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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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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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scrabble keys form the word search denoting product discovery element in ecommerce

Product Discovery: Enhancing the customer shopping experience

The Path to Better Product Discovery

Discovery is essentially the most important part of product management in e-commerce. The search functionality differs across different websites, but overall, customers must be able to access relevant results quickly and easily in order for you to raise conversion rates for your business.

In this article, we shall explore how you can optimize your website for better product discovery.

Product Discovery: The Key Factor

‘Product Discovery’ is the process through which a customer comes to your online store and discovers a relevant product. The time taken to get to the product is called ‘Product Discovery Time’. As a retailer, quick product discovery is imperative, because unless your customer can find a product he/she wants to buy, no amount of traffic or conversion optimization will be able to drive revenue. 

In a study conducted by ClickTale, it was observed that for e-commerce sites without an optimized search functionality, shoppers spent more time attempting to find their desired product, but left because they were unable to find it. Alternatively, on e-commerce sites with better search functionality, they spend less time but actually find the desired product faster. As a result, the customer sticks around to make a purchase despite spending less time on the site. If a customer has a sub-par experience while searching for products, they are likely to ditch the store resulting in an overall disappointing experience.

Up The Product Discovery Game

Now that you understand how product discovery drives revenue, let’s take a look at how you can optimize the e-commerce experience for your customers. Relevance is an important theme to base an e-commerce site on. The more relevant your site is to each individual shopper, the better your product discovery experience will be.

Begin with an optimized homepage that features current promotional offers, current sales, and time-sensitive offers to drive urgency. After this, you can add:

  1. Personalized product listings based on recently viewed items to save time for a shopper looking to make similar purchases.

  2. Showcase trending and popular best-selling products to draw in new customers visiting for the first time that lack browsing history.

  3. Display new arrivals to give your customers a chance to view and possibly purchase your newest offerings.

  4. Include educational content such as guides, product reviews, and product videos. This kind of content pre-sells your products to customers who are merely browsing through your online store.

Hook By Navigation

Customers use navigation when they are searching for products but are undecided on what exactly they are looking for. So the navigation on your site needs to be both fast and intuitive so as to not lose a shopper at the start of their search journey. 

Here are a few points to bear in mind:

  1. Navigation menus must display a varied collection of categories and sub-categories to narrow the range from which a shopper can search for a product.

  2. Fly-out menus i.e, menus that "fly out" from the left or right side of the screen, and are hidden until the mouse is moved into the area of the screen, are a popular option used by retailers for this purpose.

  3. Adding filters to the search menu can help shoppers to selectively filter products based on necessity.

  4. Make filterable and sortable attributes per product as complete as possible, such as tags for colors, sizes, brand etc.

  5. Allow mix and match of the filter and sort tags to make search easier. For example, You can allow customers to search for pink and black dresses in one view instead of making them go through two separate searches for each color.

Faster, Accurate Results

Customers expect to get exact results from quickly typing in words into a search box. Your site search must be capable of handling input such as product names, product types, categories, FAQs, product features, keyword variations, and misspellings for an optimized solution. Create and optimize dedicated landing pages for users coming in from search engines. In these cases, it is critical to feature relevant products immediately and include a call to action or conversion action. As an example, if a user searches for black boots, they should ideally be redirected to a page showcasing boots under shoes with black pre-selected as a filter. You must also make sure to create dedicated landing pages for top search terms relating to your products and display the correct product listings.

Error 404 pages are an often-overlooked opportunity in e-commerce. For such pages, instead of discouraging a user away from your site, you may include best-sellers, current sales, promotions, trending product lists, etc that help customers discover products they want to buy.

Dedicated Landing Pages and Secondary Product Discovery

For customers who are looking for gift ideas, landing pages dedicated to best-sellers and trending product listings can be a boon. These pages are also great to include in subscriber email series. Popular products are automatically more desirable and dedicated landing pages are a great way to take advantage of that. 

All of the above takes place fairly early in the customer shopping journey. On the other hand, there is a further possibility of upselling using product discovery that you can place at the time of purchase. You can add product recommendations and items that are frequently bought together, and include products to ‘complete the look’. Another enticing option for online shoppers is to provide them with an opportunity to get free shipping by adding extra products to increase the size of the order or provide discounts for bundled products. These practices can aid in driving up average order values by cross-selling and upselling products.

We hope this was a helpful guide to optimizing your product discovery. From creating an optimized home page to offering secondary product discovery options, it is up to you how to implement these ideas in your online store to drive revenues.

