How CPG Brands & Retailers Can Gain Actionable Visibility with Image Recognition Technology

It’s well known that you can’t fix what you can’t see, and now more than ever, CPG brands and retailers are being hit with this harsh reality.

With labor shortages, supply chain issues and fluctuating consumer demand, it’s nearly impossible to stay on top of changing conditions at the shelf. For retailers, fast-changing dynamics are forcing them to be reactive. Between the shifting whims of consumers, demand peaks driven by internet rumors and supply chain issues, staying on top of what’s happening at the shelf can be nearly impossible. As a result, out of stocks are up1 and maintaining consistent inventory and experience for in-store and online shoppers is a challenge. Not to mention, for brands, increased competition for shelf space and share of shelf means there’s more pressure than ever to dial-in merchandising and optimize shelf position. With many stores reducing the number of SKUs they offer and dropping brands that fail to deliver enough volume and ROI to justify their shelf space, brands are desperate for some way to see what’s happening but with no realistic way to do so.

Even with Perfect Store programs, implementing, monitoring and assessing compliance is a challenge. Staff are already stretched thin and travel concerns make it tough to get boots on the ground in-store. It’s also difficult and time consuming to verify how well stores are executing planograms and complying with promotional compliance without a full view of the shelf. Mismanaged merchandising and delayed restocking results in the average shelf assortment missing 28% of approved items, which in turn, renders promotions ineffective and lowers revenue.

Both brands and retailers can see goods coming in and sales going out, but what happens in between—at the shelf—remains a mystery. In order to deliver the experience shoppers expect, uncovering insights at the SKU, category, store and channel level is essential, but also increasingly difficult, leaving brands and retailers scratching their heads.

How Smart Image Tech Can Help

What brands and retailers need is real-time visibility into current shelf conditions. But that’s not possible with traditional approaches. It’s time to get a second set of eyes—smart image technology, combined with on-demand resource deployment—to gain the actionable visibility both retailers and CPG brands need. Here’s how:

1) Eyes on the prize. To get visibility at the shelf, retailers and brands can deploy shelf cameras, dome cameras and image recognition software to monitor and track shelf conditions in real time with unparalleled efficiency and speed. This allows CPG brands to automatically compare current shelf conditions with merchandising and promotional contracts and provides valid evidence of any misalignment in execution to guide corrections. For example, on leading retailer was able to use imaging technology to measure 35,000 products across 70 aisles quickly and efficiently.

2) Alerts for noncompliance. When out-of-compliance conditions are detected, smart technology can provide real-time alerts to either CPG or retail staff. With instant notification for things like out of stock conditions, improperly merchandising or price anomalies, companies can assign staff where they’re needed to rectify the problem for much more efficient deployment of resources and immediate remediation.

3) On-demand resolution. CPG brands and retailers can leverage image recognition and real-time alerts against a localized, on-demand workforce that can be deployed quickly to resolve issues direct reps can’t get to immediately. These teams can use mobile apps to take photos and submit them to retail image recognition software to analyze shelf conditions and compare them against the model. These platforms can then suggest action steps to correct the problem—like adding a branded display to increase sales—empowering the workforce with guidance to bring self conditions up to standard.

4) Monitor performance. Brands and retailers can use photo data and image recognition software to verify that retailers are complying with merchandising contracts and can spot price errors, stock outs and other upstream data. The technology can be used to track a wide range of KPIs for display execution, merchandising quality and on-shelf availability. Staff can also use mobile photos to verify task completion and automatically compare their merchandising work to the model for evaluation.

5) Identify sales opportunities. With advanced computer vision technology in place, retailers can see what’s happening in store, down to the SKU level, to spot opportunities to sell more displays, add new product or expand inventory to drive higher sales. This data can help sales reps identify the stores, products and brands with the highest growth potential and inform guidelines for executing on the right strategy.

Deploying in-store image recognition and computer vision technology gives both CPG brands and retailers visibility they need into the real-time shelf-level and store conditions without the need to visit. This advanced analytics capability expands merchandising and sales reps’ footprint dramatically, allowing them to monitor and respond to conditions at more shelves in more stores more proactively. This enables more efficient operations, a better shopper experience, and ultimately, higher sales.

With this kind of actionable visibility, enabled by shelf image and shelf analytics, achieving Perfect Store is within reach, and CPG brands have the capability to meet implement and monitor merchandising standards in every store in every market.

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