Top view image of an assortment of beauty care products representing digital merchandising

Leveraging digital merchandising to elevate grocery retail

Leveraging digital merchandising to elevate grocery retail

Merchandising is a core skill for both online and offline retailers. Merchandising is the skillful presentation of products in order to promote sales.  In the case of brick and mortar, merchandising mainly revolves around store displays in combination with assortment planning, packaging, pricing and offers, all done to entice customers into making purchases. 

But what is it about digital merchandising that grocers can leverage to impact sales? 

To begin with, utilizing tools such as cross-sell, they can easily set up basic online catalogs. Early themes and new virtual categories are then added to help as a guide for customers to navigate through large selections to find what they want.

What makes digital merchandising stand apart is its ability to generate data that gives a true insight into the customers’ shopping behaviors. It further enables retailers to track what their customers want and how they want it, scaling merchandising as a concept to new heights.

Why is Digital Merchandising Important for you?

Digital merchandising essentially mimics the in-store merchandising environment, only using a different set of tools to promote the sale of their products. Here, customers can understand more about the product without being constrained to its physical limitations. Digital merchandising allows grocers to impart more knowledge about the product via storytelling and more information about its usage. For grocery retail, digital merchandising can display several pieces of information including meal planning, complimentary food products, etc.

Here are some areas that digital merchandising differs from a brick and mortar setting:

  • Flexibility: Online content including digital imagery can be personalized at any time, unlike in-store displays which depend on store labor to manage.

  • Accessibility: Customers can access online content from anywhere such as from mobile phones or computers, and at any time. They are not restricted to the store timings and can do shopping right from their fingertips.

  • No Shrinkage: In the case of digital merchandising, replacing physical products with digital imagery eliminates the shrinkage that occurs with merchandising perishable products in the store. This way, grocery retailers can show the products the way it is meant to look like and are not restricted by the packaging of the products

How can Grocery retailers benefit from digital merchandising?

Digital merchandising is an essential part of a grocery retailer’s toolset.

Currently, grocery retailer websites showcase products by displaying rows after rows of individual images of products taken against a white or light background following up with a flashy introduction page. The challenge does not end here, grocery retailers must move beyond creating a product catalog.

For example, leveraging digital merchandising, grocers can efficiently market perishable products.

Real-time recommendations can encourage customers to buy items that have shorter shelf lives, thus enabling them to improve margins on perishables. Furthermore, they can elaborate on the products by educating the customer about where it comes from, who grows it, and how it can fit into a meal plan. The information does not end there, customers can even learn about health benefits and food preparation via video.

Connecting digital merchandising with your customers’ needs

Digital merchandising can help create environments to suit customer needs and interests. The advantage is the ability to understand customer behavior and even predict it to a certain extent. When the holiday season is in full swing, many grocery retailers out there would immediately pivot their marketing efforts toward ovens and bakeware.

If a customer has never bought or consumed a turkey, then the holiday theme can be centered around another protein. Also, selling salads next to raw meats in a store may be a problem, but online, they can be easily combined to create a meal plan or even a recipe!

Visually appealing product imagery already sets your product apart from that of your competitors’. That being said, the imagery alone cannot grab your customers’ attention. It needs to be followed up with a story that educates them about the farm that the produce is sourced from, the nutritional value of the meal and even recipes it can be used in or the story of the chef who came up with it. Social media can play a massive part here to help spread the word about the product as well as their journey in your online store. All of this information is to be organized in such a way that your customers can access it from one page. Finally, the online aspect ties to offline to the actual products that are delivered, making this a cohesive experience for your customer.

Conclusion

Content is clearly the king when you want to tell a story and connect with your customers. Digital merchandising takes into account how and why a customer will choose or like a particular product. Personalization is also another great opportunity presented by merchandising. Remember who forms your target audience while leveraging advertising. Grocery retail is all about selling ordinary products in the freshest and best way possible and we are here to help you elevate that by leveraging Digital merchandising.

Would you like to know more about us and how our category and catalog management solutions can your business? Click here to know more. 

