New research has shown that grocery retailers are struggling to optimise stock replenishment processes, with almost half saying that their decisions are still based on'gut feeling'. Retail applications provider Blue Yonder surveyed 750 grocery managers and directors in the US, UK, Germany and France. It found that, in spite of a rise in accurate algorithms for automated replenishment and demand planning, 46% of surveyed directors in the UK say that replenishment is still an entirely manual process and the same amount saying that it was fully automated. A further 30% believed that instinct-based decision making was slowing them down. Of the four countries involved in Blue Yonder's survey, Germany had the highest proportion of respondents using manual or partially automated systems, with just one-third of managers who had fully automated their stock replenishment processes.
Technology has long since advanced to the point where it can make decisions better than people can, and yet grocery managers are still happy to use their own experience to drive decision-making, sacrificing speed, efficiency and savings. By optimising key strategic areas of pricing and replenishment, and automating decisions using machine learning, retailers can combine the speed of their decisions with their KPIs (margins, volumes, mark downs). Yet still retailers are not currently marrying the two in a responsive and effective way. As part of Blue Yonder's recent survey of 750 grocery retailers across the globe, we asked some probing questions about decision making and customer service. The research revealed that grocery retailers believe robotics, machine learning and artificial intelligence will be some of the key game changers for the industry.
AI has been identified as a threat to the warehouse and logistics industry, but what about retail workers? A new report from Blue Yonder looks at how AI could support rather than replace human retail workers. A report from the Martin School at the University of Oxford and Citi estimated that, while perhaps unsurprisingly 80 per cent of retail transportation, warehousing and logistics jobs are at risk due to automation and artificial intelligence, 63 per cent of sales positions are also under threat. Uwe Weiss, CEO at Blue Yonder, argues that removing sales staff from the shop floor to be replaced by AI would be the wrong approach for retailers, as they should be enabling their employees to do what they do best, providing friendly, responsive and bespoke customer service, and letting the machines take care of the manual time-consuming processes, such as replenishment, that require analysis of vast quantities of data and keep staff away from delivering good customer service. For decades, large-scale retail companies have used manual processes to anticipate consumer demand, and stock replenishment has often been based on gut feeling, assumptions, existing agreements with wholesalers and expectations that are hard to measure.
January has been a month characterized by price cuts but low prices are not the only factor eating into profits. At a time when competition is increasing, not only from the discounters, but from new players with optimized supply chains and leading distribution networks, meeting the demands of customer experience has become far harder. Limited product availability, a longstanding challenge for retailers across the globe, has led to customers across the UK becoming dissatisfied with their grocery shopping. A bad customer experience ultimately eats sales figures and margins. Worse still, the vast majority of retailers are unaware of the scale of this problem.
As the 2018 holiday shopping season approaches, the retail sector will once again take center stage. Brick-and-mortar retailers haven't had it easy in the past decade, as more and more consumers shift their shopping habits as a result of ecommerce. However, despite some predictions that brick and mortars are doomed to become mere memories of the days of old, many retailers continue to turn a profit in an ecommerce-dominated market. Many successful brick-and-mortar retailers aren't just brick and mortars; they aggressively pursue omnichannel strategies that blend ecommerce with traditional commerce in a way that puts customers' needs first. The IoT (Internet of Things) is playing a key role in keeping retailers up to speed with consumers' wants and needs.