SymphonyAI Survey of 100+ Retailers Reveals Opportunity for Data-Driven Category Optimization and Improved Execution Through Artificial Intelligence

03.08.2018 | By Mark Speyers

DALLAS – March 8, 2018SymphonyAI, the leading global provider of Artificial Intelligence-enabled decision platforms, solutions and customer-centric insights that drive validated growth for retailers and CPG manufacturers, today announced the findings of its “Customer-Centric Category Management Survey of Retailers,” which explores the current state of category management in the U.S. and Europe and reveals opportunities for profitable category optimization by leveraging customer insights.

The survey findings highlight the willingness of retailers to pursue a customer-centric approach and present a clear gap between intention and execution. This gap can be addressed by artificial-intelligence capabilities that synthesize complex data to enable more robust and efficient strategies that drive sales and loyalty.

75% of U.S. retailers report improvements from localized shopper insights

The fundamental finding to emerge from the study was that U.S. retailers rely on localized shopper insight to drive shopper-centric assortments more pervasively than their European counterparts, resulting in much stronger customer-performance metrics. In fact, 75% of U.S. retailers report significant to above average improvement in customer-performance metrics, compared to just 54% of European retailers. This divide can be directly attributed to the fact that 73% of U.S. retailers implement location-based clustering as a best practice, while 70% of European retailers conduct centralized store planning and merchandising as a best practice.

US Retailer operational efficiency struggling to keep pace with improvement in customer performance

However, the U.S. commitment to improving customer performance has come at the expense of operational efficiency, an area in which only 54% of retailers claim strong improvements. The wide gap between customer and operational performance limits their ability to become more profitable, even as they increase customer value. In contrast, although just 46% of European retailers report strong operational improvement, the gap between the customer and operational performance is much smaller – only 8 percentage points. The European ability to execute helps justify a more granular approach to assortment moving forward, in which AI identifies and promotes assortment optimizations for world-class execution that yields performance uplifts.

Planning is U.S. retailers’ top priority for customer-centric category management

Alongside pricing and promotions, planning is by far the largest priority for U.S. retailers, with 77% calling it extremely or very important to their customer-centric approach. But planning is not always well-defined, and poor operational efficiency outcomes reflect a need to simplify execution to maintain the ROI of a more localized assortment from a customer perspective.

“A successful planning process is reliant upon how quickly and efficiently opportunities can be identified and executed,” said Matt Robinson, Category Planning Solution Director, SymphonyAI. “In order to capitalize on emerging market trends, retailers need to accelerate the rate of data collection, analysis and actions that are executable at store. With the survey revealing that 54% of U.S. retailers and 44% of European retailers struggle with inconsistent or incomplete data, artificial intelligence delivers a unique opportunity to generate real-time, actionable insights derived from trillions of data combinations aggregated across multiple touchpoints.”

Artificial intelligence can aid collaboration and autonomy in planning

The survey also revealed a potential paradigm shift in the relationship between retailers and CPG manufacturers. With 70% of both U.S. and European retailers admitting they struggle to collaborate effectively today, artificial intelligence can reveal unique insights that enable each stakeholder to make mutually strategic manufacturing, sourcing and merchandising decisions. On the contrary, AI may reduce the retailer’s need to rely on partners for product or category insights and allow them to create a more transactional marketplace in which suppliers compete more openly to meet the product needs of each retailer’s customer base. This could result in a polarization of a retailer positions. However, if they are partial to collaboration with CPGs, then this technology is likely to perpetuate a closer working relationship. Retailers that prefer a more autonomous approach to category planning may find that AI technology enables them to strengthen their commitment to this position.

SymphonyAI enables category planning for the future of retail

In order to address a vast set of new opportunities, SymphonyAI has developed a unique natural language speech assistant built on an AI and machine learning foundation, CINDE, (Conversational INsights and Decision Engine). CINDE is the first and only digital analytic assistant specifically designed for the demands of grocery and hard goods retail. The platform empowers category managers with an immersive data visualization in a prescriptive analytics solution that supports a customer-centric retail approach.

CINDE delivers actionable insights through its connection with any third-party data application, as well as SymphonyAI’s Customer 360 platform, which reveals shopping behavior data across 70 million households with longitudinal, 3-year data on 5 million households and shopping/behavioral attributes for 300,000 customers. Customer 360 also includes demographic, store, panel and customer-location data.

About SymphonyAI

SymphonyAI is the leading global provider of Artificial Intelligence-enabled decision platforms, solutions and customer-centric insights that drive validated growth for retailers and CPG manufacturers, from customer intelligence to personalized marketing, and merchandising and category management, to supply chain and retail operations. SymphonyAI is innovating rapidly to drive faster, more profitable decisions through AI, machine learning and voice technologies. We are trusted by over 1200 organizations including 15 of the world’s 25 largest grocery retailers, thousands of retail brands, and hundreds of national and regional chains worldwide to help solve their toughest business problems, through AI-powered customer intelligence and retail solutions. SymphonyAI was formed from the combination of Symphony GOLD, renamed Retail Solutions Division, and Symphony EYC, now the Customer Intelligence Division. More at Follow us on Twitter: @symphonyretail.

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