Using AI and data science as the cure for the Monday morning category management blues

The time taken to draw insights from customer and sales data can now be decreased by up to 10X - thanks to AI and the advent of personal decision coaches

Monday mornings can be difficult for all workers in the “Monday – Friday” work week. But for category managers, Mondays can be fraught with additional stress and challenge. The typical category manager’s thought bubble might look like this, “If I only had a magic wand to sift through this data madness.” However, what was a daydream is now rapidly becoming reality with artificial intelligence, and in particular, since the advent of AI-enabled decision coaches (see paper published by analyst firm IDC), which flips the paradigm of data science on it’s head.

 

A typical Monday morning in the life of a category manager

Timeline of a category manager
Click to enlarge

 

Category managers must get to the “why” – fast

Mondays can be a time sink for category managers with significant time spent in “reactive” review (e.g. sifting through the data to understand why a promotion hasn’t worked, before pinpointing the issue – was it a display, an ad, competition?) vs. proactively working on strategy or execution around selling more product and increasing customer satisfaction.

The same complexity accompanies standard assortment changes in evaluating sales after a change, category managers must assess whether it was the change itself, an influence of the physical store, its proximity to competition, or a mix of all. Are there external influences – a holiday or event or the weather that impacted sales? It quickly becomes evident that there are profound human limitations to sorting through the complexity correctly, quickly and with enough confidence to make future decisions to help the business.

AI helps category managers get to the “why” 10x quicker

Serving the customer well can only come from insights gained by understanding the data that customers create. And, the only time-reasonable and accurate way to understand today’s ever-mounting data is through use of AI.

AI transforms the life of a category manager by connecting and triangulating the various data sources and making sense of them, automatically. The automation of that discovery phase, at the touch of a button or now at the command of your voice, gives the user an overview of all key findings, having examined for the user all of the varying dimensions and the millions of attribute combinations across those data sources.

It’s hard to calculate the time allocation shift for category managers that this provides, but in trials we have seen the time dedicated to key tasks decrease 10x – that has to be good news. Now, users get immediate recommended actions to take and can quickly dive deeper to get more detail behind the insights that led to the recommendations. It’s a 180-degree flip from the traditional ways of gaining actions from the data insights that take so long to extract.

AI-enabled decision coaches bring data to life

And the good news gets even better. AI is powerful, but when connected to an AI-enabled personal decision coach underpinned by a conversational platform the insights come to life. So, what exactly is an “AI-enabled decision coach” and what should you expect?

Learn more about CINDEConsider how things are just easier when, rather than having to go find the answer yourself, sifting through the data, you’re just alerted to a potential issue on a topic you are interested in (on your mobile or once you log-on to work in a morning). But more than that, you are also told why the issue may be happening (being given access to the relevant data) and what to do about it.

In short, having an AI-enabled decision coach by your side is like having a team of analysts and data scientists at your fingertips working 24×7, pouring over your sales and customer data, giving you the ability to follow the breadcrumbs that the AI engine has created to understand the what, why and what to do next. And like any good analyst team, the coach won’t just bring you alerts but will also look to answer your questions rapidly.

Read more about AI-enabled personal decision coaches in this IDC Analyst Connection paper titled Augmenting Category Management Analytics and Planning with AI-Based Personal Decision Coaches.

And, meet CINDE, my favorite AI-enabled person decision coach, and see how she can give you unfair advantage.