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Three Important Aspects That Can Influence Your Grocery Business

3 Main Factors That Will Shape Grocery Retail

Grocery retail has seen four major shifts since the 1950s, starting with a focus on brand in the 1950s, moving to category in the 1970s, then the customer needs in the middle of 1990s, with the focus settling on giving the customer control that emerged in 2010. The shift to giving customer control began with the infamous Amazon Effect that disrupted the world of online retail.

This latest shift in the way customers purchase their grocery has upturned brands and grocery retailers, pitting them against sudden changes powered by the latest in technology and unpredictable socioeconomic conditions. In the new age, only grocers with the most adaptability and agility in the face of change can survive.

Let us explore some of the driving factors of grocery retail and how you can leverage them to improve your business:

Convenience is Top Priority

These days, customers are pressed for time. Amazon understands this well and uses this knowledge to build success in every category. Convenience happens to be a decisive factor in the highly competitive world of grocery retail. Even brick and mortar grocery retailers are turning to new in-store experience solutions such as mini-stores within a store (e.g.: meat and frozen foods, wine and specialty cheeses etc) and modular product displays, keeping in mind customer’s insistence on convenience.

Long check-out lines are a big turn-off for customers. Amazon has innovated and eliminated this inconvenience by introducing Amazon Go stores which are cashierless and run solely on technology. Walmart has introduced an option to pay from their app, easing the check-out process for customers. Your customers are looking for the simplest and fastest way to buy grocery products from you. Since most of the grocery shopping includes repeated products, you can easily provide better service by allowing your customers to repeat their orders, or increase sales by pushing out offers on their regular purchases.

Easy Discoverability

Artificial Intelligence(AI) can be leveraged to analyze customer data and insights, to help grocery retailers and CPG brands make shopping easier and more logical. As an example, product sections are now being organized around the needs of customers rather than solely based on brand merchandising. 

Grocery retailers and CPG brands working together to create singular themes under which they can market and sell affiliated and affinity products. For example, a theme such as “breakfast time” groups together products such as eggs, fruit juices, and loaves of bread, etc. This not only helps customers to discover new products easily but also helps retailers increase gross merchandise value (GMV) whether online or offline.

Omnichannel Experience

Persuasive in-store merchandising can entice store customers to go online or vice versa. For example, an offer on an in-store display of chips sends customers online for a free dip coupon. Likewise, an online offer on select dips sends customers into a brick and mortar store for nachos at a discounted price. These kinds of promotional offers not only bridge the gap between online and offline retail but also serve to deliver an omnichannel experience.  

Research conducted by Dunnhumby research found that 70% of an online shopping cart is populated with the usual products from an in-store spend of a customer. Utilizing customer intelligence such as this, you can drive profits up by making the shift from offline to online shopping smoother for your customers.


We’ve covered some of the current driving factors behind grocery retail. You can apply these concepts to improve your grocery retail. Remember that to become a successful online grocery retailer, you need to implement a structural shift at the very foundation of your retail existence. This applies across all parts of your business, from merchandising to displaying and selling products at your online or brick and mortar store. Using the latest technology such as AI to analyze customer data and gain useful insights could help boost your business like never before.

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unsupervised learning represented by a mixed bowl of colourful candies

Primary Methods of Unsupervised Learning

Primary Methods of Unsupervised Learning

There are a variety of ways to create a new machine learning model. Supervised learning is the simplest of these learning processes, but it requires human input and curated data sets. For a supervised learning process, you classify data with labels, then build a machine learning (ML) model around it. This ML model can then be used to classify new data in real time.

But what if you only have unclassified data (i.e data without any labels)? Is it possible to train a model with a data set like this? Can this be done without human curation?

Yes, leveraging unclassified data sets for model training is known as “unsupervised learning”.

What is Unsupervised Learning?

Unsupervised learning is also known as self-organization. It is a machine learning process that uses an algorithm for datasets which are neither classified nor labeled. In unsupervised learning, algorithms are allowed to act on data without guidance and they operate autonomously to discover interesting structures in the data based primarily on similarities and differences.

