Price Check on Aisle 3: Grocers Use A.I., Devices to Battle Amazon

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again.’”

To that end, he says, Symphony has developed artificial intelligence software that can prompt grocers to “send [shopper] X and Y promotions, and [know] that she traditionally shops on Wednesday, so send her the deals on Tuesday.”

Symphony uses A.I. techniques, machine learning, and other analytical capabilities on both the marketing side of retail operations as well as the supply chain. The 25-year-old company has around 1,000 employees globally and 1,200 customers in 70 countries, Fahimi says. While retailers have gone through periods of transition before, “this is a different disruption,” he says of retailers’ need to morph into technology companies.

Fahimi says that, through its customers’ data as well as outside data, Symphony has insight into the habits of about 70 million households, from what’s in their shopping baskets to how much time shoppers are spending in stores. “We do this in real time,” he says. “[Grocers] can ask, similar to Siri, ‘How’s my category doing in the Northwest?’ The system will come back and say price-sensitive shoppers are not responding to these promotions.”

So far, the software can respond to about 30,000 questions related to sales and customers, he adds. All of that data, which is owned by the grocery chains, is valuable to others, so Symphony has a program by which the grocer gets half the revenue when the software firm sells the data to brands, he says.

Symphony Retail AI’s “Supermarket 2020.”

Fahimi says the goal is to help customers such as Food City create what he calls “Supermarket 2020,” as well as helping brands such as Dr Pepper Snapple to respond to industry trends affecting grocers. “Supermarket 2020” stores de-emphasize goods like toilet paper and other non-food items—things that are easily ordered online—and instead favor fresh foods, especially pre-prepared, packaged meals. The outer perimeter of a store would have amenities like a coffee shop and smoothie bar, as well as a large area where shoppers can pick up online orders. Grocers may rent out outer areas of the store to spas, gyms, or banks in order to create a sort of one-stop place for shoppers to run errands. [The first sentence amended to further clarify how Symphony AI works with its customers.]

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