collaboration with your CPGs to maximize sell-through. And at a time of fast-changing shopper preferences and increased allocation for new or seasonal items, category managers and CPGs can accurately measure speed to market for promoted items as well as valuable new product introductions (NPIs). 

Future-Proofing for 2022 and Beyond

Retailers who have already tapped the power of AI-based Shelf Intelligence have a formidable competitive edge in the crucial holiday season. But for retailers who have not yet harnessed these capabilities, the return on this strategic technology investment continues throughout the year, year after year. Waves of pandemic outbreaks, uncertain inventory availability, a stampede to online channels and a permanent shift to more long-term remote employment are driving a fundamental and rapid shift in shoppers’ item, channel and promotional preferences and behaviors. AI-based Shelf Intelligence helps retailers respond with agility and accuracy to fast-evolving shopper, retailer and competitive behaviors.  

There’s yet another level of high-impact value to consider. While our Shelf Intelligence can be used as a standalone solution, it also has ability to integrate with Symphony RetailAI category planning and management solutions to give category managers a full end-to-end capability, from initial analysis and optimization at a category level, through execution, real-time planogram monitoring and rapid remediation to close gaps and maximize delivery to financial and business targets.  

Further information

To learn more about the full range of capabilities and benefits offered by Shelf Intelligence, I encourage you to attend our complimentary Webinar, “Know Your Shelf: Getting Store Execution Right in 2022,” whether in real-time or on-demand at your convenience. And I also welcome you to read our product information or reach out for a discussion of how we can address your unique challenges via our “Contact Us” form 

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