Let’s take a look at two of the most popular clustering and anomaly detection methods in use for unsupervised machine learning algorithms.

Types of Clustering 

  1. K-means clustering

  2. Hierarchical clustering

K-means Clustering

K-means clustering is a type of unsupervised learning, which is used when you have unlabeled data (data without defined categories or groups). The goal of this algorithm is to find groups in the data. It is intended to partition “N” objects into “K” clusters in which each object belongs to the cluster with the nearest mean.

Algorithm

The Κ-means clustering algorithm uses iterative refinement to produce a final result. The algorithm inputs are the number of clusters Κ, and the data set. The data set is a collection of features for each data point. The algorithm starts with initial estimates for the Κ centroids, which can either be randomly generated or randomly selected from the data set.

          Clustering data into K groups where K  is predefined

  1. Select K points at random as cluster centers.
  2. Assign objects to their closest cluster center according to the Euclidean distance function.
  3. Calculate the centroid or mean of all objects in each cluster.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until the same points are assigned to each cluster in consecutive rounds.

Choosing K

In general, there is no method for determining the exact value of K, but an estimate can be obtained by finding an “elbow point”. Increasing the number of clusters will always reduce the distance to data points, i.e. increasing K will always decrease this metric. This metric cannot be used as the sole target because when K is the same as the number of data points, then the metric approaches zero. Therefore, it is ideal to plot the mean distance to the centroid as a function of K. Then identify where the rate of decrease sharply shifts (i.e. the "elbow point"), and use this to determine K.

Hierarchical Clustering

Hierarchical clustering is an algorithm that groups similar objects into groups of clusters, where each cluster is distinct from each other cluster, and the objects within each cluster are broadly similar. For example, the organization of the files and folders on your personal computer is a hierarchy. Stepping into each of these folders will reveal more folders and files.

Working of Hierarchical Clustering

  1. Start by assigning each observation as a separate cluster.
  2. Find the clusters that are closest together.
  3. Merge them into a single cluster, so that now you have one fewer cluster.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until all items are clustered together.

Types of Hierarchical Clustering

a. Divisive

b. Agglomerative

a. Divisive

In divisive (top-down) clustering method we assign all of the observations to a single cluster and then partition the cluster into at least two similar clusters. We proceed recursively on each cluster until there is one cluster for each observation. Divisive clustering is conceptually more complex and thus, rarely used to solve real-life problems.

b. Agglomerative

Agglomerative hierarchical clustering (bottom-up), is a clustering method where we assign each observation to its own cluster. Agglomerative hierarchical clustering starts with every single object in a single cluster. Then, in each successive iteration, it agglomerates (merges) the closest pair of clusters by satisfying some similarity criteria, until all of the data converges in one cluster.

To determine the closest pair of clusters, the distance between each point is calculated using a distance function. These distances are generally called linkage between the clusters. There are three methods to determine the distance (linkage) between the clusters.

i. Single LinkageIn single linkage hierarchical clustering, the distance between two clusters is defined as the shortest distance between two points in each cluster.

ii. Complete LinkageIn complete linkage hierarchical clustering, the distance between two clusters is defined as the longest distance between two points in each cluster.

iii. Average Linkage

In average linkage hierarchical clustering, the distance between two clusters is defined as the average distance between each point in one cluster to every point in the other cluster.

Final Thoughts

Leveraging unsupervised learning to generate a machine learning model is now an accepted and feasible process to operate on unclassified data sets. While it’s more complex to set up and tune an unsupervised learning process, the benefit is that the source data does not have to be curated by a human curation team. This is a beneficial process when it’s not feasible or economical to curate the source learning data. In this article, we’ve outlined the core clustering and anomaly detection methods which are used to set up an unsupervised machine learning algorithm. We use unsupervised learning at IceCream Labs as one of the many machine learning processes for our Intelligent Data Mesh at the core of our solution.

