Data by nature: Why eCommerce analytics are steps ahead
Online retailing not only created a new way of shopping, but it also changed the game when it comes to tracking and analysing the shopping journey. There is almost nothing that is not being evaluated while surfing the webshop. Digital-heat-maps of individual online sessions are analysed, showing every click and scroll through the online store. Every possible KPI is monitored: Conversion rate, click-through rate, average order value, the relation between new and returning visitors, bounce rate and retention to name a few. The really powerful thing about this is that analysis is always followed by action, to improve both the effectiveness of the webshop and the experience of its customers.
Data by design? Time for brick and mortar to take some lessons
Naturally, eCommerce has a significant advantage when it comes to analytics, a digital channel is always going to produce more data. Brick-and-mortar stores need to adapt to compete however, and technology is trying to bridge this gap between the physical and digital. Some of the more hardware-heavy options include AI-powered cameras, smart shelves or even aisle-roaming robots.
While hardware-intensive solutions like customer-tracking smart cameras are available, with the right software supporting it, a technology that simply tracks products (such as RFID) and leverages the IoT (Internet of Things) can revolutionise analytics for stores. These technologies and their supporting platforms are a big driver of ‘Digital transformation’ which delivers the analytics and data that brick-and-mortar stores are desperate for.
Here are 3 lessons from eCommerce for improving analytics in retail stores….
The need for real-time data
For years, brick-and-mortar retailers have been complaining about imprecise stock-figures and unreliable historical data. Unhappy with its purchasing decisions based on last year’s sales figures, retailers would prefer to have real-time data and inventories that allow for reliable and economically viable decisions. After all, it is important to avoid high-security stocks in order to reduce capital tie-up.
But why do we actually have this problem? Are the data points offered by the ERP systems not enough? Unfortunately not – it is not unusual that the ERP system shows higher stock than actually available on the sales floor. This so-called “ghost stock” is the cause for various problems in sales, e.g. the ERP system says a certain article, for example, a red skirt in size S, is in stock, but in reality, it is not. It can neither be sold nor refilled from the central warehouse – a classical out-of-stock situation. Or vice-versa, the ERP displays a lower inventory level than is actually available. The reason for these deviations is insufficient accuracy in individual processes that dangerously sum up over time.
Today’s intelligent article management is based on three pillars: fast, RFID-based article identification on item-level, tracking of every movement in real-time and proactive analysis with concrete recommendations for actions to take for the sales personnel. This is the foundation for optimum customer service and efficient processes.
What does real-time data mean for Brick and Mortar Stores?
- High Stock accuracy
- Increases product availability of the shop floor from accurate replenishment
- Allows for convenient omnichannel services like click-and-collect
- Equips store staff with up-to-the-minute stock information – allowing them to assist customers better
Meaningful KPIs in the store
When measuring KPIs, the practical benefits for retailers are paramount. Three areas of data in the store can be distinguished:
KPIs for Store performance
Whether five or 800 stores, KPIs for measuring inventory accuracy are significant for every retailer and still represent one of the main challenges in today’s business. Retailers, on average, can actually make accurate statements on just about 75% of their inventory (based on SKU level). However, this is not enough to meet customers’ expectations for omnichannel services. Therefore, inventory transparency and corresponding KPIs are essential for retailers´ success.
Product availability on the sales floor, also known as on-floor availability, is the second central parameter. Initially, it is less about the exact position and more about the fact that the articles are on the sales floor – after all, only items that are actually available can be sold. This key figure can be combined with an alert system that makes sure not to fall short of the defined minimum availability. Complementary to classical ERP-systems, RFID-based merchandise management takes the data granularity to the next level, by knowing exactly at each moment in time if products are really on the salesfloor or still lingering in the backroom of a store.
KPIs for individual product & campaign performance
Product dwell-time on salesfloor
Having data on item level, store managers are also given important information on the dwell times of articles on the sales floor. This information is more valuable than simple sales data, as it tells us the average time individual products spend on the sales floor before being sold. This can be used to gauge whether products are performing & corresponding with the sales plan. Common recommendations made from this data include moving items do a different location on the salesfloor (i.e. adjusting the planogram) or relocating excess inventory to another store – both of these measures reduce profit-sapping inventory bloat and end-of-season markdowns.
Fitting room conversion rate
One of the most famous KPIs in e-commerce is the conversion rate that describes the ratio between purchases and website visitors and also provides information on certain items that were already in the shopping cart, but for some reason have not been purchased in the end. Specifically, this aspect was incredibly difficult to measure in the store for a long time but can now be measured in fitting rooms using IoT and RFID technologies. This provides meaningful insights into how many, and above all, which articles does a customer take into the fitting room and which one does she/he actually buy?
