The future of artificial intelligence is bright with promise and fuzzy with hype. Cutting through the buzz, one thing is certain – AI will drive a stake through the heart of time-consuming, linear merchandising processes and the traditional approach of managing by averages.
Today’s merchandise management teams simply cannot keep up with the speed of omnichannel consumers and competitors using old methods. For example, in a chain of 200 stores, it will take more than 18 hours just to open each store plan for five minutes and make a few rapid-fire adjustments. For a chain of 500 stores it will take more than 45 hours and a chain of 1,200 stores will take more than 100 hours.
Just 16% of retailers have at least one AI engine in place and a mere 3% have multiple AI engines in place. A quarter are in the testing phase. AI leaders today have a significant advantage over laggards.
Two specific goals where retailers want to see measurable results by deploying AI in their merchandise management functions are improving sell-through of inventory (59%) and improving margins (56%).
Three specific applications where retailers want to see measurable results by deploying AI in merchandise management functions are demand forecasting (56%), replenishment (44%) and price management (41%).
No retailer can afford to devote this amount of time to a single five-minute task per store, so they create a workaround. They aggregate stores into 4-5 groups and cut a 45-hour workload into a little more than 20 minutes per chain-wide adjustment.