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Frictionless Shopping: Futuristic Retail

Frictionless Shopping: Futuristic Retail

Customers today want the gap between online browsing and in-store purchasing to bridged in a seamless experience. Potential inhibitors of the customer shopping journey include inconveniences such as having their preferred choice unavailable in-store or losing items in an online basket. It is a disappointing experience when customers face inconvenience whether real or perceived when shopping in-store or online.  It is critical for brick and mortars to make necessary adjustments to stay ahead in the competitive arena of retail. A frictionless shopping experience is one that seamlessly incorporates checkout and payment options, real-time customer service and, customer delivery preferences. This is quickly turning out to be a fundamental aspect of any retailer’s business. Offering frictionless shopping is a great way to connect with new customers.

What Defines Frictionless Shopping?

Frictionless shopping is the idea to connect customers and retailers so that customers instantly find the products they need and then buy it without any interruptions. Frictionless shopping ensures that the customers are in control. The concept has evolved with technology and now customers expect these experiences to be made available through their smartphones. Frictionless shopping also requires the elimination of retail interactions that negatively impact customer experience, such as, having to wait for paper receipts to print or fetching loyalty cards to get a discount.

The implications for you include the way you package and market goods, down to the ease with which your customers can complete the payment and checkout process. You must incorporate customer-friendly ordering options, as well as click and collect services. If you have a brick and mortar store, you must find a way to enable mobile payment options and optimize inventory systems to attract customers into the store.

Why is Frictionless Shopping Important?

In the digital age, customers are spoiled for choice and habituated to getting what they want delivered instantly. Customers prefer not to have to stand in long queues at checkout counters or wait long for their online orders to be delivered. Information is also always at their fingertips and they can easily find what they need/want with one quick search on their smartphones. 

A good example of a great frictionless shopping experience is Amazon Go. The cashierless stores are at 4 locations in the US. Amazon Go uses hundred of cameras and lots of data to allow customers to simply walk in, pick up whatever they need and walk out without any checkout queues. Amazon Go has a smartphone app that automatically adds items to a virtual shopping basket while customers select them. The customers are charged to their Amazon account for the products they walk out with as they leave the store.

Impact of Frictionless Shopping on Retailers

If you want to stay ahead of the game, then you must embrace technology and data to provide a frictionless shopping experience from start to finish. From product innovation to improving customer experiences in-store, data and technology play a big role in helping you understand how customers respond to display and packaging. It is important to reorder inventory based on demand, keep shelves stocked and ensure efficient distribution.

For example, push notifications sent on smartphones to customers while they are shopping could alert them to offers and provide helpful information to smooth their shopping journey. An essential element in frictionless shopping is an easy mobile checkout process. Mobile friendly, simple forms and single payment option will get more customers. It is also crucial to allow customers to easily and quickly find help through FAQs, direct calling or live chat.

We have seen some tips for implementing the concept of frictionless shopping whether offline or online in your business.  In this busy world, customers are drawn to retailers who understand the value of their time. Stay ahead in the competition by giving your customers a smooth and frictionless shopping experience.

 

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The Path to Upgrading Your Brick and Mortar Business

The Path to Upgrading Your Brick and Mortar Business 

Brick and mortar retail is often overlooked in the age of digital transformation. Many believed that the digital age would spell doom for physical stores. The “retail apocalypse” predicted the end of the brick and mortar retail model. However, this is not turning out to be the case, and a vast majority of shoppers still want to engage with retailers in a brick and mortar setting. A physical store gives customers the opportunity to get a feel for the products they are buying. It also presents retailers with a chance to provide customers with an unforgettable experience. Customers today want personalized shopping experiences.

Having a brick and mortar presence is also a good way to attract new customers. This is illustrated by the wave of innovative and trendy new retailers like Bonobos and Everlane who started off as online retailers but are looking to expand to physical stores across the country.

Omnichannel Experience

It is a mistake to believe that retailers are either only online or offline. Successful retailers today are operating across multiple different channels. The ability to deliver a highly engaging experience across all channels is the holy grail for retail success in the digital era. Brick and mortar form the cornerstone of this sophisticated omnichannel model of retail. However, physical stores must be able to provide customers with a multidimensional experience that touches all of their senses and enables them to connect with brands.