KPIs on customer engagement and service quality
On an operational side, KPIs can also be used to manage service quality. We’ve already covered product-availability and stock accuracy, which affect the customer just as much as the store with out-of-stocks or unavailable sizes being all-too-common pain points. The replenishment rate provides another angle to combat this, as it shows how quickly articles are replenished on the sales floor. On the other hand, the fitting room response time describes how quickly sales personnel handle customer requests coming from the fitting room. The KPI “Conversion rate per campaign” shows the success of a campaign and if campaign-specific countermeasures are necessary.
Turning data into actions
The final lesson brick-and-mortar retail should learn from the webshop? Turning data into actions. Since nobody needs a data graveyard, any analysis needs the goal of creating immediate actions to improve. Today’s systems help the management team as well as the store personnel with concrete and automated recommendations for actions to take. This saves time in the decision-making process, unburdens the sales personnel, and enables them to do the right things at the right time.
KPIs should be suitable for everyday business use. Presented visually and self-explanatory, they need to be linked to clear recommendations for actions to take. This frees up store personnel time and provides a data-driven way of optimization. Examples range from simple in-store replenishment advice, i.e. “The minimum stock for article #47699-0010 has been reached – please refill three pieces” to more advanced topics, e.g. to choose a different placement in the store for a specific article when the dwell time on the sales floor is too high compared to other stores. Advanced systems can even utilise AI and Machine learning to automate and refine certain processes, like adjusting store planograms and creating optimal pick paths when replenishing stock.
Brick-and-mortar retail needs support and an update to the toolbox when it comes to analysis and measures. Not only does the sales personnel benefit from intelligent recommendations for action, but the management team also gains efficient control mechanisms across the entire store network. Decisions are made based on real-time data and therefore allow timely action. Ultimately, the end customer is pleased about a first-class service, which – thanks to the individual and informed advice through the sales personnel – even exceeds the standards of the online retail.
Item-level Reporting from
Register for this webinar where we outline the impact of digitisation on supply chain analytics and operational efficiency. Covering the wealth of item-level data unlocked by RFID, the presentation will explain the new KPI’s available for modern supply chains and their impact on retail operations.
Webinar: Item-level reporting from source-to store
Digitisation and data go hand-in-hand. As retail supply chains continue to go digital, a wealth of item-level data on the flow of merchandise through the supply chain is unlocked. In the future, the winners and losers of supply chain management will be determined by who leverages this information more effectively.
Join Detego’s Chief Data Scientist, Simon Walk, as he presents the cutting edge of supply chain analytics and how digitisation is taking the guesswork out of retail logistics.
This webinar covers:
• Item-level tracking of Items along the Supply Chain to deliver accountability, visibility & traceability
• Effective traceability which combats supply chain shrinkage and counterfeit products.
• Using heuristic & Machine Learning based Algorithms to detect supply chain irregularities.
• Using dwell-time data to optimise operational & Supply Chain processes
• Analysing throughput data across factories, DCs and stores
Complete Supply chain visibility was once an optional bonus for retailers, but in the modern industry it is becoming more and more of a necessity.
Whilst in the past, limited tracking of shipments in the supply chain was commonplace, in the modern environment with its more complex supply chains, delivery options and increasing customer expectations, retailers need to do more.
This isn’t just us saying so, retailers recognise this too. According to a report by Zebra Technologies, 72% of retailers are working on digitizing their supply chains in order to achieve real-time visibility.
What Is Supply Chain Visibility?
Having visibility means being able to accurately track products and shipments throughout the supply chain, from the manufacturer, to the distribution centre and finally to the store. Having this visibility prevents shipping errors, improves operational efficiency and allows retailers to leverage products to service their customers better.
Why Do Retailers Need Visibility?
Managing supply chains effectively is always a priority for retailers. But as these supply chains get bigger the challenge becomes more daunting. Visibility is needed to align such large operations, and this is before you add new pressures like omnichannel, traceability and online orders.
Additionally, supply chain visibility is arguably even more important in ecommerce than for pure-play brick and mortar retailers. Not only do you need to know exactly what stock the fulfilment centre has, but what stock it is due to receive and when. And since pure-play brick and mortar retailers are now few and far between , this now means that most retailers’ supply chains need to be more advanced and transparent than previously required.
This is before mentioning the divisive omnichannel word, which often requires even greater transparency and synergy between stores and distribution centres and includes multiple delivery options.
There are also more classic supply chain challenges that can be helped by achieving visibility. General inefficiencies and inaccuracies can be reduced by adding more checkpoints throughout the supply chain – particularly when these are done at an item level, and not shipment or carton level.
