Innovative Retail Technologies

MAR-APR 2017

Innovative Retail Technologies (formerly Integrated Solutions For Retailers) is the premier source for innovative yet pragmatic technology solutions in the retail industry.

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concerned about on-shelf availability and its impact on sales, as well as expense reduction and the efficient capture of store-level information. "Retailers want the same sort of image recognition functionality, but they want it across the entire store," says Benson. While associates can certainly leverage the same manual image recognition application used by manufacturer representatives, the robot, built by San Jose-based Fetch Robotics and featuring three tiers of cameras, automates and accelerates the collection of images. By the first quarter of 2017, Trax was boasting more than a dozen pilot implementations. Benson says these pilots are showing some early proof that one best practice might entail the robots working an early night shift, automatically launching from their docking stations at a predetermined time, making their rounds, and parking themselves in their docking stations much like a Roomba does. Then, the images they've collected are uploaded to the Trax application in the cloud, where analysis occurs and from which stocking and merchandising directive reports are produced and delivered in advance of the night crew beginning its shift. Those reports, complete with store maps and multilevel shelf views of merchandise, inform the night crew as it prepares shelves for the following business day. There is some overlap between image recognition-based inventory, merchandise, and promotions management tools and more traditional product management tools like the ubiquitous bar code or RFID tags. All three technologies can tell you what's on the shelf at any given time. Only images can show you what that shelf actually looks like. "Artificial intelligence is a bullet point beneath all the processes that are run on the images," says Benson. "It's part of the process of identifying all the individual products in the picture and determining what's there on the shelf, what's not, and what needs to be done." In addition to driving daily data to store associates, the application also allows executives at headquarters to glean insight into the inventory performance of the entire store. With the results of its analysis available in the cloud, there are big benefits for CPG and retail executives alike. Directives are based on rules merchants themselves have set, and they might include planogram, price, promotional compliance, and share of shelf, to name a few. "Merchant executives receive scores based on their own rules," says Benson. " This gives them a way to think visually about their stores and see the problem areas they face." Of course, store layouts change frequently and the robots must be kept abreast of those changes. Benson says an hour of training prepares store level associates to reprogram the robot's path as needed. The Trax application is subscription-based, cost dependent on the size of the store and the volume of images processed. The robots will come at an additional, albeit undetermined, cost. Algorithms Trump Assumptions When Omer Artun and I finally navigated our way under the great glass ceiling at Javits to a concrete pier large enough to accommodate two people and a laptop, he gave me a glimpse into the gears that turn product development at AgilOne. Artun holds a Ph.D. in physics and computational neuroscience from Brown. One of his first jobs out of college was a consulting gig with McKinsey, which led to executive-level marketing positions with CDW and Best Buy. In 2006 he founded AgilOne, intent on exploring every possible avenue of applying machine learning to retail marketing. Artun's premise is simple. " There are certain tasks that humans can do, but Mar-Apr 2017 26 There are certain tasks that humans can do, but we can't do them as fast as computers. … Then, there are tasks that humans can do really well that computers struggle with. Omer Artun, CEO and founder, AgilOne

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