This retail experience begins the moment a customer enters the store for the first time. Customers intuitively react to the lighting, cleanliness, organization and flow of the store. Getting the physical design of the store right is crucial. So is the way products are arranged and displayed. Retailers today are also experimenting with technologies such as Augmented Reality(AR) and Virtual Reality(VR) to provide unforgettable in-store experiences to their customers.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Artificial Intelligence(AI) and Machine Learning(ML) may sound like futuristic technologies, however, the reality is that these technologies are being widely applied in retail too. For example, AI and ML are already helping retailers make smarter choices when it comes to preventative maintenance. AI systems are used for product tagging and management, enabling retailers and employees to keep track of important products through a network of sensors. These technologies have changed the way retailers operate their business by enabling them to be able to understand what’s going on at all of their stores from an operations perspective.

There is no doubt that the brick and mortar retail model is here to stay. However, things are changing and the status quo is being disrupted. But this is only for the better. The importance of technology remains crucial for the success of any brick and mortar store. That is why you must understand and fully embrace the new technologies that can bring your business to a brighter future.

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Shoptalk: Join IceCream Labs at retail’s community of innovators

Join IceCream Labs at retail's community of innovators: Shoptalk

IceCream Labs is going to be a part of Shoptalk 2019 which will be held on March 3 - 6, 2019, at the Venetian, Las Vegas.

At the world’s largest retail conference, ShopTalk, the entire retail ecosystem comes together to create the future of retail based on the latest trends, technologies and business models, including changes in consumer expectations.

Everyone who’s anyone is at Shoptalk! 8,000+ individuals attend Shoptalk each year from established retailers and brands, startups, tech companies, investors, real estate operators, media, Wall Street analysts and more - coming to learn, collaborate and create the future of retail with four days of relevant content, curated meetings, productive networking and facilitated social engagements.

Shoptalk covers the latest technologies, trends and business models as well as the rapid transformation of how consumers discover, shop and buy everything, ranging from apparel and electronics to grocery and luxury.

With over 100 groundbreaking sessions across more than a dozen tracks with important insights and perspectives shared by an unparalleled group of leaders and innovators, Shoptalk’s agenda leads the retail industry narrative.

Retailers or brands can also learn from peers in small roundtable settings by joining Tabletalks group discussions with the opportunity to improve knowledge of new technologies by joining the Hosted Retailers & Brands Program as well as Techtalks (open to all).

Thousands of individuals from hundreds of retailers and brands around the world attend Shoptalk every year to strengthen their knowledge of retail’s latest technologies, trends and business models as well as to collaborate with peers, startups, tech companies, investors, real estate operators and others in an open, friendly environment. Furthermore, more than 1,000 direct-to-consumer and tech startups redefining retail and ecommerce attend Shoptalk each year from major global hubs. Shoptalk provides startups with an unparalleled opportunity to form important fundraising, product, distribution and other partnerships with retailers, brands, tech companies, investors, real estate operators, media, analysts and more.

Join IceCream Labs at the Startup Street #SS36 to see some exciting AI-powered merchandising solutions for retailers.



two women in a store looking at merchandise

Approaching Stock-Out: 5 ways to Prevent the Out-of-Stock Problem and Boost Sales

Approaching Stock-Out: 5 ways to Prevent the Out-of-Stock Problem and Boost Sales 

Managing inventory and predicting sales is a difficult process for every retailer. Customers hate it when an item isn't in stock and they are quick to take their business to another retailer who has the item in stock. A stock-out or an out-of-stock situation can have devastating effects for a retailer. A stock-out can be defined as a situation in which the demand or requirement for an item cannot be fulfilled from the current inventory. They are also known as oversells and out-of-stocks. A stock-out leads to a loss of sale due to not having a product any longer. Too many out-of-stocks can ruin brand trust, decrease customer loyalty and result in increased customer care costs. Therefore, preventing stock-outs ought to be at the top of your list of priorities.

Understanding the causes of stock-outs will put you on the right path, but you’ll need actionable solutions if you want to keep your warehouse well-stocked.