Adding this visibility also makes better communication between different stages of the chain possible, which leads to smoother operations. Having visibility at an item-level also makes traceability of items through the supply chain possible. This can make a massive difference in combatting supply chain shrinkage, and in some cases the grey market.
The ‘New’ Challenges:
Multi/omni-channel businesses – It seems like an age ago, but traditional retail supply chains went in one direction and to one place – stores. Now almost all retailers also run their businesses online meaning their they operate on multiple sales channels, therefore, their supply chains service far more destinations than before.
Multiple delivery options – A relatively recent challenge created by the growth of online and the already mentioned omnichannel purchasing options. Retailers want to offer their customers as much stock and as many purchasing options as possible, but without the technology to support it, this can cause problems. In an Accenture survey, respondents claimed that 31 percent of their Ship from Store orders triggered a split shipment.
Customer expectations – Customer expectations has shifted. In a 2019 report, it was found that Half of shoppers reported abandoning a purchase due to a lack of cross-channel buying options. This is a major impact on sales, and many retailers are starting to adapt to the change in expectations.
The Old Challenges:
Supply chain inefficiency – Supply chain inefficiencies and miscommunication through “Chinese Whispers” are costing UK businesses over £1.5bn in lost productivity according to analysis of industry data from Zencargo.
Supply chain shrinkage – According to the National Security Survey, businesses in the United States lose $45.2 billion through inventory shrinkage a year. Whilst retail stores make up the majority of this, supply chains still experience large amounts of inventory shrink, particularly when they have no visibility of products.
What are the benefits of having supply chain visibility?
Better customer service
Improved inventory control
Shorter cycle times
Smoother operational processes between stores and DC’s
Better data for more intelligent business decisions
Reduce out of stocks
Track and trace products
Offer effective omnichannel services and delivery options
How Do You Achieve Supply Chain Visibility?
Implement a system that works at an item-level (not whole cartons)
Accurately track products at as many points as possible during shipping
Inbound and outbound counts at every stage of shipping
Implement effective exception handling
Use a cloud-based system to integrate all stages of the supply chain and achieve as close to a real-time view of merchandise movement as possible
Send advanced shipping notices (ASN’s) so warehouses and stores now exactly what they’ll receive
Use this visibility to enable traceability of each item throughout its journey
The Detego Platform allows retailers to gain complete visibility over their operations
If you’re looking for a solution or partner to help achieve better supply chain visibility, consider our platform!
Using RFID item level-tagging, the cloud-based Detego platform gives each individual item a unique digital identity. Items are then tracked from factory to shop floor using radio frequency identification (RFID) methods. RFID makes this possible as inbound, outbound and even exception handling can then be done through RFID reads – which are fast, accurate and can be done without opening cartons.
Since RFID works on the individual item-level, the result of this is complete visibility of the supply chain. The platform utilises the IoT to create a complete overview of every single product in the supply chain, as its cloud hosted this can be close to real-time and is the ‘single point of truth’ for the entire business.
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Online returns have been a challenge for retailers since the beginning of eCommerce. This is because of both their volume compared to normal stores, and the costs associated with processing them. In the wake of COVID-19, this problem could prove more critical then ever, as online becomes retailers’ singular sales channel. There is already early evidence of this, with preliminary data from Quantum Metric showing that eCommerce associated with Brick and Mortar retailers saw an average revenue weekly growth rate increase of 52%, and Nike Inc.’s digital sales went up by 36%.
The eCommerce returns dilemma
Online shopping is popular for a reason, but the convenience and choice of eCommerce comes at the price of not being able to ‘try before you buy’ for customers.
This simple difference is the reason online returns are so much more prevalent than for Brick and Mortar stores. In eCommerce the customers’ homes becomes the fitting room. And, just like any fitting room, products end up back on the shelves. According to Happy Returns, while shoppers return only 10% of what they buy in stores, they send back up to 50% of what they buy online.
This is compounded by customers accounting for this when ordering online. A survey from Barclays found that 30% of shoppers deliberately over-purchase and subsequently return unwanted items. Additionally, 20% regularly order multiple versions (often sizes) of the same item so they could make their mind up when they are delivered, all of which is facilitated by the retailer at great cost.
While it might seem logical to have stricter returns policies, or make customers cover the cost of returns, consumer expectations make this a risky strategy. According to the 2017 UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper survey, 68% of shoppers view returns policies before making a purchase. This leaves retailers with a catch-22 situation when it comes to losing out on online sales or losing profits from processing the inevitable returns that comes with those sales.
What are the challenges of retail returns?
So why are returns such a strain on retailers?
