Recent developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI) have enabled retailers to enhance their ability to predict future demand with greater accuracy; specifically, AI-powered demand forecasting models can consolidate and analyse customer data, market trends, and historical patterns, according to Zebra Technologies New Zealand country manager, Brian van Ginkel.

“Moreover, AI enables real-time analysis of data collected in the business, providing retailers with timely insights throughout the supply chain that help them to identify bottlenecks and delays in real-time. This has the potential to improve coordination between suppliers, manufacturers, and distributors, facilitating smoother operations and quicker response times in the event of disruptions,” he told Retailbiz in a recent interview.

“Planning tools powered by AI, such as Zebra Prescriptive Analytics (ZPA), can weigh up potential scenarios and other data to suggest a particular course of action, helping identify and correct inventory inconsistencies automatically to dramatically improve accuracy.”

According to Zebra’s latest Global Shopper Study, three-quarters (76%) of surveyed shoppers left a store without the item they wanted because it was out-of-stock, and 43% of surveyed retail associates cited out-of-stocks as their major complaint.

“This is why every retailer needs to have an advanced inventory management system. Optimised inventory management ensures that retailers know where and how much inventory is available, so their customers can get what they want, when and where they want it,” van Ginkel said.

“Recently, we have been witnessing an uptake in RFID solutions, which grant retailers real-time inventory visibility to minimise loss, increase sales, and ensure their stores have the right products in the right stores at the right time.”   

By equipping retail associates with mobile devices, like in the case of Foodstuffs South Island, retailers can enjoy enhanced real-time data, and equip teams to be agile and responsive.

“As a result, frontline retail workers can service customers faster by responding to their questions effectively, which ultimately improves the customer experience and avoids sale losses. To take it a step further, by accurately anticipating demand patterns and automating restocking, retailers can ensure they have sufficient stock on hand to meet customer needs,” van Ginkel said.

Amid economic pressures, Zebra Technologies acknowledges it is a challenging time with regards to team morale, which is why retailers must prioritise supportive measures for their employees.

“To avoid burnout, it is important that employees are equipped with the tools they need to make their job as easy as possible. According to Zebra’s Global Shopper Study, 80% of surveyed retail associates agree stores that leverage technology and mobile devices attract and retain more workers,” he explained.

“By equipping retail associates with the right technology, it transforms them into empowered knowledge workers and relieves them from mundane jobs like manual stock-taking, which is time-consuming and prone to human errors. That way, their time can be freed up to perform higher value tasks like assisting shoppers.

“Tools such as Zebra software solutions, leverage the power of AI to drive continuous operational improvement in critical areas of business. In the case of Mitre10, it empowered their team to update work schedules, assign tasks and address real-time store challenges without leaving the retail floor.”