Here are 5 solutions to help decrease and prevent stock-outs:


Forecast Demand

Stock-outs are caused by inaccurate demand forecasting. AI and machine learning enabled demand forecasting is one of the most promising applications of AI for the supply chain. Apart from AI based inventory management, here is what you can do:

  1. Determine what to measure and how often, for example, the frequency of stock-outs, competitors sales data, POS data, etc.
  2. Integrate data from all of your sales channels, especially if you’re running an omnichannel e-commerce strategy.
  3. Create a regular monthly process that analyzes previous forecasts and compares them to actual market results.


Refer a Reliable Order Point Formula

A reorder point for​​​​mula can tell you approximately when you should reorder stock to minimize stock-outs and maximize inventory turns. Ideally, this occurs when you’ve reached the lowest amount of inventory that you can sustain before you need to order more stock. Instead of falling victim to erratic spikes and slumps in the market, you can plan ahead by using a proven, mathematical equation that helps you consistently order the right amount of stock each month.

For example, you could use the following formula to help you beat stock-outs:

(Average Daily Unit Sales x Average Lead Time in Days) + Safety Stock = Reorder Point


Implement RFID Tags

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags can allow you to track every product you store quite easily.

It can make your inventory more efficient and allow for faster stocktaking processes. You can swiftly search for and find the products you need to ship. RFID tags can also allow you to scan any product and, find out in real-time how many of those products you still have in stock.

Researchers at the University of Arkansas found that RFID technology can reduce stock-outs by 16%. If you experience regular stock-outs too, then implementing RFID tags can be beneficial for your business.


Maintain Safety Stock Inventory

Safety stock inventory is a small, surplus amount of inventory you maintain on hand, to guard against lead times and variability in market demand.

It can help you to add a buffer for longer-than-expected order lead times, compensate for inaccurate market forecasts, protect against unexpected spikes in demand, and ultimately prevent stock-outs.

Here’s a formula to help you calculate safety stock:

(Max Daily Sales x Max Lead Time in Days) – (Average Daily Sales x Average Lead Time in Days) = Safety Stock Inventory


Prepare a Hierarchy of Recommended Substitutes

For some classes of e-commerce, customers will accept an alternative or equivalent product when one item is out of stock. In grocery, this can be in the form of suggesting an alternate brand of the product, or an alternate form of the product. For example, suggesting a frozen or canned form when the fresh item is out of stock. This enables a customer to prepare a planned meal without wasting time going to another store or having multiple delivery charges. Likewise, in fashion, a popular or necessary item might be back ordered or sold out, and a competing brand or color might be able for immediate shipment. For example, if it’s the rainy season and the customer needs a new pair of rain boots, they may be satisfied with a different design that is available for immediate shipment. In this situation, a machine learning based recommendation engine can be leveraged to help determine the correct recommendation from the real-time inventory of available options.


Preventing stock-outs won’t be an easy task and neither will it happen overnight. But keeping these pointers in mind and implementing them as part of your inventory management will go a long way in safeguarding against stock-outs. You could always continue to test solutions while paying attention to the market. To do so, we recommend using an AI-based tool that can collect, measure, analyze, discover patterns in and provide accurate forecasts.

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a flatlay of clothes

Impact of Great Product Content in Fashion Retail

Impact of Great Product Content in Fashion Retail

 When it comes to e-commerce, merely displaying a robust collection of products on your website will no longer do. Customers today want to do their due diligence before committing to any purchases. This initial evaluation of product content is considered one of the most essential parts of a customer shopping journey. It is also a crucial prerequisite for you to make sure of sales. Incomplete, missing, error-riddled and misspelled product information causes customers to lose faith in your e-commerce website.

In a physical store, consumers are used to touching, feeling and trying on clothing before buying. However, in the case of online shopping, you need to provide rich descriptions along with complete details about the product for a customer to make up their mind about buying a fashion item.

Engaging imagery is key for selling a fashion garment, however, accurate descriptions help educate the consumer and help search engines present accurate results. However, adding a title, description, facets, proper categories and relevant attributes to your product are essential to guide your customers from Google search results or your website’s search bar to the product description page.  Textual content actually makes your products easier to discover.