Cost of returns – First and foremost is the simple cost of returns. Since returns are in themselves essentially lost sales, the added cost of returning them, which according to CNBC is on average 30% of the purchase price, can heavily impact retailer’s margins.
Processing returns and reverse logistics – On top of this is the resources and effort of processing returns and getting the stock back available to be sold as quickly as possible. This reverse logistics can be particularly challenging and can result in returned stock not being available for purchase again for some time, often leading to out-of-stocks on the webshop. According to the Barclays report, 57% of retailers say that dealing with returns has a negative impact on the day-to-day running of their business.
Contamination concerns with COVID-19? – A unique and recent challenge, particularly for apparel retailers, is dealing with the potential contamination and contact of returned good with the COVID-19 virus. Initial research suggests that the virus can only survive on fabric surfaces for 24 hours, but for up to 72 on plastics like packaging. This will need to be addressed by eCommerce retailers who continue trading throughout the epidemic.
Return fraud – This is a challenge shared by brick-and-mortar stores. Fraudulent returns cost the US alone 27 billion dollars a year. This can involve the ‘returning’ of stolen merchandise for cash, stealing receipts to enable a false return or using someone else’s receipt to return unpurchased store stock. Naturally, using receipts for returns presents a risk, APPRISS found that receipted returns are more than twice as likely to be fraudulent as other methods.
How to reduce the impact of returns on eCommerce
So what options are there for retailers looking to tackle their returns problems?
- Reduce the likelihood of returns, without harming customer experience or sales: Include accurate and detailed product descriptions. Use uniformed/standard sizes where possible and provide a more specific sizing filter. Offer virtual ‘try-ons’ with augmented reality/3D imaging.
- Set clear and accessible rules regarding returns: Make sure customers know what and how they are allowed to return items, this reduces spending resources processing illegitimate returns.
- Improve visibility: Maintain a single view of stock with item-level inbound and outbound processes, this will also allow for online returns back to stores, and ship-from-store. Make this visibility accessible to your entire team and your customers.
- Improve efficiency of inbound and outbound processes: Utilise reliable & efficient technologies and automated processes like exception handling. One of the leading technologies for this is RFID, which prevents the need to open any boxes or packages as it can count and verify items without direct line of sight.
- Improve internal processes: Ensure returns processes (and supporting software) enables additional layers of merchandise management such as grading items based on quality and tracking when the item was returned.
- Counter Return Fraud: Verify legitimacy of returns as much as possible, best practise involves unique item-level validation like RFID or unique serial numbers.
- Ensure returned stock is safe to sell: Implement processes to ensure returns are not damaged in any way, implement a policy to account for safe handling of merchandise during theCovid-19 pandemic, either sanitising products or leaving them a set amount of time before adding back into webshop stock.
Using RFID tagging and looking to improve return processes?
NEW: eCommerce returns module
eCommerce/ DTC is increasing due to COVID-19. This causes an over proportional increase in returns which normally would require a ramp up of staff and equipment to handle the process – Detego’s new RFID enabled return process provides an approx 90% productivity increase.
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When it comes to digital transformation, RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) has been the hype in retail for several years now. It has, however, been a bumpy road to success. In the past, stories of failed implementations and botched rollouts were far too common and kept many retailers from taking the plunge. Thankfully these days the picture is much more encouraging. We are now spoilt for case studies and examples of retailers having enormous success with the technology to digitise their inventory and processes for the modern retail environment.
So, what makes the difference between failure and success?
Ultimately it comes down to a combination of knowledge, technology and price. Improvements in all three of these areas have evolved the technology into a vital component of any digital transformation journey in retail. But as with any transformative project, getting the detail right is vital. The approach to implementation and suppliers you choose to engage with will have big implications on ROI.
A best-practise approach is easier said than done, so you need to surround yourself with a team of experts who have skin in the game and ensure the solution you choose to implement has the capabilities to lead your digital transformation for years to come.
Our recommended 6 steps to digital transformation with RFID:
1. Understand the problems you want to solve and clearly define the KPIs
The first step in any new tech investment is to be sure that you have clarity around what problems you are hoping to solve. This will often require some hard-hitting questions and honest auditing of current processes and data to understand where you and your customer’s biggest pain points are. Customer feedback surveys are always a good way to gain insight into this.
What common retail problems can RFID solve?
- Stock inaccuracy leading to out-of-stock situations
- Poor product availability on salesfloors and webshop resulting in lost sales
- Labour costs and operational inefficiencies
- Reduction in excess/safety stock
- Inventory visibility and supply chain traceability
Luckily, these problems all have clear KPIs related to them and can be used as a great measurement tool to understand your current position and build a business case for the investment.
