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Despite Fearing They Lag Competitors in Supply Chain, 87% of Retailers Say They Have Not Yet Taken Meaningful Steps to Embrace AI

Research from Symphony RetailAI and Incisiv also reveals that 88% of retailers see demand forecast accuracy as their most significant opportunity for improvement

Symphony RetailAI, a leading global provider of integrated AI-powered marketing, merchandising and supply chain solutions for FMCG retailers and manufacturers, today announced findings of an executive survey, “Role of AI/ML in Supply Chain and Demand Forecasting,” conducted in partnership with Incisiv. Survey respondents indicated their prioritization of data-related initiatives, with 82% focusing on data-driven demand forecasting and 61% citing improved master data management as a top supply chain priority.

The survey asked retail executives to evaluate their supply chain performance over the past two years and indicate areas of the supply chain where they intend to focus improvement efforts. Respondents also had the opportunity to describe their organization’s use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) and identify perceived barriers to the adoption of these technologies.

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“The importance of using data, including AI-driven demand forecasting, to gain a competitive supply chain advantage isn’t going away, so organizations that prioritize new ways of using data for decision-making will be better positioned to succeed.”

Retailers can no longer cope effectively using historical supply-chain capabilities

The survey found that 87% of retail executives think their company’s supply-chain performance either lags the competition (22%) or is only on par (65%). Only 13% of retail executives think they outperform their peers, further highlighting the untapped opportunities for AI.

New economic factors and other global obstacles also underscore the importance of AI, as current top-of-mind supply chain issues include many that can only be meaningfully mitigated with the application of data science. The survey found that nearly nine out of 10 retailers (88%) state that they have a significant opportunity to improve in demand forecasting, and the same percentage want to do better contingency supply source planning.

Retailers understand AI’s potential for the supply chain but need a clear path to move forward

The large majority (87%) of retail executives surveyed by Incisiv say they have not yet taken meaningful steps to embrace AI. Only 6% of respondents were self-described adopters of AI, while another 8% have dabbled or enjoyed early success with piloted technology. Many of those who haven’t made progress with AI are uncertain about how to move forward successfully – in fact, 39% indicated they are unsure how to apply AI to real-world scenarios.

Symphony RetailAI and Incisiv also found that 92% of retailers feel that their inability to integrate data from multiple sources prevent them from successfully pursuing AI solutions. Other roadblocks include poor data quality (79%) and a lack of confidence in AI to make good recommendations (31%).

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Even with these perceived roadblocks, retail executives are aware of the risks. The survey found that nearly a quarter (22%) of respondents are concerned about falling behind to the competition due to a lack of an AI-based strategy.

“As new threats loom and other economic factors create supply chain unpredictability, these results highlight the need to future-proof grocery supply chains to handle unexpected disruptions,” said Troy Prothero, Senior Vice President Product Management, Supply Chain Solutions, Symphony RetailAI. “The importance of using data, including AI-driven demand forecasting, to gain a competitive supply chain advantage isn’t going away, so organizations that prioritize new ways of using data for decision-making will be better positioned to succeed.”

“Our research with Symphony RetailAI sheds light on the critical need for retailers to use AI to break down silos and utilize as much organizational data as possible,” said Gaurav Pant, Chief Insights Officer, Incisiv. “Doing so will give retail organizations a competitive advantage through optimized and integrated end-to-end supply chains.”

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