Google Cloud, Robots and AI Take Center Stage at the 2019 NRF BIG Show

NRF Profitect Team

Google Cloud, Robots and AI Take Center Stage at the 2019 NRF BIG Show

For the eighth consecutive year, the Profitect team had the opportunity to kick off the new year with retail professionals throughout the world at NRF’s BIG Show 2019, held in New York City. This year we encountered more than 1,000 retail visitors at the booth, an abundance of partnership opportunities, and a great amount of enthusiasm and momentum for the value of prescriptive analytics in 2019 and beyond.

In addition to participating in two successful presentations with customers, we had the good fortune to meet prospects, industry experts, and members of the media.  While there is a lot to learn from the Big Show, I found the following most noteworthy:

  1. Companies are adapting to new data trends:

It became clear to me that retail professionals are pushing past their data-security fears and shifting to the cloud. The main winner in this regard was the Google Cloud platform, and it was easy to see the interest, as their booth was consistently busy. Moving forward, I suspect we’ll see the shift to the cloud continue to grow — and those organizations who resist will be at a major disadvantage to the competition. While moving your data to the cloud is an important first step, it’s only the first step. Once data is in the cloud, making it useful can be quickly achieved through smart, actionable tasks with prescriptive analytics.

  1. Robots take the stage:

When it comes to delivering better service with technology, robotics took center stage. I had the pleasure of attending the session “Why is there a robot in my store?” which included our customers GIANT (a division of Ahold Delhaize), announcing their new robot, Marty. Marty has been humanized with a name tag and two large eyes. Behind those eyes is a camera trained to recognize spills and messes in the aisles, with a link to a human in a control center to confirm the presence of a mess. The audience was very intrigued by this robot that would be patrolling store aisles right alongside human shoppers. For now, the robot is only tasked with finding trip-and-fall hazards, but it is collecting a lot of data as it performs its scans. In the near future, I anticipate all that data, eventually integrated with Profitect,  will enable Marty to perform more complex actions and deliver further value — far beyond this first iteration.

  1. AI and machine learning are far from being buzzwords:

Last year at NRF, AI and machine learning were still seen as buzzwords. This year the focus was on actual use cases for this disruptive technology. From store-level staff, to those working in the supply chain or corporate office, every retail employee makes decisions that are crucial to the business. AI and machine learning enables thousands of people within any organization to guide those decisions and actions with data. Since the AI and machine learning discussions have gone from theory to practical use over the past two years, I’m excited to see companies (including the retailers we presented with at the show!) continue to promote the impressive value from of these technologies.

  1. We had some stellar support on our panels this year:

Were you able to catch Profitect’s two speaking sessions at the show? I had a great time sharing the stage with Chris Adams of Ahold Delhaize and Brad Eckhart, formerly of Finish Line, to discuss success stories around the best retail AI solutions that drive results quickly. In this session, we talked about how practical AI impacts future performance by identifying factors within a retailer’s control while also providing actionable opportunities that deliver stellar results.

Chris outlined the ways Profitect’s practical AI and prescriptive analytics have enabled Ahold Delhaize to be more flexible. In one notable case, Ahold Delhaize experienced a surge in damage rates for deliveries of large eggs. With Profitect, Chris and Ahold Delhaize identified the problem and traced it to a Direct Store Delivery (DSD) vendor that was placing large eggs in medium-size cartons due to a supply disruption. Having this evidence helped them secure a significant credit from the vendor, as close to real-time,  as compensation for the damage, but most importantly customer satisfaction increase. This was just one of the ways Profitect has enabled Ahold Delhaize to be more nimble and more efficiently address issues.

Brad discussed Profitect’s role in helping him improve allocation and assortment planning. He shared a story of a time when he and his team deployed a Profitect pattern to identify stores with low sales of strong-selling products. He used this story to explain how Profitect enables companies to identify statistical anomalous behaviors, by comparing individual stores’ data against that of other stores with similar behaviors or characteristics combined with history and expectations/plans. In the given scenario, the comparison helped Brad’s team track down the root cause of the underperforming products at specific stores — compared to other stores, they were over-assorted with various products, which took up shelf space for the strongest-selling products. This discovery led to a sales lift of nearly $62,000 per month, with better communication and priorities with store operations.

I also had the honor of moderating an executive panel which included Andrea Auchterlonie, formerly of Suitsupply; Andrea Weiss, formerly of L Brands; Andre Persaud, formerly of Shopko; and Laurie Wilson, formerly of Macy’s. During this session, the panelists discussed what it takes to successfully implement advanced technology, like prescriptive analytics within an organization. They also reminded us that it’s important to focus less on the nuts and bolts — or the technical components — of a given solution, and more on the objective and outcomes. It’s rare that the technology itself actually fails; typically it’s the organizational readiness and change management that fails. Retailers should remember to always be clear with their objectives, within the organization as well as with the vendor, when introducing new technologies and have a cohesive path to change management. A good solutions provider can help you establish both before deployment.

Missed these sessions? We’ll be posting videos of the presentations and highlights from the NRF 2019 conference here.

Coming out of the show, we’re excited to see what 2019 has in store for Profitect and the retail industry in general. If you are interested in learning more about prescriptive analytics, we encourage you to contact us today.