Three Ways to Thrive During the Retail Apocalypse

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The retail apocalypse is here, with experts issuing dire warnings that the fallout will hit its peak this year. The numbers certainly appear dismal – 12,000 stores in the U.S. are expected to close in 2018, an increase from roughly 3,000 closures last year, and 25 major retailers could file for bankruptcy.[1]

But while there’s volatility in the U.S. market, global retail landscapes are growing.[2] Ultimately, the retail landscape is changing, and the consumer goods organizations that thrive regardless of the environment do so because they embrace digital transformations. With advanced capabilities such as machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), they build intelligent solutions and optimized workflows to achieve perfect retail execution in any environment. With three innovative strategies, these firms tune out the noise and focus on what’s important – maximizing revenue potential.

1.      See everything and truly understand your customers

During disruptive periods in the retail industry, factors that affect CG companies across all channels change quickly and dramatically. Competitive companies collect and interpret critical data – such as sales, inventory, voids, out-of-stock rates, consumer preferences, and more – so that they can respond to the dynamics of the market and truly understand their customers. Real-time point of sale data improves sales by as much as 10%, and CG companies rate access to accurate inventory information as the top capability in improving agility.[3]

Companies that thrive in the current environment not only use data to see more, but also to predict opportunities and challenges. Machine learning helps companies recognize trends and patterns across physical and digital channels, empowering CG companies to adapt strategies before changes occur. Two-thirds of retailers see predicting demand as one of the greatest challenges facing retail supply chains[4]  –  an area of opportunity in which CG companies can greatly assist with the necessary visibility.

2.      Sell smart and maximize retail execution efficiency

Companies that flourish eliminate unnecessary, time-consuming tasks and streamline their workflows. They sell smarter than their competition and improve retail execution efficiency wherever possible. 45% of businesses report that AI solutions do exactly that[5]  –  enabling CG companies to maximize the efficiency at the point of sale. As a result, they reduce the time spent on manual tasks and shift priorities to activities that increase sales and revenue. Firms report a 7.4% loss of revenue due to stock-outs at the retail store, an inefficiency that is dramatically reduced with predictive technology.[2]

Planning is an essential component of Retail Activity Optimization, but optimal sales routes, locations to visit, and topics to cover require significant labor to create. This is another area where AI technology shines – automatically determining the most efficient routes and suggesting activity steps related to visit execution based on current data.

3.      Build the perfect store and optimize your point of sale

To maintain a competitive advantage, successful CG companies – working with retail partners – deliver a superior consumer experience and guarantee planogram compliance. Optimizing the experience at various points of sale through sales drivers, measurement objectives, and digitally-captured data enables businesses to build the perfect store. CG organizations that leverage these measures see real results – like a 25% boost in sales.[6]

Perceptual Intelligence software also helps retail execution sales, merchandising, and delivery managers quickly determine the level of compliance within the store. By simply taking pictures of shelves, displays, or other points of purchase, digital image recognition instantly discerns what products are present and compares that to the optimal display, which greatly reduces the time auditors spend in store and increases their coverage opportunities and focus on higher value activities. Additionally, the latest developments in augmented reality enables CG companies to virtually design and experience the perfect store before it’s built – an application that significantly streamlines the optimization process.

Turn the retail apocalypse into a retail execution opportunity

Embracing new digital technologies such as machine learning and AI isn’t only about survival during a disruptive period – it’s about maximizing potential and making smarter decisions in any retail environment. The tools to achieve perfect retail execution are within reach. AFS Retail Execution, built on the Microsoft Azure cloud platform, is a robust, flexible mobile solution designed to empower consumer goods companies to use data to drive efficiency in end-to-end operations.

With AFS Retail Execution, customers see real results that power them through the current retail environment and foster growth. A global leader in the confectionary space utilized mobile and advanced analytics solutions to increase their visit efficiency by one store per day for each brand representative.[1] Another AFS customer, one of the largest beer producers in Europe, implemented a functional, mobile-friendly system to streamline workflows; as a result, their representatives became three times more efficient with their visits and they experienced a 50% decrease in out of stocks.7

To learn more about transforming your retail execution process, read AFS Retail Execution: Five Strategies for Superior Retail Execution and check out AFS Retail Execution today.

[1] Business Insider, 2018
[2] Strategy&: 2017 Consumer Packaged Goods Trends, 2017
[3] EKN Outlook, 2016
[4] RetailWire (PWC), 2017
[5] Infosys: Leadership in the Age of AI, 2018
[6] AFS Technologies: The Perfect Store Infographic, 2018