How AI Can Help With Assortment Planning
Progressive Grocer|Janaury 2021
AS FOOD AND CONSUMABLES RETAILERS GROW MORE DIGITAL, THEY’LL MAKE USE OF EVER MORE GRANULAR DATA TO BETTER FORECAST CONSUMER DEMAND.
Thad Rueter

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) for assortment planning may not be widespread, but its adoption is being accelerated by a pandemic that brought about rapid change in many areas of food retail.

For example, last fall Smart & Final and Bashas’ rolled out an AI analytics platform from San Jose, Calif.-based Hypersonix to support enterprise analytics and digital transformation initiatives. The Hypersonix technology is designed to remove data silos and provides a 360-degree view of customer behaviors, localized product assortments and operational processes, to enable improved data-driven decisions.

Among the promises of new AI, deployments is helping food retailers get a better handle on product assortment planning — often an area of improvisation throughout the pandemic as consumers changed shopping habits amid supply-chain challenges.

Key Takeaways

The adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) for assortment planning has been accelerated by the pandemic, which brought about rapid change in many areas of food retail.

The embrace of AI will happen in multiple steps, and the process faces some significant inertia.

Flexibility matters when it comes to choosing the right AI system to deploy.

Even after the effects of the virus fade, retailers of food and consumables will continue to grow more digital, making use of ever more granular data to better forecast consumer demand — and that means a bright future for artificial intelligence.

“AI-driven intuitive analytics will play a key role in increasing conversions and profitability by analyzing consumer behavior in real time and drawing data-driven insights that can anticipate demand, drive sales, offer highly personalized promotions, improve consumer experience and avoid waste,” says Rewa Kulkarni, content and marketing manager for San Francisco-based Intelligence Node, a real-time retail price intelligence platform. “Another key role that AI analytics will play is to gather competitive intelligence. By analyzing competitor movements in real time, retailers can make informed decisions across pricing, promotions and inventory to offer the most competitive deals to their customers and improve visibility of their products.”

Headed Toward the Mainstream

Getting to that point will require more deployments of AI at food retail, and more experimentation and experience to figure out what works best. AI is no longer just some science-fiction buzzword, of course, but it’s hardly mainstream in the food retail industry — reaching that point won’t happen in 2021. That said, the discussions about using AI to make food retail more profitable are hardly out of the ordinary anymore as increasing numbers of grocery operators think about how to get ahead of the competition in the coming months — and take stock of their pandemic experiences.

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