2. Choose a software partner that will help you achieve more
Once you have clearly defined RFID as the technology you want to implement, it is then vital to choose the right partners to go on your digital transformation journey with. Within the RFID market, there are generally three partner types – hardware, labels and software. The software component is the most important aspect as this must be able to process all the data, integrate with existing systems and empower employees with user-friendly applications to improve daily processes. Choosing the best-suited partners will make all the difference to ensuring you have a scalable and future proof solution for the next 5+ years.
What to look for in an RFID software partner?
- Credibility in the market – do they have proven RFID deployments with reputable brands in your sector?
- Future-proofed services – do they have a product roadmap that inspires innovation and constant improvement?
- Scalability and flexibility – does the solution fit your business needs and implementation roadmap?
- Industry expertise – do they have deep industry knowledge to understand your specific business requirements and help you think through these challenges?
3. Trial the solution, prove the business case
Any digital transformation project requires buy-in from multiple departments and key decision-makers. The best way to achieve this is to prove the business case in a live retail environment. This is done through a ‘Pilot’ process whereby the solution is tested in around 3-5 live stores, allowing for the critical KPIs to be assessed and to gain a clearer understanding of the implications for store processes. With SaaS-enabled solutions, this process can be done more efficiently through the use of cloud-hosted mobile solutions, essentially making them ‘plug & play’.
What does the pilot process involve?
Tagging party of all items in Pilot stores with RFID labels
Product Master Data uploaded to SFTP (or FTP)
Training of store associates
Use of handheld readers and mobile app to perform daily store operations
Daily KPI tracking to analyse results:
- Improvement in stock accuracy
- Improvement in on-floor availability
- Increase in sales
4. Store rollout with speed for immediate ROI
Although it seems attractive to enable all of the features and RFID-enabled services in one go, and undergo a digital transformation overnight, the reality is often different. Instead, retailers should approach implementation in phases to manage the changes in process and IT requirements. A best-practice approach to RFID implementation should focus on improving the fundamental processes that will bring the most immediate ROI to the business. These processes include stocktakes and replenishment to significantly increase stock accuracy and on-floor availability within stores. Improving these two KPI’s generally results in a direct sales uplift of 5-10%. From there, you can re-invest returns back into the continuous enablement of RFID throughout your business.
What elements are most critical to a successful store rollout?
Speed and ease of implementation
- New innovations such as Smart Shielding removes the need for physical shielding installations – saving time and money.
- SaaS-enabled platforms allow for scalable pricing models and cloud-hosted solutions.
- Open APIs allow for easy system integration with ERP
- Training to educate staff on the changes in daily processes
- Customer success and support to maximise the use of the software
Change management leadership
- Ensuring you have a dedicated team to oversee the rollout
5. Full omnichannel enablement
After securing the foundations of stock accuracy and on-floor availability in stores, the next step is to connect the online and offline business. Omnichannel services such as click & collect (aka BOPIS) and Ship-From-Store are expected in the modern retail environment as consumers demand to shop anywhere, anytime and any way they want. However, it’s important to ensure you can deliver on these retail experiences so that customers don’t end up disappointed. Enabling this requires connecting inventory from your store networks with your distribution centres and webshop to create a single and transparent view of stock.
What’s required for Omnichannel retailing?
- Transparent view of stock across all stores made available to the online store
- Automate warehouse processes with RFID tunnel and outbound processes
- Offer new services such as click & collect, ship-from-store etc.
6. Unlock the true power of RFID with new retail experiences
Stock accuracy, product availability and omnichannel services are synonymous with RFID in retail and should always be the focus of any digital transformation utilising the technology. However, there is also an unlimited amount of untapped data and potential that is a sitting gold mine once you have RFID implemented throughout the supply chain. New solutions for consumer engagement and artificial intelligence engines can now be utilised to provide new services, experiences and insights for retailers and consumers alike.
What new innovations can be enabled?
Interested in discussing your RFID Journey? Talk to the experts.
At Detego we know retail and we know RFID. This combination has enabled us to develop the most innovative RFID software solutions on the market, alongside major global fashion brands. With RFID now on almost every retailer’s roadmap, we have the answers for any step of the journey, anywhere within your operations.
Everyone has to start somewhere, which is why we have out-of-the-box solutions to quick-start your RFID journey. Alternatively, if RFID is well and truly ingrained in your business, then talk to Detego about how we are using AI and innovative new practices to take real-time decision making to the next level.
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Visual Merchandising’s Data Problem
Visual merchandising is one of the ‘dark arts’ of retail. For the uninitiated, it’s the practice of designing visually appealing sales floors and store fixtures that attract customers and ultimately sell the products on display. It’s a subjective and artistic means of delivering a concrete KPI – sales.