Here is how great product content can impact fashion retail:

Effect on Customer Experience

Product descriptions answer questions that your potential customers have as they are shopping. Customers comparison shop on multiple websites to find what they are looking for, hence providing all the relevant information is important. A majority of customers will abandon a site or even a partially filled cart if they are not able to find what they are looking for.

Inadequate product content will fail to convert the shopper if it doesn't do a convincing job of communicating the features and capabilities of a product. Fashion Retail is now competitive online. You need to create an engaging experience for your customer that communicates your brand, both visually and with rich information about the product.

Drive Conversions

In the world of e-commerce, enriched product content is the difference between making a sale or losing customers to your competitors, which makes it a top priority for any online retailer. Merely offering content that shows price, short description, sizing and color, doesn’t provide anything for your customers to get excited about. 

We have explored how your product description page is the key for a customer to make a purchase. It is a virtual salesperson who is present at all times to pitch to your customers. Any missing or misleading information will have a negative impact on sales as customers will abandon a purchase . Having rich content will help your customers to understand your products, building trust to find what they’re seeking. This will, in turn, increase sales for you.

Build Credibility

Inconsistent or misspelled product content adversely affect your credibility. The language you use on your website reinforces your identity. Incorporating a specific style and tone-of-voice that is unique to you will help you differentiate your website from competitors, strengthening your brand image in the process.

It is important to be consistent in the ontology and terms you use for categories and items, and avoid misspellings, typos and grammar mistakes. Auto-generated product attributes and categories could help avoid these issues and help build better credibility.

Displaying vibrant, engaging product content on your website ensures that your product listings rank higher in search engines. When your website is the first one that customers find, it leads them to believe your site is more popular and reliable. It also lets you outrank your competitors, getting your site more clicks as a result.

When you take the time to produce great online content for your products, your customers take notice and reward you with their purchase. In the same way that a smart and personable retail clerk can convince a customer to buy in the store, your web store content must be convincing for an online customer. Your products need complete and well-crafted content if they are going to sell.

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Top Retail Trends in Supply Chain Management

Top Retail Trends in Supply Chain Management

As we move forward into 2019, it is only fitting to look at the latest trends in supply chain management. The supply chain is the backbone of e-commerce and in today’s age, it is more diversified than ever before. New technological innovations are being introduced in an effort to dilute this complexity. The supply chain is changing from being technologically enabled to being technologically driven. The high complexity of online markets, as well as the ever-changing and increasing customer demands, requires proactive stances from retailers. Here are some trends that you should consider in your supply chain to stay ahead of your competition.


Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI is the technology of the future. A wide array of self-learning algorithms are available in the market today. Huge amounts of data are generated, analyzed, linked and patterned by data scientists. With machine learning operating on this big data, decisive knowledge can be derived from it, regardless of the amount of data. AI also has multiple applications in the supply chain. Logistical coordination and organization in warehouses is being driven by intelligent and autonomous technology such as drones, robots, and self-driving vehicles. Chatbots can also be a function of logistics, for example, they can be programmed to give information such as "Your package has just been shipped", or "your order is going to be delayed". Zion Market Research published a report stating that global AI in supply chain management is estimated to cross 6,548 million USD by the year 2024. AI is an all-encompassing solution that will fundamentally revolutionize and influence the future of the supply chain.


Immersive Technologies

In the supply chain, the use of augmented, virtual or mixed realities isn’t a novelty anymore. Augmented Reality (AR) offers various assistive technologies that facilitate the employees in their day to day work. Hands-free picking aided by AR could take care of simple picking tasks. Employees wearing smart glasses enhanced by AR can immediately view barcode data on the screen and improve their productivity. Tasks in the future of the supply chain could be significantly simplified using smart glasses, displays and simulators. From the customer’s vantage, AR makes virtual trial and test of products possible without the need for actual physical products. This customer behavior could impact the supply chain in the long run with fewer products being kept at store locations and speedy shipping from larger storages in warehouses. Gartner forecasts that by 2022, 70% of enterprises will be experimenting with immersive technologies with 25% having deployed them in production.


