Image Recognition at the Shelf: The Solution To Solve On Shelf Availability?

Image Recognition Tech: The Solution To Solve On Shelf Availability? 

When it comes to on-shelf availability (OSA), image recognition could be the technology that puts retailers ahead of their competition. The technology allows the user to quickly gather crucial OSA information and provides a variety of on-shelf availability alerts for employees to quickly take corrective action. Ultimately, image recognition aids in getting the correct items on the shelf when needed and provides insights for grocers and brands around ongoing issues and the factors that cause them.

What OSA Issues Are Being Identified? 

Image recognition technology is now being embedded into field sales and retail execution applications, allowing users to scan shelves and aisles in the store and identify an array of issues such as incorrect facings, out-of-stocks, or even missing items in distribution.  Additionally, the technology can highlight a package that has been damaged; for example, a box of cereal that was crushed during the restocking process.  With this technology, employees instantly get an on-shelf availability recap with blueprints for what is wrong and how to fix the issues as soon as possible.

Can AI Robotos Take The Photos For Grocers? 

With image recognition technology, an employee needs to physically take pictures or record a video of the shelves. With the advance robots being introduced to the marketplace this task could easily be replicated, but there are a few factors for retail grocers like Walmart and Ahold, who are testing shelf-scanning robots, must first consider. Such as, consumers being startled by the fully autonomous bots next to them at the shelf, and although the robots have 3D imaging that allows them to avoid customers in the aisle, there is not a lot of space available to maneuver between bulky shopping carts, energetic kids, and customer-focused employees. Although shoppers may be more accepting of AI presence in the future, grocers still need to get over the biggest hurdle: the price tag.

How Much Time and Money Can Image Recognition Save?

Retailers have thousands of products to manage every day. Therefore, it’s humanly impossible for them to know what’s on their shelves in real time, if everything is in compliance, and if it’s selling. On average it takes 20 human hours to audit 10,000 products, so for a retailer with 35,000 items, it would take approximately 70 hours to get through every product. At that rate, it would take at least two employees working full-time all week, in other words, monitoring that many SKUs consistently is just not feasible. Verifying products on shelves takes a lot of time, it’s very expensive, and because of this: it’s not done as often as it should be. This technology allows retailers to minimize inventory distortion (out-of-stocks & overstocks), which will increase sales revenue by reducing lost sales and minimizing seasonal discounting.

How Will this Affect Workers?

Some worry about this technology taking employees’ jobs, but in reality, it allows employees to focus on the customer more. Now, employees don’t have to walk up and down aisles looking for misplaced items, they’re simply directed straight to the problem and given instructions on how to fix it. This allows employees to spend more of their time assisting customers and providing the best customer service – something that is hard for AI to replicate. It’s really a win-win for both employees and consumers!

Image Recognition Is Part of the OSA Solution Not The Solution

Retail grocers may be hesitant at first, but many are beginning to recognize the advantages of investing in image recognition. The technology continues to grow with new ideas and insights, allowing for more profitable and dynamic business decisions.

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Seth Nagle, Senior Marketing Manager at RW3 Technologies understands the power of innovation but also its limitations. Attending Salve Regina in New England, starting his career in Silicon Valley, and now living in Austin, Texas; Seth provides a unique tech perspective to a complex CPG and Retail Grocery Industry that is in constant disruption.

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