One of the challenges of visual merchandising is data, experimentation & design is all well and good, but not if you have no way of knowing what does and doesn’t work. Sales data is always a good place to start, but there are so many other factors at play that it’s often unwise to attribute visual merchandising to an increase or decrease of sales to a single product. You have to go one step further…
What is Money Mapping?
So, how do you measure the sales performance of a store based on its layout and design?
First, you map out the sales floor with the exact location of products. Then you break the map of the store into ‘zones’, typically around certain fixtures, shelves and displays. These zones can consist of several different items, grouped by either category or style depending on the design of the store.
You then collate the sales of every item in this zone and compare it to others in the same store. The result? An impression of shop floor sales broken down by areas of the store.
This is called ‘Money Mapping’ and allows retailers to visualise and analyse which areas of a store are ‘hotspots’ and which are ‘cold’ in terms of sales. This gives an initial view of which areas and fixtures are selling products and which aren’t.
To account for other external influences on sales, best practise is to swap items between fixtures or observe a ‘money map’ over a long time, as collections and merchandise changes between seasons. This way, if the localised sales data remains relatively similar even after products have rotated, then it’s clear the design or locations of the fixture is having an impact.
What are the benefits of Money Mapping?
- Insight on consumer experience
- Provides valuable data for visual merchandisers
- Breaks down areas of sales floor by sales performance
- Can be used to optimise store layout
- Drives Sales
- Can compare Product Placement & Visual Merchandising
- Can be used to conduct A/B tests
This all sounds great, so why doesn’t every retailer and every store do this already? The simple answer – the process of matching the sales data to specific locations on the sales floor, manually for every item and every store, is logistically a big ask. This means, if this can be done at all by visual merchandisers, it can only be done in a small number of stores.
How does AI change money mapping?
So how can we solve this data problem for visual merchandisers and make ‘Money Mapping’ easier and more accessible for retailers?
The first issue is having an accurate map of a store which includes exactly where every single item is sold from. Traditionally this would have to be done manually, and then have the sales data of items cross-referenced with their location in a store.
The solution: Using RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) and AI localisation techniques, we can now create a map of a store as part of the daily or weekly stock count.
This is done by adding ‘reference’ RFID tags into the store. Small tags just like ones that go on products are placed on fixtures and walls in the store. Because these never move, we can use the signal strength (relative to the fixtures) from stock counts to map exactly where items are in the store and what items they are grouped with.
This location info is then integrated with data from point of sale to generate an automated Money Map of a store, as part of the regular reporting and analytics function of the store. This can be done for as many stores as desired. With the data collection automated, visual merchandisers can focus on using the data to optimise product placement and store design across stores.
With larger data sets to work with, this also opens up the potential for more detailed analysis and experimentation such as A/B testing product combinations and store layouts!
What’s the process for AI Money Mapping?
- Attach reference RFID tags to walls and fixtures within the store
- Perform regular RFID stock takes as normal
- Software uses machine learning to ‘map’ out item locations within the store
- Integrate point of sale data with RFID software
- Software produces ‘heat map’ of the store based on sales
- Visual merchandisers can use data to inform strategy and measure results
Visual merchandising is a subtle but valuable process for retailers. Done properly it has a huge impact on both sales, customer experience and brand image. The only problem with this is visual merchandisers often don’t have enough data to measure performance and identify where their attention is needed most. The data they can collect is either time consuming, expensive or inaccurate.
Artificial intelligence changes the game for visual merchandising. By utilising RFID tags and Machine Learning, it is possible to ‘map out’ the location of items in a store, and more importantly, the sales distribution of the shop floor. These ‘Money Maps’ tell visual merchandisers what areas of the sales floor are ‘hotspots’ for sales and which are underperforming. Using this data, they can then focus their attention on improving the design or layout of certain areas.
Additionally, with this data stores can look to leverage their sales hotspots either by prioritising the best locations for best-sellers, high-value items or items that are due to go out of season.
Either way, AI-enabled Money Mapping is another important evolution in retail data and analytics. Providing retailers with unprecedented insight into exactly what goes on in Brick and Mortar Stores.
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Artificial intelligence, the future of smart retail or another empty buzzword?
Artificial intelligence is the poster child for emerging or ‘new age’ smart technologies. Whilst it’s easy to get carried away with ideas of intelligent robots, AI mostly involves intelligent automation systems. This means computer systems that can process and respond to information by themselves, and even learn and self-correct better ways of doing so over time. AI is a broad spectrum, however, and the complexity and ‘intelligence’ of such systems can vary.
