In-store execution has always been a challenge for CPG brands, and the imperative to take advantage of digital technologies to monitor and analyse what’s happening on shelves has been mounting for a long time.
This growing urgency has only been brought into sharper focus by an accelerating shift in consumer behaviours and supply chain disruptions that retailers have been hit with over the course of the pandemic.
As with many sectors throughout the retail industry, the pressure to digitalise and take advantage of modern data solutions is clearer than ever before – particularly with so many brands pointing to the lack of real-time inventory visibility as one of their most significant supply chain obstacles.
In a retail environment where margins are on the decline (and particularly in a vast country like Australia where the ability to understand what’s happening in smaller outlets outside main city centres is so limited) the sheer cost of labour alone is enough to deter brands from maintaining field teams who could provide market visibility in a remotely efficient fashion. These conditions, however, are precisely what make a digital shelf monitoring solution a timely upgrade – a tool that has the potential to eliminate the discrepancy between theoretical and actual stock in stores in a flexible and cost-efficient manner.
Such a solution is already serving Australian firms. Trax is a leading computer vision company transforming brick-and-mortar retail that has been developing its proprietary image recognition technology for more than a decade. The solutions are now being applied to help major CPG companies in Australia and New Zealand measure in-store shelf conditions, retailer compliance and category performance accurately and at scale.
“As an image recognition solution, Trax was initially developed to support field teams in the market as a time-saving piece,” says the firm’s Country Manager for ANZ Aaron Eccleston, “but also to provide an objective source of truth as to what actually appears on shelves. We wanted to increase the accuracy of the merchandising data so businesses could make bigger decisions and be confident with that data on which those decisions are based.”
Advances in smartphone technology over the decade have improved Trax’s ability to provide transparent and objective data for such businesses on a broad scale, leading directly to actionable insights. As the firm’s capacity to gather data has grown, it has worked to provide information to more areas across its clients’ businesses – from brand managers and category managers through to head office, sales teams, and so on – who previously had to rely on subjective (and often unreliable) manual reporting.
“Either reps or our own dynamic merchandising support staff will take the shelf images, which are then processed and reported via either our API into our clients’ business intelligence tools or into our own BI platforms, which then provide the store data to the clients,” explains Eccleston. “So we’re fundamentally giving highly accurate data at a very granular level and providing that in near real time across not only the reps in store who can utilise the data, but also across the whole organisation.”
The objective data that Trax collects is available almost immediately, letting businesses see both the data and the shelves and effectively allowing CPG companies to take a step closer to their customers. “We’ll tell you exactly what’s happening in-store, your share of shelf, your different price points, assortments, compliance, out-of-stocks, as well as any bespoke KPIs built for your needs such as Perfect Store KPIs” says Eccleston, “We have moved on from where we only tell you what is happening in-store, we also want to tell you what is not happening. This is where I see the true value for our clients.”
Trax solutions can even be applied in related areas such as product launches and special promotions – where successful execution on the shelf during the trial period is vital in evaluating critical measures of success. In providing as close to real-time data as it gets, Trax supports CPG firms in understanding more than sales volume and the amount of dollars spent on a particular SKU, but also distribution data, the amount of facings it had, and even specific numbers such as where on the shelf it was placed. Was it adjacent to a competitor, was it eye level? Did it have off locations and so forth. Multi millions of dollars are often spent on NPD and around 80% fail, validating success often falls to how many units the product sold and not necessarily the environment it was placed to induce trial and then the repeat purchase.
“Ultimately, what we’re able to do is support our clients in understanding performance on the shelf, and providing compliance metrics across areas of their business where they wouldn’t otherwise know,” says Eccleston. “What’s more, we want to give a very objective single source of truth. So whether you’re in Coles in Port Melbourne or an IGA in Wagga Wagga, we want to give you KPIs that are specific to your business and show you how you’re doing on that particular shelf.”
For a free assessment of your retail execution strategy, please contact Trax at firstname.lastname@example.org.