AI delivers digital transformations to retail and CPG businesses before they encounter disruption

11.01.2022 | By SymphonyAI team

A clearheaded understanding of the issues and a sophisticated technology-led approach are what it takes to weather, and even grow in, this era of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity — or VUCA. This lesson is especially true today for retail and CPG companies facing disruptions, including supply chain snarls, rapidly changing shopper behaviors, inflationary pressures, and other extraordinary post-pandemic disruptions, as Jordyn Holman recently explained in the New York Times. Retailers and CPG companies can’t rely on past strategies. They need to look to the future quickly because conditions are changing fast.


We think SymphonyAI Retail CPG, one of our verticals that has demonstrated momentum in addressing these issues in recent months, offers valuable lessons into how AI-driven predictive insights and the agility to overcome hurdles can help companies thrive in tough conditions. We recently appointed a new president, Manish Choudhary, renamed the vertical, announced new global partnerships, and released research that demonstrated how our customers have benefitted from AI-enabled capabilities during this volatile period.

Experience, perspective, and solutions

With deep expertise in digital transformation, innovation, and strategy, Manish’s experience and perspective are ideal for this time of market volatility. In addition to his work at Diebold Nixdorf and Pitney Bowes, his new book, Undisrupt: Artificial Intelligence Led Digital Transformation, is laser-focused on the problems and solutions on everyone’s mind in the retail and CPG space today. The book’s subtitle, “How successful companies avoid being disrupted,” alludes to the fate of organizations that don’t act in the face of change.

We renamed the vertical from Symphony RetailAI to SymphonyAI Retail CPG. The new brand recognizes our deep global retail engagement and CPG-focused offerings. It also makes clear that nothing has changed about how we drive innovation and success: with end-to-end, integrated AI-powered analyses and insights that create merchandising, marketing, and supply chain solutions. SymphonyAI Retail CPG’s Rachael Hadaway’s piece in Storebrands’ Viewpoint blog in March illustrates the depth of this work.

If disruption is the problem, digital transformation is the solution

Shedding light on the wave of disruption that retailers and CPG companies face, SymphonyAI Retail CPG’s recent analysis of nearly 600 million transactions revealed that online shopping is 6.4 percent of all shopping, up 60 percent from pre-pandemic levels. Most importantly, households that shop both in-store and online are growing at a rate of 10 percent year-over-year. These omnichannel customers are more loyal than their in-store-only counterparts, meaning companies need to invest now to earn loyalty from them. 

Supply chains are also still a major challenge. Out-of-stock issues cost retailers nearly $82 billion in 2021, Consumer Goods Technology recently found. Some forecast that supply-chain problems could linger for years as global economic conditions remain unstable. However, no retail or CPG operation can ride out the wave. The challenges must be addressed now. 

Recognizing these rapid changes hitting retail and CPG companies isn’t enough. Companies need to deploy sophisticated technology and increase business agility to conquer them.

The best approach to fill available space, keep margins healthy, and understand shopper behaviors is to leverage the power of AI tools – the core focus of SymphonyAI Retail CPG. Our recent research, for example, found that 68 percent of retailers put space planning top of mind. AI-based shelf planning can help CPG brands develop cluster- and store-specific assortments and shelf layouts prioritizing must-stock items. AI can also analyze the acceptable substitutions for those must-haves — a vital strategy for winning the shelves.


Purposeful expansion

SymphonyAI Retail CPG is purposefully (and globally) expanding its AI-led innovations across many fronts, helping resilient companies stay resilient — and building momentum when harnessing new technology. We recently partnered with demand intelligence company PredictHQ to provide more contextual data to improve our AI-driven solutions. Hawaiian grocer Foodland is now using our AI-based solutions for promotion planning, kitchen management, supply chain optimization, and store operations capabilities. Additionally, in Northern Europe, grocer Rimi Baltic is leveraging our AI and SaaS solutions to optimize planograms, tackle out-of-stocks, and make its shopping experience more customer-focused.


We’re pushing the envelope beyond the grocer’s shelves as well. We deepened our collaboration with Action, Europe’s fastest-growing non-food discounter, based on promising trial rollouts. Action now employs AI-powered insights for allocations, promotions, internal visibility, and forecasting — enabling it to navigate supply chain challenges and scale. Brazilian drugstore chain Extrafarma is applying AI and machine learning algorithms for precise, personalized marketing and extending the reach of its loyalty program to some 4.3 million customers.


Celebrating the pacesetters in retail and CPG

We also want to celebrate the companies and leaders leveraging advanced technologies and AI to serve shoppers better and improve business performance. That’s why we inaugurated the Tempo Awards in honor of those who embrace the future and understand technology’s role in enabling and accelerating transformation. Learn more to see if you qualify for this prestigious new honor. 

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