When it comes to meeting consumer needs, retail is undergoing a major makeover – and merchandising is at the center of it all.
The role of merchandising has undergone mini-makeovers during the last 25 years. However, these solutions failed to give time back to merchants and left them drowning in paperwork.
This reality has left merchants frustrated with their jobs and feeling overwhelmed, at time when retailers need them to be at their most innovative and inspired.
The new role of the merchant will be focused on delivering the retailer’s purpose to consumers. “Employees place a lot of importance in finding meaning in their work. The closer they feel to the mission and the product or service they are providing, the higher quality work you can expect.”3
3 Source: “Why the Best Retailers Don’t Have to Worry About Turnover;” Fortune, November 1, 2016
In an era where consumer expectations, technology and data availability multiply at exponential rates, it’s time to adopt a new model. One that allows merchants to minimize their mundane tasks by delegating them to machines. They can then focus on more purposeful work such as being creative strategists and defining new offering and services for customers. Through new technologies and innovations in AI, merchants will have a renewed sense of purpose and contribute to the retailer in unprecedented ways.
Computer as colleague: How can AI help to reimagine the role of merchandising?
AI includes multiple technologies that extend human capabilities by sensing, comprehending, acting and learning – allowing humans to do much more.
Three ways to up the retail game
- Execution: Apply automation to highly predictable occurrences. For processes that require minimal human judgement, automation can help reduce errors, save on costs and free up time.
- Intelligence: Embrace advanced analytics to enable precision at scale. Now actionable data insights will direct merchant’s curation and segmentation of merchandise selections.
- Strategic: Put execution and intelligence capabilities in place. By using these capabilities, merchants can invest brainpower in inspiring actions that deliver differentiated value propositions.
Merchants will be equipped to readily sense the needs of consumers and respond in meaningful and innovative ways, giving people what they want from people they trust.
Imagine new ways of working…
How work gets done by whom or by what
Merchants of the future will concentrate time and creative efforts differentiating their products and services, while offloading tasks to machines – see Figure 1.
AI: Merchandising magic
AI can power growth by enhancing the productivity of people, and it can also be highly productive itself. Below are ways retailers are transforming the way they merchandise:
Screenshop uses image recognition to convert screenshots into shoppable results, instantaneously.
FindMine automates the manual process of curating window displays, endcaps and online look books, personalizing merchandising for shoppers and retailers.
Stitch Fix uses algorithms to predict “frankenstyles” entirely from data and select relevant items for clients.
Meet the new merchant
Merchants transcend what we think of today as a buyer or a category manager. They have become the curator of experiences and the inventor of offerings for consumers.
With the right tools, the merchant will be empowered as the innovation engine for the consumer offering, experience and engagement.