Now that we’ve seen how product discovery can be a crucial tool for conversion, here’s how leveraging AI for product categorization can help narrow search results.

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man holding the smart phone, using the Augmented Reality buy some food in the supermarket

Augmented Reality v/s Image Recognition – The better bet for your business

Augmented Reality vs. Image Recognition - The better bet for your retail business

There's a lot of chatter around how Augmented Reality will change the way people shop. While Augmented Reality holds value, every technology created has its specific use case. Retailers and brands must bear in mind the several aspects each of the technology provides and select those that align to their objectives and goals. Let's delve deeper into each of these technologies -

Image recognition

Image recognition technology enables consumers to search for products by just taking a picture of them. These visual experiences are usually more flexible in nature when compared to Augmented Reality experiences for the following reasons -

No requirement for users to download an extension or app 

While there are some versions of AR applications out there for mobile websites, it's still a long way from delivering a seamless experience for its users. AR experiences that perform well often require a user to download an app. Image recognition, here plays a pivotal role as it enables interactive experiences within a retailer's mobile web, and not just the native app.

There is no need for creating 3D models 

Developing 3D models for AR experiences can often be time-consuming and expensive. Due to its complicated nature, it even requires technical skills to deliver the experience. Image recognition can be used with the existing marketing and web collaterals and can be implemented with ease. Moreover, the changes made to the content will automatically be updated in the apps, keeping the experience up-to-date.

Providing a universal and inclusive experience for shoppers 

Devices play an important role when Augmented reality is concerned. The experience may differ between low-end and high-end user devices, with the highest quality devices getting the best results. This is not an issue with Image recognition as it allows brands and retailers to ensure that their content is delivered to their customers in the same, interactive manner, irrespective of the user's device.


Limitations of Image recognition vs AR

While Image recognition provides the aforementioned benefits, there are certain aspects that set Augmented Reality apart from Image recognition:

Content is visualized in a three-dimensional manner

The type of content linked to Image recognition often includes videos, promotions, product information pages, etc. which often aids the customer's purchase journey by allowing them to learn more about the products and it offers at one go. In AR, the content is represented in a three-dimensional format. The content visualized is not three-dimensional, unlike what many Augmented Reality experiences build upon.

Image recognition provides a transactional experience, not immersive

If a user/customer aims to visualize objects in their environment, Augmented reality can be a good option to choose from, as Image recognition limits the user or customer to place digital content into the real world. This comes especially handy while buying expensive furniture - with a 'try before you buy' functionality. The customer can use the functionality and get a feel of how it may appear against a realistic setup - and nudge him or her towards a purchase.


Conclusion

To put it briefly, image recognition helps create a smooth transition between the physical and the digital worlds and help customers through a shopping journey. It allows them to interact with real products with the help of the images and the product information. For instance, it allows the user to learn more about a product's nutritional values, the user ratings, allergens, check for its alternatives, similar products, complementary products, etc.

On the other hand, Augmented Reality goes from digital to physical. It lets customers interact with virtual products in their own environment when, in fact, are not present.

While they may support different use cases, both technologies can provide customers with different kinds of engaging experiences.

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Social Media: A New Way to Shop Online

Social Media: A New Way to Shop Online

 E-commerce has changed the way people shop, giving retailers and businesses new avenues to interact and engage their customers. Millennials are currently the most valuable target demographic for modern retailers. As they are also the most avid users of social media, a crossover was all but inevitable.  

Retailers, realizing the power of social media, have used these platforms for a while now to engage with their customers online. Social media also lets retailers market their products in a more interactive environment.

Recently, social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook have been investing in retail. This captures wide consumer interest and boosts both revenues as well as followers. As for retailers, they can use social media platforms to better understand consumer behavior and trends.

UGC or user-generated content is one of the most valuable data sources for retailers. Millennials put a lot of trust and faith in peer evaluation of products. Studies show that reviews and recommendations by fellow shoppers, rather than brand messaging, motivate customers to buy products online.

Here are a few instances of how social media platforms are leveraging the retail space:

Facebook Shop and Marketplace

Facebook has a feature called Facebook Shop. Retailers can add the Shop tab to their business page. It lets retailers display their products and sell directly from their company page itself. Considering the huge number of users on Facebook, this offers retailers a wide audience to convert into customers. Retailers can upload a product catalog to their page and customers can browse the products and buy them without having to leave the page. It also allows retailers to manage orders, and mark them as shipped or canceled right on the page itself.

