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How Unilever increased revenue by combining computer vision with flexible resourcing

Competition from e-commerce players and pandemic-related movement restrictions have severely affected physical retail. Global consumer packaged goods (CPG) giant Unilever leveraged the crowd-based store auditing service with help from image recognition technology to ensure consumers could find and buy their products once they stepped into brick and mortar stores.

46% of consumers are more likely to try new brands than they were five years ago. With competition aplenty and brand loyalty at a premium, brands have to maximize every chance of getting in front of customers. Unilever, the world’s fourth-largest CPG player relies on cost-effective solutions that optimize in-store execution and ensure product availability at scale and speed.

In the most recent example of this strategy, the company combined the power of Trax’s image recognition technology with Roamler’s store-auditing service. gather data daily. This helped increase its on-shelf availability (OSA) and grow revenue across hundreds of stores in Belgium and Italy.

Unilever leverages the Trax-Roamler partnership to gather useful, timely in-store data

Globally, US$ 634b is lost in sales due to out-of-stock (OOS) occurrences. OOS events and low OSA can  be reduced significantly by using shelf analytics, i.e. monitoring stores to track factors such as product facings on shelf, shelf positioning, and competitor presence, among others. Manual audits and historical sales data are some of the most common methods of in-store data collection. However, these methods  are resource-intensive and time consuming. Instead, companies need data collected in a timely manner to prevent sales loss due to OOS.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made physical retail sales even trickier than before as more consumers prefer to shop online from the safety of their homes. In such situations, if buyers can’t find their preferred brand on the shelf, they are even more likely to pick up a competitor’s product. This is where Roamler’s crowd-based workforce of experienced retail workers come in.

Here’s how it works. This workforce is matched to customer needs based on location, skills, and experience levels. Unilever uses Roamler’s flexible workforce to take photos of retail shelves across hundreds of stores in Belgium and Italy. After a thorough quality check, these images are uploaded to Roamler’s partner, Trax’s systems. Trax’s computer vision technology then processes the images to provide Unilever with an accurate snapshot of in-store shelf conditions.

For example, sales teams can now see lost sales in terms of dollar value, gaps in OSA, and even recurrent OOS. Tracking recurring OOS events is particularly important to Unilever, as it could be an indicator of supply chain or other larger issues that the company can now try to resolve.

Deep, easy-to-access insights improve OSA and drive growth for Unilever

 According to industry benchmarks, a 3% increase in OSA leads to 1% growth in revenue for a large-sized CPG company.

Unilever’s revenue growth is commensurate with this industry-standard in the markets where the store-auditing service is used. In stores in Belgium and Italy, Unilever gains in-depth visibility into the 5Ps of retail execution – presence, position, planogram, promotions, and pricing.

Data-rich and actionable management dashboards

Unilever can view all the collected data on detailed, powerfully visualized dashboards, allowing transparency and speed to take many different actions quickly. For instance, management teams can use the information to drive retailer negotiations and ensure top-notch category management practices.

Better usage of sales reps’ time

By using a flexible workforce, Unilever can spare its sales reps’ time from taking photos. The computer vision-driven insights also shave off hours that sales teams would have otherwise spent on manual audits.

Focus on growth opportunities

With all the time saved, sales reps can use the data for higher-value tasks such as tracking competitors and closing gaps in-store. The data collected about all the different stores also allow Unilever to prioritize the ones that provide the biggest opportunities.

Unilever’s success in Europe highlights the power of a crowd-sourced workforce and powerful insights derived from just a few images.

Interested in learning about how you can benefit from the Trax-Roamler partnership? Get in touch with us today.

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