What retailers need to do to better serve their customers


Symphony RetailAI believes grocery retail is moving into the era of the consumer. That said, Sy Fahimi, the senior vice president of product strategy for Symphony RetailAI, which provides artificial intelligence-enabled solutions for retailers of fast-moving consumer goods and consumer packaged goods (CPG) manufacturers, said retailers can succeed in 2019 by keeping data at the core of every practice in order to better understand their shoppers.

“Historically, retailers have large amounts of data, such as point of sale, loyalty information and social media, but lack the proper tools to analyze it,” Fahimi said. “Retailers can use AI and machine learning capabilities not only to optimize this data and improve the shopping experience, but to optimize the company’s own operations.”

This will materialize itself in many ways that ultimately will help shoppers win, Fahimi said, including:

The rise of voice in retailWhile voice ordering is still in its infancy, the rise of voice assistants in other areas of retail demonstrates the value of speech recognition. “As voice continues to grow in popularity, we’ll see it assist consumers, improving efficiency around ordering groceries and delivering to their fridge, Fahimi said. “Voice technology can also be implemented internally to streamline a retailer’s processes and operations.”

Online grocery shopping makes gains — Online will become a bigger part of the overall shopping experience. While in-store and online will continue to converge into one channel — allowing consumers to order online and pick up in store, or use click and collect — online will play a larger role in influencing purchases, as consumers get inspiration from social media use or viewing recipes, for example. “Grocers will also become much more adept at providing consistent and engaging updates for online customers … giving them valuable real-time insight into their order status and reducing the friction between in-store control and online convenience,” Fahimi said.

The blurring of channels — Shoppers are always connected and always on their phone. “Because of this, we’re not only going to see the blurring of lines between online and in-store, but between every channel,” Fahimi said. “Independent channels, formats and brands will all blur to become more experience-based. For example, we will see more grocery stores that also have restaurants and banks inside, which is how retailers will be able to compete with Amazon.”

Empowered consumers demand fresh and local — “We’ll see continued, accelerated growth around fresh and local foods,” Fahimi noted. “Consumers are more informed, empowered and selective in terms of what they want to eat more than ever, requiring more product transparency, especially when it comes to a food’s source.”

Private brands accelerate CPG innovation — Discount supermarkets have invested in private brand products, and as a result of this, the quality of private brands has caught up to the brand itself, according to Fahimi. “Shoppers have more choices than ever, and for a much lower cost can buy private label items,” he said. “This is an issue for CPGs currently distributing their products through the stores, as this model is being disrupted. For the first time, CPGs are looking at direct-to-consumer ways to promote their brand and influence shoppers, instead of relying on retailers. As a result, CPGs have begun to create data management platforms as they influence and communicate with consumers.”