One of my favorite retail conferences is The National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Big Show, which this year took place January 12-14 in New York City. Every year I enjoy the insightful discussions, fascinating presentations and opportunity to connect with new and old friends in the industry.
At this year’s event, I spoke about prescriptive analytics alongside key executives from our customer community in two presentations.
For those who don’t know, prescriptive analytics is a solution that leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning to interpret data and determine:
- What is happening
- Why it happened (root cause)
- How much it would cost not to act (i.e. the financial impact)
- Who should do it
- What to do to optimize the outcome
Organizations that don’t have prescriptive analytics typically use a report-based, business-intelligence (BI) solution. The typical BI solution sends out long reports full of complex data in a “push and pray” manner. Hopefully, a retail employee will analyze the reports, find the key “insights,” and know what to do for the points listed above. However, this requires several questions to be asked and answered. These aren’t simple questions, either. Issue resolution could take hours, or even days! And opportunities can be missed.
That is why prescriptive analytics is gaining widespread traction among retailers: it automatically (or as I call it, automagically) analyzes what’s happening across the supply chain at that very moment, interprets why it is happening and then delegates a very specific task to a very specific worker (or set of workers) to resolve the issue right then and there. There is no guessing what needs to be done or who needs to do it. In turn, retailers can solve any problems much, much faster. Accuracy improves with this methodology as well, with retailers spending less time on “false positives” and more time on real opportunities for improvements. (Based on what we’re hearing from customers, nine out of 10 opportunities are adding real value).
This is something that I spoke about with Walgreens Director Bill Inzeo, manufacturing veteran David Aquino and business-strategy expert Andrea Weiss in one of my NRF sessions. As they confirmed from personal experience, the intelligence and alerts generated by prescriptive analytics can benefit the entire retail supply chain, from the manufacturer to the retailer and all the way to the consumer, by breaking down silos and fostering cross-functional communication. Notably, we discussed how prescriptive analytics creates feedback loops based on what’s happening at a given moment in time. Every node of the supply chain can leverage that feedback as it comes in to adjust its operations and become more agile. Agility, we all agreed, is a key ingredient for retail excellence.
REI’s Director of Asset Protection Seth Hughes also shared our point of view. In an earlier session, he shared some specific case studies exemplifying the many benefits of prescriptive analytics for REI, such as the increased visibility it provides into all areas of the business. The solution provides executives with key insights to better inform strategies, which is critical when making decisions with big implications, like whether to pursue specific new market opportunities.
It was clear during both sessions that the future of retail will rely on continued innovation throughout the supply chain to meet the constantly growing and shifting needs of manufacturers, suppliers, retailers and consumers. And that is why we were so excited to officially introduce the new Zebra Prescriptive Analytics brand at NRF!
A Future-Forward Focus
As you may know, Zebra Technologies acquired Profitect in June 2019. Now that Profitect has officially been rebranded as Zebra Prescriptive Analytics and we’re part of the new Zebra Analytics division within the Intelligent Edge Solutions portfolio, we have unprecedented access to Zebra’s retail expertise and the ability to innovate more broadly within Zebra’s solution ecosystem.
What does that mean for retailers?
Zebra Prescriptive Analytics will be better able to connect to retailers’ existing hardware and software solutions to extract all available enterprise intelligence – whether captured via an associate’s mobile computer or an intelligent automation solution such as Zebra SmartSight. It can then identify operational anomalies and prescribe the corrective actions that will optimize outcomes.
Although we just recently started operating as “one team/one company” under the Zebra Prescriptive Analytics brand, Zebra and Profitect have been closely collaborating for a long time. In fact, we recently appeared together in the RIS 2020 Software Leaderboard, having earned top rankings in numerous categories including Total Cost of Operations, Return on Investment and Customer Satisfaction. We view this recognition from the retail technology community as validation of our combined power to drive increased value for our growing customer base around the globe. As RIS News editor Joe Skorupa commented in our recent press release, “Based on the positive feedback we received from retailers, Zebra and the recently acquired Profitect are a formidable presence in retail technology. RIS looks forward to following their future successes and innovations.”
We know – and our retail customers can confirm – that prescriptive analytics is a core business requirement for retailers who want to successfully navigate the ever-changing competitive landscape by making sense of their accumulated data. The actionable insights that prescriptive analytics provides can inform everything from planning and buying improvements to inventory-management best-practices and sales and marketing strategies that increase revenue. It can also identify theft and fraud and improve logistical processes so that you can maximize omnichannel efficiencies. And that’s just the start.
The potential impact of prescriptive analytics is already huge – and as it continues to increase, I look forward to sharing a mix of lessons learned and customer success stories with you here on Your Edge.
In the meantime, I encourage you to learn more about the new Zebra Prescriptive Analytics brand on our website. Of course, you can directly reach out to me or my team with questions, concerns or just to brainstorm solutions to your current operational challenges.