Q&A: The great retail reset requires data – lots of it

We are in a new phase in retail where retailers can act on prescriptive, data-driven outcomes to fast forward retail, says Wahl Bartmann, CEO of Fidelity Services Group.

Integrating digital and in-store traffic patterns into staffing and inventory strategy has become critical, especially for retailers that have seen a significant uptick in omnichannel use. Few consumers strictly shop online or in-store anymore. Shoppers tend to rely on e-commerce channels for their routine products and venture in-store to experience new items,” says Wahl Bartmann, CEO of Fidelity Services Group which represents Sensormatic in South Africa.

What does this mean for retailers?

This has created new opportunities and challenges for retailers across the country. The days of being able to stocktake twice a year are long gone if one is to have an accurate reflection of what stock is available on the floor and in the stock room. All you need is one online sale not to be available in store at the time of collection and that could be a lost customer forever. The entire shopper journey has been turned on its head and acting effectively requires new and relevant data – lots of it – and from many different sources. Unless insights are applied at speed and scale to catch immediate opportunities and plan for future ones, retailers could start falling behind their competitors.

Please unpack how retailers can navigate this journey?

RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology for both inventory management and security is being increasingly used by retailers.  RFID tags can be used to track stock levels in real-time, automate inventory counts and reduce the risk of theft. Cloud-based inventory management systems which enable retailers to access and manage inventory data remotely, as well as the use of advanced analytics to improve inventory forecasting and optimise pricing are also popular.

There is also a growing trend towards the integration of security tags with electronic article surveillance (EAS) systems, which can help to reduce inventory losses through theft. These tags are literally revolutionising how retailers do stocktakes. We know of one client which was able to count 15,000 individual items in just 40 minutes, with 98% accuracy.

How is machine learning being applied to data analytics?

There is a growing emphasis on the use of data analytics and machine learning in the retail market in South Africa. This enables retailers to analyse sales data, inventory levels, and other metrics to identify patterns and make more informed decisions about security measures and inventory management, as this can help improve overall store profitability.

With traditional inventory management methods, retailers are looking at only about a 60% accuracy. This new technology virtually gives you a unique bar fingerprint on each and every product. It not only improves a retailer’s stock visibility but has the exciting potential to uplift sales by making retail replenishment that much better.

This is definitely the way of the “intelligent story of the future”. From receiving RFID coded stock in one’s delivery area to enable green light receiving, to better stock management on the floor and even in the fitting room. Imagine an RFID reader on a hook in the fitting room? What better way to share information with buyers about what products are being sold and which are not moving?

We are entering an exciting new phase in retail where retailers can act on prescriptive, data-driven outcome to fast forward retail.


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