AI’s main use for retailers is to automate analysis and decision making
Because AI is still in relative infancy for retail, a large proportion of its use cases for the industry are still being developed and established. We have already seen a strong uptake in AI for customer intelligence in the form of online chatbots and product recommendation engines.
The other areas of potential, namely optimisation of business processes like supply chain planning, demand prediction and store operations, are beginning to take shape but all share a common problem – they need large amounts of data. This has been the main thing holding AI back in certain areas of the retail value chain, but by utilising another technology becoming increasingly common in the industry, this could all change…
RFID in retail, the story so far:
If the ‘AI revolution’ hasn’t really taken off yet, the RFID one is well underway. RFID is used in retail to track and manage merchandise, on a single item-level, with far greater detail and accuracy than traditional systems can manage. The key benefit of RFID for retailers is an accurate and single view of stock across the entire business and its supply chain.
Naturally, RFID systems produce a huge amount of data for products, both in the supply chain and in the individual store. If only there was something that could process all that data…
AI meets RFID: The perfect match
Combining the large amount of item-level data RFID produces with the automated processing power of AI is the natural next step for retail technology.
The key to doing this is each use case adding value or actively solving a problem. At Detego we often talk about ‘avoiding data for the sake of data’ so when using AI to process such data, producing actionable insights and recommendations is vital.
So, what can we do by utilising AI with RFID, and why should retailers care?
So far, the key areas RFID-driven AI automation offers value to retail operations are assisting store staff, assisting customers and optimising inventory management on both a single store scale and across entire store networks.
Our Data Science team are developing solutions for the following use cases, which we will explore in detail in future articles:
Webinar Recording: Combining AI and RFID Taking Retail Inventory to the Next Level
Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming increasingly utilised within the retail industry. One of the main challenges with the technology is having enough relevant data to be utilised or ‘fed into’ an AI system. With Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) providing huge amounts of accurate item-level data for merchandise, the two are a match made in heaven.
This webinar cover AI’s applications for stock optimisation and how machine-learning can ensure products are always in the right place at the right time, including:
- AI-driven, automated planograms for optimised product availability
- Visual merchandising and ‘Money mapping’ in stores to monitor and increase sales.
- How RFID stock-takes and AI pick-lists combine to make replenishment faster and more accurate than ever
- How machine learning smart fitting rooms are bringing accurate cross-selling into the physical store
- Using AI for demand prediction and stock optimisation across store networks
The retail environment has never been more demanding than it is today, thanks to fierce competition, the growth of e-commerce, and consumers’ high expectations for seamless shopping experiences. It’s a situation made even more difficult by a lack of inventory visibility, the complexity of supply chains and the sheer variety of products brands are faced with.
While retailers have access to a growing number of solutions to these issues, RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) is the only one that’s proven to consistently meet retailers’ needs for leaner processes, accurate inventory and real-time data analytics.
This webinar covers:
• The five most important needs identified by retailers and their effect on business
• How RFID-based systems and processes can be applied to solve each need
• What financial and operational benefits can be gained by doing so
• How retailers can further unlock the power of RFID to offer a truly seamless and connected shopping experience
The 6 Key Benefits of RFID in Retail
RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) uses radio waves to track and identify tags attached to objects. The tags contain electronically stored information and are counted or ‘read’ by either handheld or fixed RFID readers.
In many ways RFID is used in retail as an alternative to a barcode system (although it doesn’t have to replace barcodes entirely). The more advanced technology involved in RFID mean it has a far greater level of accuracy and efficiency when it comes to counting inventory. As a result of this it has far broader applications in retail, most of which are built of off the back of this reliable inventory visibility.
By implementing RFID retailers can on average increase their revenue from 5-15% depending on the business. This on top of a margin increase of up to 1% and 10-15% lower working capital due to optimised inventory levels.
According to research in 2018, 69% of retailers cite a significant level of adoption, and this number is continuing to rise.
Due to the ease and accuracy of RFID stock counts, retailers using the technology can reliably achieve full item-level inventory visibility across their stores and supply chains. Crucially, due to the speed of RFID inventory counts, this can be achieved whilst actively reducing the labour intensity of operational processes. This accurate and up-to-the-minute inventory information is the backbone of so many of RFID’s uses in retail (including many of the points discussed below).
One crucial aspect of modern retail that relies on having accurate inventory visibility is Omnichannel retailing. With a complete and up-to-date view of stock across all channels, it is possible to open up the inventory of your entire store network to customers, providing a better customer experience and increasing sales.