Facebook also introduced Facebook Marketplace, an online market for retailers to display products. This offers free organic distribution for retailers’ products. It curates content and provides product recommendations based on user preferences and relevance. This ensures higher conversion from a user to a consumer. Like Facebook Shop, there is no listing fee involved. It is an online platform for retailers to sell to their customers.

#Instashopping on Instagram

Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms with more than 1 billion active users; and about 60% or a whopping 600 million people, seek out and discover products on the app. Instagram has introduced shoppable posts which allow customers to go from discovery to buying without having to leave the app. Retailers can add up to 5 product tags per picture on business accounts only. They can only tag products from their Facebook Shop catalog. These tags redirect the customers to a product page that allows them to buy the products.

This seamless and hassle-free shopping experience has a wide appeal for the customers. In June 2018, they added Shoppable Stories which are an added advantage as about 400 million users view Stories every month. As of late 2018, Instagram also added a shopping channel to the Explore page, which is in its testing phase.

Shop and Cop by Snapchat

Snapchat  has introduced ads and product catalogs through its self-service ad buying platform. Recently, they released a dedicated shopping channel called Shop and Cop on the app which will feature exclusive offers and limited time deals through Shopify. These channels will be available in the Discovery section of the Snapchat app. Shop and Cop will feature social influencer posts and content. Shopify capabilities will allow in-app purchases ensuring a smooth shopping experience without the user leaving the app. Snapchat will curate products while Shopify will take care of the buying end. Moreover, Snapchat and Amazon have announced a partnership on a visual search tool. This will allow customers to use the Snapchat camera to search for products on Amazon.



2018 saw a lot of innovations with social media intersecting with e-commerce to give the rise of social commerce.  Retailers stand to make big bucks off of these popular platforms by better understanding shopper purchase behavior and using it to their advantage. They can conduct market research, market their products better and even sell, all in one place. With these innovations, it's only a matter of time before social media takes over the world of retail.

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Leveraging AI to Improve the Supply Chain Efficiency for Grocery Retailers

Leveraging AI to Improve the Supply Chain Efficiency for Grocery Retailers

Food companies are increasingly prioritizing supply chain transparency and efficiency. IBM expanded its food supply chain network, IBM Food Trust, with Carrefour rolling out the solution to all of its brands worldwide by 2022 and Topco Associates, Wakefern, and suppliers Beefchain, Dennick Fruit Source, Scoular and Smithfield joining the blockchain traceability program.

Half of U.S. grocery retailers are turning to artificial intelligence to improve supply chain efficiency. Nearly two thirds of the 50 retailers surveyed, most of which were grocery executives and managers, struggle with a disconnect between systems, and 48% rate their forecasting technology as average to very poor. While they would prefer that each supply chain component work together, few retailers have established a unified process.

The challenge for grocery retailers is that they lack connected systems, with consumers indicating they have separate demand planning, replenishment, allocation and order management systems for store and e-commerce orders. Combined with the fact that a small portion of consumers indicating they don’t manage each of their modules on the same platform, disparate demand replenishment systems appear to be a significant burden to efficiency.

Retailers are being pressured to push past barriers and produce more accurate demand forecasts. The pace of innovation is a significant issue, with 43% of grocery retailers saying their technology can’t keep up with business demands. Forty-two percent describe less-than-optimal synchronization between their inventory and channels, and nearly as many worry about fulfilment complexities, stocking inefficiencies and high product lead time.

When they do invest in needed technology, grocery stores are most inclined to spend on supply chain systems that increase stock availability and decrease stock holding, as 44% invest in new technology because their existing systems are unable to sustain new growth.

In an effort to keep reasonable service levels, food retailers often tend to overstock, but then over course-correct and understock instead. While 43% say they’re challenged by lack of real-time visibility of overall supply chain inventory, six in 10 say they are actively taking steps to address this hurdle and increase inventory visibility.

AI and machine learning hold a lot of potential to improve supply chain efficiency, and forward-looking retailers are already investing in these technologies. Grocery retailers say AI’s greatest potential to improve supply chain management relates to quality and speed of planning insights, while nearly 50% identified demand management as one of the top three areas for AI in the next five years.

One in three food retailers incorporate AI capabilities into their supply chain management processes, and one in four are working toward that goal. Artificial intelligence has the possibility to provide faster, more reliable demand insights, quality management capabilities and real-time updates along the way, the study noted.

Tree Branches

How can I use AI to Categorize Product Data

Is there a best way to leverage AI to categorize product data?

Have you ever tried searching for a product on your favorite online shopping site, only to be disappointed when you couldn’t find the product that you’re looking for? Most product site search engines leverage accurate product categorization attributes to help narrow the search results for a user.

