The headlines regarding big data usage seem heavily slanted toward what some have characterized as creeping or creepy big brother activities by government and commercial entities. Indeed, on the commercial side of things the desire to find out “E”verything there is to know about us and correlate it so as to enable better targeting seems to know no bounds.
However, putting aside personal data information analysis there is a huge opportunity for more practical uses of Big Data. In fact, New York City-based 1010data (News - Alert), Inc., a provider of big data discovery and data sharing solutions, has just released 1010data Shelf Monitor™, an innovative on-shelf availability (OSA) analytical application. Its function is to alert businesses when products are potentially unavailable on a store shelf. As somebody with a retail background, who spent countless hours in my youth checking on what was on shelves, this resonates.
What the 1010data Shelf Monitor does is analyze billions of data points and employs proprietary predictive analytics to determine whether a product is potentially missing from store shelves. These are actionable insights. The data is used to alert store managers and suppliers when they need to conduct in-person store shelf checks to ensure that products are readily available. It saves time and money.
Overcoming the on-shelf availability (OSA) challenge
For anyone with retail experience you are aware of the problem. Current inventory systems are unfortunately notorious for being inaccurate, particularly in real or near real-time. While an inconvenience for small establishments, this can be a major problem for large retailers who carry thousands of SKUs, and who are continuously in need of deploying resources to check on and possibly restock their shelves.
It may be a given that some items are lost, stolen or misplaced, and hence not available for sale, but even given this, knowing what really is available for sale, particularly during busy seasons, is critical. It is also costly in terms of time and the fact that the process of checking is mostly manual. In addition, as noted by 1001data, according to the study, On Shelf Availability: An Examination of the Extent, the Causes, and the Efforts to Address Retail Out-Of-Stocks by Daniel Corsten and Thomas Gruen, when customers do not find the specific products they want on-shelf:
This is a big problem that involves big bucks. It is a lose/lose/lose situation—unhappy customers, store managers and suppliers. 1010data Shelf Monitor tackles these challenges head on. By analyzing historical sales patterns on an item-by-item and store-by-store basis, crunching through billions of data points in mere seconds, 1010data Shelf Monitor enables retailers and suppliers to know what’s happening on the shelf. It means they can proactively manage OSA issues to achieve higher levels of customer satisfaction, lower inventory costs and increase customer engagement and satisfaction.
Views retailers can use
Key features of 1010data Shelf Monitor include:
“Empty shelves mean lost sales and reduced customer loyalty, and in today’s competitive retail space, chains that solely rely on inventory management systems are at a competitive disadvantage and are potentially alienating customers,” said Jim Mattecheck, Vice President of Retail Solutions at 1010data. “As a customer focused solution, 1010data Shelf Monitor leverages the power of Big Data and predictive analytics to allow retailers to capitalize on the data they already have. This will improve the shopping experience for customers, while bolstering sales and decreasing supply chain costs.”
Inventory control is the holy grail of retailing. Making sure the shelves are stocked, and not over or under-stocked, to meet demand is to say the least vital. It is one of the reasons there has been so much interest in smart vending machine technologies where fleet routes need to be optimized for operational efficiencies by suppliers, and where being out of stock in heavily trafficked areas can be a disaster for machine operators and site owners.
The fact is there is even more that can be done regarding the automation of retailing regarding inventory control and just-in-time logistical stocking issues. A not well known fact of the retail industry is that missed mark-downs cost retailers as much if not more in profits as three-fingered discounts (aka shop lifting). Marrying OSA information to real-time pricing of and the history of what is on those shelves is another area of big data applicability on the vendor side, and making that information on pricing and availability transparent to customers while they are in the store or on the way is also something that hopefully is in our future.
The reality is that this application of big data is a big deal.