3 Ways Order Automation Eases Grocery Retail Labor Crunch

Machine learning technology from companies such as Shelf Engine automates forecasting and ordering, saving retailers time for other pressing needs.

SEATTLE – March 3, 2022 – Forward-thinking grocers looking to ease the impact of the intensifying labor crunch are advancing the next trend in retail automation: ordering. 

The U.S. staffing shortage is deepening, with record numbers of workers quitting while employers struggle to fill 11 million openings, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the grocery industry, some stores are operating with just half their normal workforce, reports the National Grocers Association. While widespread automation such as self-checkouts and e-commerce is helping alleviate the labor shortage, retailers can achieve even more remarkable benefits through implementing intelligent order automation. 

Artificial intelligence and machine learning apply thousands of variables influencing demand, from weather patterns to special events, to each of the tens of thousands of items in a store. Unburdened from placing orders, marking down product, or scanning out waste, staff can be redirected to higher-value work. For example, retailers partnering with grocery artificial intelligence leader Shelf Engine save five hours of labor per category per store per day. Over the span of a year, that could total tens of millions of dollars in just a single category for a chain. 

Here are three ways automated ordering helps retailers cope with the current staffing crunch: 

1.Intelligent forecasting ensures product availability meets customer needs

Some grocers rely on computer assisted ordering tools, which require human input. CAO tools tie up scarce staff resources for inventory and ordering, and introduce unintentional bias and error. Instead, automation handles forecasting and ordering through algorithms and machine learning models that predict retailer inventory and consumer demand. 

Order automation creates a competitive advantage for retailers who need to make the most of their lean labor force. The highly accurate technology puts the right amount of product on shelves when and where customers need it, delivering greater gross profit and a better shopper experience. One national retailer leveraged Shelf Engine’s automation to push the sales ceiling of strong-performing items in key categories, seeing 20 percent growth for those top sellers.

2. Automated ordering allows staff to focus on customers

AI-powered automation handles inventory forecasts and consumer demand predictions more accurately than humans can. With Shelf Engine, automation extends across every fresh SKU the company manages in more than 3,000 retail locations nationwide. 

According to Incisiv, an overwhelming 89% of consumers are more likely to be repeat shoppers after a positive customer service experience, so freeing up time for associates to serve consumers is paramount. Ordering automation enables retailers to redeploy labor to focus on where it counts most: enhancing the customer experience. 

3. Automation amplifies associates’ impact without adding headcount

Relieving store employees from forecasting and ordering allows managers to optimize scheduling. With technology running 24/7, stores never need to worry that missed shifts will mean missed orders and missed sales. Shelf Engine’s platform also provides around-the-clock monitoring for order exceptions. The system alerts the company’s operations team to investigate concerns, often before a store knows there may be an issue.

Shelf Engine goes another step further to offer retailers an extension of their staff. Blending the power of pioneering AI with human insights, Shelf Engine’s field team audits inventories and feeds store and market data into its system to create the ultimate prediction engine. 

Shelf Engine’s eBook, Relief for Grocers in a Labor Crunch, offers advice for retailers to deal with the challenges of the current staffing climate. For more information about Shelf Engine’s capabilities, please visit www.shelfengine.com.

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About Shelf Engine
Shelf Engine forecasts and orders highly perishable foods for grocers at scale. Using AI, Shelf Engine’s platform predicts consumer demand with high precision and automates ordering for every SKU, every day, in every store. Shelf Engine simplifies grocery operations by automating the purchase orders sent to suppliers and distributors, paying them directly for the products they deliver, and only charging retailers for what they sell. Shelf Engine’s performance-based model reduces labor requirements, eliminates inventory risk, and guarantees profit expansion from day one. Launched in 2016, Seattle-based Shelf Engine has more than 200 employees and manages orders for leading retailers at thousands of locations nationwide. For more information, visit www.shelfengine.com

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