3 Practical Reasons Retailers Should Adopt AI in 2019

In the world of retail, the goal is simple: sell product. 

However, reaching that goal is a completely different story. When you throw competition, customer expectations, stores, inventory, logistics, and fulfillment into the mix, things reach a whole new level of complexity. The challenge is really two-fold:

  1. ) First, demand is seemingly unpredictable, with a multitude of factors influencing a consumer’s desire to want to buy something. 
  2. ) Secondly, there’s the issue of optimization – how can retailers leverage their inventory more productively? 

Overcoming these challenges requires retailers to better predict demand and optimize their inventory decisions more effectively to ultimately maximize every opportunity for a sale. Artificial intelligence and advanced analytics technologies are growing to be the tools of choice for retailers when it comes to optimizing inventories as customer expectations force retailers to invest heavily in digital capabilities.

Many retailers, according to Gartner, are “simply not optimizing their most significant assets.” What asset is more important than a retailer’s inventory? Here are three reasons retailers should adopt AI for inventory optimization in 2019:

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Topics: brick-and-mortar retail, merchandise planning, data, inventory, e-commerce, demand prediction, order fulfillment, advanced analytics, artificial intelligence, allocation, markdowns

Three Retail Inventory Management Challenges for the 2018 Holiday Season

As the sugar high from Halloween subsides, retailers are shifting their focus to the next holiday spending rush this season: Black Friday. The dangerous combination of pumpkin-spiced lattes, a strong economy, and product deals and discounts will fuel consumers into the eagerly awaited shopping period for retail.

The outlook on holiday spending this year is optimistic. Retailers are getting holiday ready and pulling out all the stops, such as Target and Walmart's free two-day holiday shipping rollout and Wayfair's holiday pop-ups

However, the difficulties in achieving success during the holidays always fall back on how effectively a retailer can manage their inventory. Are you providing the right product, in the right amount, at the right time and place? Here are some of the biggest inventory management challenges retailers must overcome this holiday season:

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Topics: brick-and-mortar retail, merchandise planning, merchandise assortment, product assortment, data, inventory, e-commerce, holiday shopping, holidays, demand prediction, order fulfillment, advanced analytics

Lessons from Amazon's 4-Star Store, GH Lab, & Fashion Pop-Up Boutique

It’s easy to gloss over the timeworn Amazon headlines, but media coverage of the e-commerce titan’s recent physical retail strategies incited us to dig a little deeper to share some key learnings for you today:

1). First, Amazon’s partnership with Good Housekeeping magazine to create a new pop-up shop and digital boutique, GH Lab, at the Mall of America beckons a unique approach to the physical shopping experience using technology and a thoughtfully crafted, limited assortment.

2). Secondly, the opening of Amazon 4-Star — a new physical store where everything for sale is rated 4 stars and above, is a top seller, or is new and trending on Amazon.com— signals a new level of data-driven curation and transparency that only seemed possible online. 

3). Lastly, the introduction of Amazon’s first fashion-focused pop-up shop in London further affirms the 'brick-to-clicks' phenomenon driving many digitally-native brands to embrace offline despite the 1,773 store closures so far in 2018. 

Amazon has been dabbling in physical retail since its acquisition of Whole Foods in 2017, but its bold experimentation with these new store models clearly reveal the company’s ambitions across multiple physical retail verticals – from fashion to furniture to wellness and more.

These moves signal a future in retail where the power of data drives curated assortments, transparency, and more pleasant, stress-free shopping experiences.

Retailers, take note!

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Topics: brick-and-mortar retail, merchandise planning, merchandise assortment, product assortment, amazon, data, inventory, e-commerce

The Flux Capacitor of Retail

What if you could travel into the future?

In the 1980s sci-fi classic trilogy, Back to the Future, Marty McFly brings back from the future the Sport's Almanac, a compilation of sports statistics and scores, with the intention of gambling his fortune on games with a 100% accuracy. 

What if you could fast-forward to next season? What would you bring?

If I had to guess, as a merchant, you’d probably gather all of the transactions across each store. With that knowledge, you could make the best use of inventory by knowing exactly where each product was going to sell.  

If only it were as easy as time travel. While nothing will be as easy as time travel, it can get pretty close with advanced analytics.

Here's why advanced analytics is the flux capacitor of retail. 

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Topics: brick-and-mortar retail, advanced analytics, machine learning, demand prediction, merchandise buy, merchandise planning, allocation, fulfillment

The Challenges of Clustering

As the seasons change and the weather starts to warm up, I found myself on the hunt for a new summer outfit – ideally a lightweight blouse paired with a matching skirt. While the merchandise I’m looking to buy isn’t necessarily relevant, the situation I found myself in is.

It’s the kind of situation consumers experience waaay too frequently and, frankly, a large reason why providing a stellar customer experience while improving sell-through is such a challenge for many retailers today. 

The story goes like this: 

I came across THE perfect blouse/skirt on a retailer’s e-commerce page. Sizing is always a potential issue so instead of making an online order, I resort to a brick-and-mortar visit.

As I make my way to this retailer’s store, ready and willing to spend, I ultimately find:

  1. The blouse isn’t available at that particular location
  2. The skirt isn’t available in the size or color I wanted
  3. The sales associate was super unhelpful (irrelevant to the point I’m trying to make – but argh—still worth noting) 

Okay, fine. It happens. How was the retailer to know I was going to waltz into their Newbury location looking for product A and product B?

The thing is, businesses “doing retail right” do know – and plan their assortment accordingly. Successful retailers know when it comes to finalizing their assortment plan for the upcoming season, they must rely on truly localized demand to ensure they stock the right product at the right location (and in this particular instance, in the right color and size).

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Topics: retail clustering, customer choice, customer experience, merchandise planning, assortment optimization, allocation, merchandise buy, customer preference

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