In this article we’re going to look at the impact that proper categorization has on search and how it’s now possible to automate product categorization with a machine learning model.

What is Categorization?

Categorization starts with a well designed product category taxonomy. The product taxonomy defines how each product type is related. The first couple levels of a product taxonomy contain broad category labels. For a grocery taxonomy, the top levels might be organized by departments within the store. It’s a logical representation of the way that a shopper would look for a given product in the physical store. A taxonomy is often referred to as a “Product tree”, with each product category referred to as a “branch” and each individual item referred to as a “leaf” on that branch.

Grocery taxonomy example:

  1. Meat & Seafood

    1. Fresh Meat

      1. Ribs

      2. Smoked Ham

      3. Specialty Meat

      4. Kosher Meat

      5. ...

    2. Fresh Seafood

    3. Packaged Meat

    4. Packaged Seafood

  2. Produce

  3. Deli

  4. Bakery

  5. Adult Beverages

  6. Beverages

  7. Floral

  8. ...

For a new product to be put into the online product catalog, it first needs to be categorized appropriately into the correct level of the product taxonomy. This is easy enough for a human to complete the product categorization, however, when you have thousands and thousands of products, this can be a tedious process.

Why is Categorization Important?

The science of search has evolved over the last two decades. Trying to determine the searchers intent from one or two words is not a simple process. We’re not going to dive into that in this article. However, in the specific use case of product search for an ecommerce website, most shoppers will generally include the object of their intent as part of the search input. In most cases this data can be used to quickly narrow the results set based on the product taxonomy. After all, the consumer isn’t looking for organic lettuce in the seafood section, nor would they be looking for seafood in the produce section. So one method to quickly close the search breadth is to narrow the search to specific sub-branch of the product taxonomy.

One downside to improper categorization is that improperly categorized products can become “lost”. When a product is mis-categorized on an improper branch of the taxonomy, the search engine may either (1) not find the product or (2) relegate the mis-categorized product to the bottom of the search results.

Don’t believe me? Try this: go to your favorite ecommerce provider, search for something, and then go to the last page of the search results. What do find there? Don’t let this happen to your product catalog.

In addition, the product category for a given catalog item can help define the product schema that should be employed to display the product information for the consumer on the product data page. The schema can also help define the meaning of generic product attributes, depending on the product type.

What is ATOM?

ATOM is the product categorization service from IceCream Labs. We developed ATOM as an API service which can be accessed automatically from your product information manager. ATOM takes a product title or description as an input and outputs the recommended product category for the item. ATOM is powered by a machine learning model that has been trained on millions of product records. It’s constantly learning as it processes new data.

With ATOM, you can properly categorize or validate a new product item before accepting it into your production product catalog.

To learn more about ATOM, or see a demo, contact our sales team: sales@icecreamlabs.com

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Min An from Pexels

three trays filled with salad ingredients

Personalization: The important role it plays for Grocery Retailers

Personalization: Why is it important  for Grocery Retailers


In today’s hyper-local and hyper-personalized consumer demands, delivering a tailor-made and individualistic message becomes extremely important.

They can be put off by irrelevant messages and the likelihood of them seeking products elsewhere increases. They want to buy from innovative companies who create better experiences tailored to their preferences and previous behavior.

While grocery has often been a leader in data and personalization, the focus was not entirely on creating a genuine and valuable customer experience.

To keep up with the ever-changing customer expectations and to stay a step ahead, food companies need to facilitate a consumer’s needs before they arise, and the retailers that capture on this trend, are more likely to succeed in the future.

Personalized recommendations is not a new concept. Spotify creates playlists based on songs that a user has previously enjoyed and Amazon’s recommendations based on previous purchases.

Personalized recommendations are not news. YouTube is recommending which songs we should listen to next, Spotify is creating playlists based on songs we enjoyed in the past, what day of the week it is or time of day, Amazon is letting us know which books we might like based on what’s in our cart, but we feel frustrated if the recommendations feel impersonal.

In a society with a unique sense of self, search with the term “for me” is growing exponentially and food companies are looking for ways to create food recommendations that will not let the consumer down.

Grocery retailers have recognized the need for creating personalized shopping experiences as well, but are still struggling to implement every step of a connected and delightful consumer journey.

Leveraging both the data provided by the consumer and past purchase behaviors can help grocery retailers deliver more personalized and meaningful shopping experiences, thus increasing customer loyalty and basket size.

In the blog post, we will explore more about why consumers expect Personalisation from grocery retailers. 

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