Most companies approach retail analytics and planning with a battery of weekly run reports to help them get a grasp of their business. It consumes so much time that they don’t get around to taking much action. It also requires a great deal of expertise: someone to load data (SQL expert), someone to create and format reports, someone to send it, someone to analyze it, and finally, maybe at the end of all that, take action. This process typically takes 40-50 people-hours a week. The modern drag and drop reporting tools are great, but they are not smart.
Retail Narrative has been solving that pain point and understands that people with expertise don’t have time, and people with time don’t have the expertise. The proliferation of data in many cases has not improved decision making because the data overwhelms and the user needs to know what questions to ask. That’s where AI comes in. RetailNarrative is an expert system- designed to aggregate and ask questions of the data, then determine the relevance and value of taking action on the data.
Other software exists, the most famous being IBM Watson. We ran a test using Watson and it made the following correlation: The higher the UPC number, the higher the sales. That’s because it’s not a retail expert. For our system, we wanted to Augment user’s capability with more retail intelligence. We taught the system what is relevant and what is not and what questions to ask. For example, an item’s sales might suddenly increase. The system is smart enough to recognize a markdown or a high-volume period. It also learns from the user’s behavior. The user can look at data by scrolling through different KPI’s- units, dollars, percentages, etc. They can “like” or “dislike” different elements. The system then curates the presentation of the data to suit the user’s preferences based on that activity.
Version 2.0 brings a multitude of new features. In addition to the existing dashboard view, a new simpler interface provides the user a more focused view- showing one priority at a time. The user can “swipe” through the opportunities. Each opportunity shows the dollar impact of taking action and is accompanied with a template that contains the required information to take action, such as a calculated store level replenishment, more optimal allocation or forecast. All this in seconds. There is also an improved notification system and “themed” workbooks to aid the user with key functions. For example, if Narrative sees that gross margins are down, it will offer up a margin worksheet that the user can use to communicate and negotiate with the buyer. It will contain any information that would be helpful such as:
- Was it a low performing item that had poor execution?
- What stores had no sales for several weeks?
Another workbook focuses on assortment optimization. The system will perform SKU optimization on its own, highlighting items that should continue in the assortment and those that should not. Another workbook contains a business overview that can be used for a meeting with the buyer. Suppliers spend days creating reports and presentations to show the health of their business to the buyer. Narrative brings the analytics and merchandising concepts together in one place. Other new features include automatic emailing of the dashboard on a weekly basis (no login required) and a section for users to pin opportunities they intend to take action on from all their retail accounts in one dashboard. A user can even assign a pinned opportunity to another person in their organization.
Like a good wine, our software tends to get better with age. That is certainly the case with the latest version of RetailNarrative.