Tom Stanek has been working with retailers for years. But like all of us, he’s never seen or experienced anything like COVID-19.
So, what does the president of RXA—a leading Domo implementation and consulting firm that has serviced more than 7,000 retail locations across North America, Europe, and Asia—believe this moment could mean for an industry he knows so much about?
Not what you might think.
“Right now is an opportunity for retailers to gain new customers,” Tom said during a Domo-sponsored, “Get Leverage” webinar last week. “It’s a restart.”
If that take surprises you, then you’re not looking at data the way Stanek, RXA, and RXA’s clients are.
“It all boils down to leveraging data and business intelligence,” Tom said during the 45-minute discussion with Domo’s Ben Schein (VP of Data Curiosity) and Scott Townsend (Director of Content Marketing). “That’s how you get the upper hand.”
Ben agrees. Over the last few months, he’s seen many retailers gain a competitive advantage by leveraging data and BI. That includes Harmons Grocery, which is “punching above its weight,” he said, due to its ability to see, in real-time, what’s selling and what’s not, and to respond quickly from an inventory standpoint.
“Everyone just needs to move faster now,” Ben said. “Retail has been changing and reacting to digital for years now, but the pandemic has intensified things. And because it’s unique, we don’t have a baseline to work from, so we need to find ways to understand what is now normal and let data guide us.”
For RXA, helping retailers find an edge involves the use of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data science. More specifically, it involves connecting internal and external data sources (such as traffic and weather apps, and information available from surrounding businesses), and applying what he calls “AI-based predictive modeling.”
“That’s what really allows retailers to understand and determine consumer activity,” Tom said. “That ultimately leads to evaluating the sale of products, and, perhaps most importantly, to better management of retailers’ most expensive asset, which is labor.”
On the surface, the idea of using AI to assess workforce matters might sound strange, Tom said. But if you consider that determining optimum staffing based on consumer demand has always been a high priority for retailers, then it makes sense.
“(Applied AI) helps with forecasting, it helps with planning, it helps with scheduling,” Tom said. “And it helps us drill down to where we really need to go, which is to the location and role levels. Understanding what’s happening at that depth can really give retailers a leg up.”
RXA helps companies do just that through a three-step process. The first is sensing, which puts predictive models to work to forecast demand. The second is shaping, which is when optimized schedules are created to fill that demand. And the third is deploying, which is where a degree of human discretion is factored in—at least to begin with.
“At the end of the day,” Tom said, “the whole approach revolves around ensuring that customer satisfaction reaches an all-time high.”
The approach has certainly worked for RXA customer Belle Tire. Since partnering with RXA and Domo two and a half years ago, the automotive chain with more than 140 locations throughout the Midwest has not only grown, it has improved the company culture while saving money.
“What was interesting was that immediately—and I’m talking weeks, not months—Belle Tire was able to see it had a problem with labor,” Tom said. “Almost half of their hourly shifts were not staffed properly, and essentially one-third were overstaffed, which resulted in unnecessary labor expenses.
“That’s not the case anymore. Belle Tire leveraged Domo and our AI/ML tools, which they’re still using. In fact, we’re optimizing the model for them every day.”
To learn more about how RXA is giving businesses the ability to leverage all kinds and amounts of data to predict what’s coming next, and to hear Tom’s and Ben’s advice for businesses that are trying to evolve and take advantage of everything available to them right now, watch a replay of the webinar here.