Waving goodbye to Out-of-Stocks 👋
The Modern Supermarket: Adapt to Survive
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” - Charles Darwin
The retail landscape is an ever-changing one. Even the biggest players in retail face a daily battle to maintain their position in the market. But, today’s largest supermarkets may not hold their position for long simply because of their gargantuan size.
In fact, most of the largest retailers find it difficult to adapt quickly enough to the rapidly evolving demands of the modern retail customer, one that expects convenience and availability at all times.
Take the emergence of the multitude of on-demand grocery startups and their innovative use of dark stores as a clear sign that the retail industry is rife for disruption. For the incumbents in the grocery space, adaptability and rapid innovation are simply crucial for survival.
An Automated Response to Change
Making the necessary operational changes required to meet ever-shifting consumer trends is a daunting task. Retail is an industry in constant flux and the pace of innovation can make it difficult for even the largest and most capable of retailers to keep up with.
For successful supermarket groups, maintaining a share of the retail market means adapting and innovating in three key areas: people, process, and technology.
One retailer in particular, Auchan, is leading the charge and innovating on all fronts.
Despite the rapidly changing demands of the grocery sector, their savvy use of the latest and most capable automation technology allows them to continue to do what their brand is known best for, keeping their customers happy.
Auchan: Leading the Way in Grocery Store Innovation
In the grocery business for over 55 years, French multinational retail group, Auchan, is no newcomer when it comes to meeting constantly changing consumer expectations.
Embracing the digital transition is at the heart of their strategy to succeed under increasing customer demand for reliable in-store availability and instant convenience.
Empowering their people with the right processes and tools to get their job done most effectively was a priority as they set out to optimise On-Shelf Availability (OSA) in their stores.
Auchan takes a very proactive approach when it comes to choosing the right system for improving in-store experience with digitisation. They are diligent and strategic when it comes to choosing a solution that will withstand the test of time and easily scale across their many locations.
To maintain optimum in-store throughput and to help preserve their long-standing reputation for reliability, they have turned to the productivity-increasing promises of automation.
Auchan is trialling Neurolabs’ ZIA technology to monitor its shelves in real time for On-Shelf Availability and Planogram Compliance.
Enter Synthetic Computer Vision
Cashierless checkouts get a ton of mainstream media attention, and for good reason. The technology radically improves throughput for retailers, removing unnecessary bottlenecks with the best that retail automation currently has to offer.
It is undoubtedly worthy of the proverbial pedestal but there is another piece of retail automation technology, one that is quickly disrupting the status quo for in-store availability, that is equally worthy - Synthetic Computer Vision (SCV).
SCV is the culmination of 60 years of advanced research into artificial intelligence and 3D geometrical mapping. The result is software that teaches computers how to interpret what they see in the real world for real-time shelf analysis.
Automation in Sight
In layman’s terms, it provides sight to computers and allows them to automate visual-based tasks.
For retailers, it automates the operational decisions and processes that are traditionally carried out manually by supermarket staff.
Neurolabs utilises SCV in their product, which automates On-Shelf Availability and Planogram Compliance, resulting in happier customers and increased revenue.
Auchan has successfully trialled ZIA (Zero Image Annotations) to manage On-Shelf Availability and are already reaping the rewards of the future of retail technology.
On-Shelf Innovation at Auchan
Auchan is leading the charge in retail innovation by trialling Neurolabs’ Synthetic Computer Vision technology. The goal being to put an end to the Out-Of-Stock problem for good.
Increased pressure on their stores to deliver outstanding customer experience meant they needed to do more than just identify gaps on shelves and fill them.
To avoid simply reacting to stockouts and to ensure that a truly proactive solution was implemented, Auchan needed to address the root cause of any Out-Of-Stocks that occurred in their stores.
This meant identifying and addressing fundamental process issues between their front-stores and the rest of their supply chain, requiring the integration of their stock, order, planogram, and product catalogue databases. Neurolabs’ ZIA software helped them do just that.
Executing A Successful Trial
As part of a trial deployment in one of Auchan’s stores in Romania, Neurolabs teamed up with, Robotic Process Automation giant, UiPath to create a solution that was tailored to the requirements of their specific supermarket environment.
At its most basic level, the implemented On-Shelf Availability solution involves hardware, in the form of in-store cameras, that are pointed towards the supermarket shelves.
These cameras collect images which act as input data for Neurolabs’ ZIA. Our Synthetic Computer Vision software then runs detections on these images to determine if there are any products that are low or out of stock.
This detection data can then be accessed from Neurolabs’ ZIA via API in the retailer’s automation software of choice.
Automation Without Limits
Empowered with this real-time product detection data, the supermarket can automate processes such as instantly notifying store staff of a product that is low or out of stock so that they can replenish the shelves as soon as possible.
