How Australia's retailers are starting to use AI more in-store

Date : 04 May 2021

Nick Miles

Head of Insight - Asia Pacific

In the last few weeks we have seen both Coles and Woolworths announce new AI-enabled solutions that it hopes will make stores both more efficient and better to shop.

Coles to automate fresh produce replenishment

Coles has partnered with Relex Solutions to replace its manual fresh produce ordering system with a new cloud-based AI platform. The new technology will help Coles maintain and improve fresh produce availability across its supermarkets and seven fresh produce DCs. The software will work alongside existing forecasting tools, which have already been rolled out to improve forecasting of other non-fresh categories. The solution will improve how the retailer predicts demand based on past sales history, weather, and local community events. From a store viewpoint, it will both centralise and automate the replenishment processes and help reduce food waste, which is a key part of the retailer's new 'Together to Zero' sustainability strategy.

Keven Gunn, executive general manager for central operations and transformation at Coles, commented, "Using the Relex solution to centralise the control of the replenishment model allows Coles to provide increased efficiency in one of our most complex supply chains and improve the customer experience through more targeted ranges, improved availability, fresher products, and simpler processes for our team members and our suppliers."

Source: IGD Research

Woolworths' new in-store cloud-based merchandising technology

Woolworths has partnered up with Cloud-based visual merchandising software provider One Door in a move that will help the retailer improve its store efficiency and experience for shoppers. The new deal will see the tech rolled out to 80 stores to start with, before a total estate roll out in 2022. A key element of retail ecosystems is technology that provide real time analysis of performance and helps operations continually improve. The solution will use AI cameras and software to assist with planogram compliance, promotional display set up and product availability, providing performance metrics at a store level.

The software can examine the size, floorplan and layout of individual stores and use shopper data to generate individual store plans. Staff can also upload photos, report issues, check merchandising compliance, as well as request additional stock, if required, through the system. The software is mobile-first and therefore can be used on digital devices, such as tablets. This will make it easy to use on the shop floor and ensure in-store issues can be resolved in a more timely manner.

Woolworths Group data and analytics general manager, Doug Frank, commented, One Door allows us to simplify a critical and time intensive task, making life easier for in-store merchandisers and helping ensure our products are presented to customers the right way. As we continue to tailor and localise our range in different stores, it’s important we draw on the best technology to make it simpler for our stores to execute for our customers.”

AI expected to transform retail process over the coming years

The implementation of AI solutions has been accelerated significantly by the global pandemic and we are seeing more and more retailers fast track new solutions across store operations. AI will help enhance store efficiency through improving stock levels, removing mistakes made by human error, reducing waste and freeing up associate time to focus on the customer experience. In the future, AI will both automised more processes in-store, but also help retailers realise other advantages including; making store specific range tweaks to their networks, providing real stock information for both in-store inventory checks and online picking availability, more efficient monitoring and usage of energy, plus the ability for stores to self learn and improve operations incrementally every day.