3D Printing

This technology has found its way into almost every imaginable industry and continues to provide limitless opportunities. 3D printing is not only used for prototypes and small series products but is being utilized in mass production of items such as car parts. The advantages of 3D printing will be even better utilized in the future. 3D-printed parts can be manufactured easily, at a cheaper cost and without compromising on quality; these factors make it especially attractive for the production of cost-intensive individual parts required in the aerospace industry, for example. Ever since its introduction, 3D printing has been evolving and improving, which makes it a viable addition to the supply chain of the future. 3D printing can not only meet rising customer requirements but also significantly shorten the supply chain. With the possibility of faster prototyping and reduced cost of production, the applications are endless, particularly in the field of consumer goods and medical care. 


These are only some of the trends that you can keep in mind while upgrading your supply chain. Artificial intelligence currently holds the highest potential as it is being rapidly innovated and integrated into every aspect of e-commerce. 3D printing and Immersive Technologies have their own upsides and will only help shape the efficiency and ramp up the dynamics of the future supply chain. Keeping up with these trends will give you a significant edge over the competition and assure lasting viability in the market.

Read more about how leveraging AI could improve supply chain efficiency for Grocery Retailers.

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Impact of Stock-Out on Retailers

Impact of Stock-Out on Retailers

One of the worst nightmares for a retailer is to have a stock out or out-of-stock situation when it comes to selling products. This is a very serious issue and can be detrimental to the bottom line of any business. Aside from lost sales, stock-outs also lead to reduced customer satisfaction and lowered loyalty levels. When a customer requests to buy a product that is out of stock, they are going to end up unhappy with the inventory issue and you most certainly don’t want to disappoint your customers. Many cases of stockouts may be easily prevented by taking steps to better understand your business and products, and by refining your e-commerce processes.

Common Reasons for Stock-Outs:

Let us start by taking a look at some of the most common reasons for stock-outs: 

  1. Inaccurate data: It can be hard to maintain accurate inventory counts. This may be due to several reasons such as misplaced products, product returns, shipment variances, and even stolen goods. As a result, the data in your inventory management system may not reflect what's in the warehouse.

  2. Failure to reorder on time: This especially happens with your best sellers. Items with high-turnover, such as consumer products and grocery items are the most commonly affected. Due to either a poor forecast or a missed signal on a hot seller, you may run out of products before you’ve had a chance to reorder and restock your inventory.

  3. Unclear communications with suppliers: Another cause of stock-outs is when you don’t have clarity in your communications with your supply chain. Failure in effective communication with suppliers may lead to missed or delayed orders, resulting in stock-outs.

Effects of Stock-outs on Business:

If a product is not available for delivery to a customer who has placed an order, there are four possible outcomes:

  • Customer agrees to wait for the itemFor important items, a customer may be willing to wait for it. However, the customer is likely to still harbor some disappoint in the interaction. 
  • Customer back orders the item: While not the ideal solution, the order still gets fulfilled. Again, customer satisfaction declines and most customers won’t repeat this process with you unless you are the sole provider of the item.

  • Customer cancels the order: Customers today are savvy. They are shopping the competition. If the customer knows that the item is available from another retailer, they may simply cancel the order and ask for a refund. The customer may be unhappy, but they may still order from you again in the future.

  • Customer cancels the order, and never returns: This is the worst case scenario as a result of a stock-out situation. An angry customer here may be so disappointed in your fulfillment process that they never order from you again.

Implementing demand forecasting is one of the most important steps to avoiding stock-outs. You can try to forecast demand on your own by factoring in stock turnover, sell-through, historical sales data, and other factors such as promotions, economic state, seasonality and using your judgment. Analysis of these data points could give you insights into how products will perform. Stock-outs also tend to form patterns such as recurring on a particular day, at a particular time. Through analysis of stock-out patterns, you can better predict potential inventory and consumption problems and build a better forecast.

 In the next article in this series, we'll look at how artificial intelligence can be leveraged to help you see patterns in your data, and make suggestions to a more accurate forecast.

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