It also provides the store with access to the most recent and useful analytics on their inventory to make the most effective decisions. This helps store managers focus on proactive decision-making versus simply reacting to in-store inventory fluctuations on the fly.
This holistic approach to in-store availability and inventory management is the new necessity for supermarkets to operate at maximum efficiency. Automation-enabled smart workflows with actionable insights like this are the future for supermarkets that hope to thrive in the retail industry.
Before the trial, Auchan had store employees manually check each aisle and record the stock availability of an SKU (Stock-Keeping Unit) at pre-agreed intervals. Besides the fact that it is such an onerous process, Auchan had little to none shelf visibility in between these inventory checking sessions.
These stock level records were then used by the Auchan team to manually compare across multiple different internal systems with the goal of understanding why there is a gap on a shelf to begin with. This is workflow standard practice for the majority of supermarkets.
The first change that Neurolabs helped introduce for Auchan was a way to have full visibility across each shelf at any time. Secondly we created an automated workflow that identified the root cause of each Out-Of-Stock.
Based on the gathered insights, certain actions are now automated and the right information is automatically shared with the right people at the right time, empowering Auchan’s in-store staff to address the issues the moment they occur.
The result for Auchan is real-time visibility of their shelves and an end to Out-Of-Stocks. More importantly this means a more efficient workforce, increased customer satisfaction, and a significant boost in sales.
Digitised Consumer Packaged Goods
ZIA uses SCV technology to carry out real-time shelf monitoring and automated root cause analysis on any of the missing Stock-Keeping Units (SKUs) that it detects.
ZIA is powered by Virtual Reality games engines that generate interactive digital 3D models of each SKU which are then used as the data to identify when a product is Out-Of-Stock.
Using these virtual 3D models of supermarket products in this way, to train AI-powered computer vision algorithms to carry out SKU-level detections, is a groundbreaking new approach to On-Shelf Availability.
Synthetic Computer Vision software like Neurolabs’ ZIA makes the on-shelf product detection process faster, more cost-effective, and truly scalable when compared to other automation solutions.
A Flexible Solution
Due to the fact that the data used to train Neurolabs’ computer vision models is synthetic, ZIA does not require the manual effort of retraining the AI model with new images of a product every time the packaging changes.
Instead of the time-consuming practice of gathering new real data, the use of synthetically generated data (in this case the easy-changeable 3D model of a supermarket product) means the process is radically faster. The result is a solution that can recognise product changes before they even hit the shelves.
Beyond Inventory Visibility
Neurolabs isn’t stopping at On-Shelf Availability and Planogram Compliance. Their collaboration with UiPath unleashes the best of Synthetic Computer Vision and Robotic Process Automation that enables a holistic approach to inventory automation for retailers.
This helps them get to the root of the inventory problem in a retailer’s supply chain. It also provides them with true flexibility in terms of transforming the shelf insights they collect into a wide array of rapid and impactful actions for the retailer.
This is due to the ease of implementation with the majority of retail IT systems that UiPath’s automation software provides.
The ability to simply automate visual-based tasks by combining Neurolabs’ Synthetic Computer Vision software with UiPath’s automation technology means that you don’t have to stop at in-store optimisation. In fact, this approach can easily be applied to the automation of each stage of a consumer packaged good’s journey, from manufacturing and distribution, to checkout, recycling, and much more.
The Necessity for Visual-Based Automation
The good thing is that the technology has reached a tipping point and today you can easily access world class automation with truly compelling economies of scale.
The traditional approach to On-Shelf Availability has resulted in an average Out-of-Stock rate of 8%, meaning one out of every 13 products is not available for sale when a consumer wants it. This rate rises further to 10%+ for discounted products.
With this reality in mind, it’s clear that a large opportunity exists for those who are willing to innovate with a more sophisticated and capable solution to staff-intensive visual-based work.
The question then is not whether to implement automation technology, such as SCV, into your in-store operations but when to do it.
The Time for Retail Automation is Now
Today, 5% of all sales are lost due to Out-Of-Stocks, with, on average, 8% of SKUs remaining Out-Of-Stock. The biggest headache here is that the issue simply does not have to exist with the right use of technology.
Neurolabs’ is helping put an end to retail inefficiency and helping supermarkets thrive in an increasingly competitive landscape with the savvy use of visual-based automation technology.
The most innovative retailers like Auchan are taking action now by turning their in-store inventory problem into a clear competitive advantage that pleases both customers and staff alike.
Retailers who embrace the future of retail technology in this way aren’t just adapting to survive, they are ensuring a future in which their retail business thrives.
At Neurolabs, we are revolutionising in-store retail performance with our advanced image recognition technology, ZIA. Our cutting-edge technology enables retailers, field marketing agencies and CPG brands to optimise store execution, enhance the customer experience, and boost revenue as we build the most comprehensive 3D asset library for product recognition in the CPG industry.