Democratising Data and Analytics in Retail

Prologue

At Hashbrown Systems, we build and design systems that create value by addressing problems which are so deep rooted that they pass off as standard.  For example, an independent service provider or retailer of goods is considered a marginal partner by a brand and its supply chain. He is used as a vehicle for selling goods. Data collection and analysis is highly neglected at this most important moment of truth. This is especially true when you take out the one or two multinational brands out of the picture. This is the harsh truth which hundreds of international and Indian brands continue to live with.

Very few business-technology tools have reached the retailers, accounting software being one of them. That too, only to suppliers whose scale is large and hence need/can afford such tools. This is largely because of brands focus on increasing their distribution channels and reaching every corner of the geographies they serve and technology companies who focused on fatter pay checks, for the time being. However, the tide seems to be turning. With the companies’ balance sheets come under increasing stress due to intense competition, more variety than ever, price wars and the ever-present demand of higher ROI by shareholders, brands want to address inefficiencies across their supply chains.

In such an environment, our focus on creating value and efficiency at the last mile has started to show tangible results. Retailers and service providers, who were once ruled out as too hard to reach, who were ‘unorganized’, who weren’t a profitable business opportunity to fix are not only using our products but are also paying for it. In a way, data collection and analytics are now being democratized and are giving game-changing insights to everyone across the value chain – thanks to purchasing.ai

Purchasing.ai – Intelligent purchasing

purchasing.ai is an intelligent purchasing system for everyone who is involved in making purchasing and ordering decisions within an organisation – from the manager of a grocery store to that of a restaurant. It is a time-saving, money-saving, fast, efficient and an intelligent application that provides performance and reliability, and fits in the palm of your hand.

What does it do?

Purchasing.ai streamlines processes across the entire supply chain. It is suitable for every stakeholder – the brand, the supplier and the retailer along the supply chain.

For a retailer

Purchasing.ai lets the retailer add inventory in bulk by just uploading an excel sheet. It makes it easier for retailers to send purchase orders to the suppliers. Users who have been active on the application have been reporting savings in time and energy in their ordering process. The saved time is being productively used to increase their sales.

Overtime, the intelligence engine kicks in and by analysing the order cycle, purchasing.ai provides the order suggestions to the store owner. The application monitors the inventory of the stores. Retailers can rate and review suppliers and distributors based on order fulfilment, service quality among other things. Apart from this, a whole host of actions can be performed be it, editing, activation, or deactivation of products, categories and vendors depending on the exigencies of the retailer.

For suppliers:

One of the biggest problems even the largest of companies in retail constantly struggle with is demand estimation. The multi-million-dollar question – How much should I stock? Given this reality, there is a huge value to be created at the mid-level of the supply chain through accurate demand estimation.

Built for this purpose, Purchasing.ai makes easy job of predicting the future demand thanks to the abundance of datapoints.

Apart from this, at the suppliers’ end, several other daily operations can be performed like accepting orders, order fulfilment status and delivery status. The future roadmap of the product also involves the freedom on the suppliers’ part to run promotional campaigns to clear out any excess stock. Which brings us to our next point – brands.

For Brands:

While a handful of brands have centralized data about their products throughout the supply chain, thanks to the multi-million-dollar investment, most of the brands do not have the time, patience or most importantly, the cash to build such sophisticated systems. However, to achieve favourable bottom lines by fixing inefficiencies along the supply chain, a huge amount of data is needed from every nook and corner of the geography that the product reaches.

Purchasing.ai makes it possible to gather data to the most granular level and gives it to brands in the most convenient form. Brands can access sales data, demand estimations, slice and dice the data for every product, geography, channel and any other filter that is possible. This actionable data could form the base for profitability calculations, manufacturing decisions, marketing strategies and much more.

Challenges faced:

Unclean data

While getting data at this granular level is very challenging, making sense of the data obtained is equally if not more challenging. Most data obtained was scattered, unclean mired with duplicity and expired product information and was unfit to use in its state. We employed complex natural language processing algorithms powered by artificial intelligence, which taught computers to make sense of the data obtained. Pretty soon, the results obtained were satisfactory.

Data Privacy 

As awareness about data privacy increases, we expected questions about it and weren’t too surprised when users wondered about data privacy. The data generated on the platform will be owned by the generator of data. The data created across one brand’s supply chain will remain in that chain itself. In any case, the data will not be shared/cross-sold to competitors or other parties.

We would like to conclude with this statement by Bob Murphy, IBM’s former chief supply chain officer: “Fuelled by analytics, procurement can derive insight from disparate sources of information and uncover intelligence for competitive advantage. This paves the way for us to develop an even deeper understanding using cognitive technologies that will help us further transform the procurement landscape as we engage across our supply base and with business partners to unlock value from all types of data that have been hidden in the past.”