Benefits of item-level inventory visibility
- Improved shipping accuracy
- Excellent baseline for advanced omnichannel retailing
- Produces more data for better insights
- Reduces inventory size (and therefore working capital) significantly
- Increased customer satisfaction from reduced out-of-stocks and a more connected experience
Increasing Product Availability
Ensuring a high product availability is vital to maintaining retail sales. Despite this, low on-floor product availability and out-of-stocks are an alarmingly common problem in the industry, causing unnecessary lost sales as a result of inefficient replenishment processes and stock inaccuracy. This latter cause is practically removed completely by RFID, with typical stock accuracy being increased to 99% from the standard 60-80%.
Additionally, RFID platforms provide an unbeatable basis for efficient and reliable replenishment processes. The main advantage these platforms have is the item-level and real-time inventory visibility gained from regular 99% accuracy stock counts.
How does RFID increase product availability?
- Makes regular cycle counts possible with efficient RFID stock reads
- Removes stock inaccuracy (from 70-80% to 99%)
- Creates complete item-level view of stock between both backroom and sales floor
- Item visibility makes replenishment easier and more accurate
- Real-time view allows for replenishment alerts for when items/sizes are running low
- Item-level data from RFID allows for advanced, even AI-assisted planograms for individual stores
Supply Chain Traceability
We’ve discussed the difference item-level visibility makes for stores, but when it comes to supply chains the benefits are just as great. With RFID, inbound and outbound reads become far easier, and are done on an individual item level rather than SKU (stock keeping unit). This means each item is accounted for at each step of the supply chain, rather than just shipments or boxes.
This level of stock visibility also drastically reduces the rate of shipping errors or picking mistakes as they are detected by RFID readers and corrected by warehouse staff during exception handling or outbound reads.
Additionally, the location or status of items and shipments are visible in real-time, so stores and DC’s can easily track shipments and know exactly what they will be receiving. This makes any individual item fully traceable, as time and dates of when the item passed each read point in the supply process can be stored.
Benefits of RFID in the supply chain:
- Item-level visibility across entire supply chain
- Trace items against individual shipments
- Smoother operational processes
- Track shipments for delivery
- 100% inbound and outbound shipping accuracy
Increasing Process Efficiency
The difference in process efficiency from using RFID in retail is extensive, at every end of retail, be it the factory or the shop floor. An RFID reader, regardless of whether its fixed or a handheld, can read hundreds of individual items at once. Crucially though, as each item has a unique ID, they can never be read more than once. The signals also do not require line of sight to be read.
Naturally, this makes RFID inventory counts and inbound/outbound checks incredibly fast and reliable. In the case of store inventories, RFID has been found to reduce cycle count times by a staggering 96%. This therefore means they are far more convenient to perform and can be done multiple times in a week rather than a year.
Processes transformed by RFID:
- Cycle counts/inventories
- Fast & Efficient Inbound & Outbound reads
- RFID-enabled picking and packing
- Mobile guided replenishment from backroom to salesfloor
Providing Real-Time Data
Analytics and data is one area that e-commerce is ahead of physical retail. This is largely due to the fact that everything online can be measured, whereas retailers don’t really know what’s happening with their stores and customers in any specific detail, and the stats and data they do collect are often historical and at risk of being outdated.
However, with RFID this can all change. The simplest and most effective use of the data allows retailers to better leverage their greatest assets; their products and their stores. Quality data and analytics can allow retailers to ensure merchandise is in the right place to be sold. Information on which stores are performing better or worse is a basic retail KPI, but with specific item data, RFID produces far more detailed insights. This includes how well individual items are doing in specific stores, right down to specifics such as which sizes of items are selling better where. Insights such as these are naturally actionable, meaning retailers can take steps to move or reinforce stock at specific stores.
Data insights and results possible with RFID:
- KPI based performance tracking
- Detailed merchandise data & Analytics
- Operational excellence
- Actionable recommendations
- Compliance tracking
- Eliminates reliance on historical data
- Predictive capabilities for inventory counts and merchandise management
Transforming Customer Experience
There are many effects of RFID in retail that go beyond simple operational benefits to actively improve the customer experience. At the most basic level, this includes things already mentioned like increasing product availability, offering convenient omnichannel services and freeing up store associates to spend more time assisting customers.
However, because of the real-time inventory visibility it provides, RFID can go way beyond this in terms of improving the customer experience. For example, with reliable and up-to-the-minute stock information stores can utilise technologies like chatbots or smart fitting rooms to assist customers with their queries, supply information about other items or sizes available and even cross-sell to customers in the store.
What ways does RFID improve the customer experience?
- High product availability
- Store associates have more time for their customers
- Convenient omnichannel services
- A connected experience between online and offline
- AI-powered chatbots delivering assistance and product information via mobile.
- Smart fitting rooms providing a hugely improved fitting room experience.
- RFID-enabled Point of Sale – including self-checkout services