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In-Store Data Collection: What Is The Best Way?

For CPG/FMCG manufacturers, sales performance is a primary growth driver. But, their sales forces have little time to allocate to each store, which can highly […] Read More

The post In-Store Data Collection: What Is The Best Way? appeared first on ParallelDots.

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For CPG/FMCG manufacturers, sales performance is a primary growth driver. But, their sales forces have little time to allocate to each store, which can highly impact their target reachability. In this blog, we look at the state of in-store data collection and retail audits in the CPG/FMCG industry and explore the best methods to improve in-store data collection.

Given the vast number of products distributed across a massive store universe knowing exactly what’s happening on the shelf is extremely difficult. At the very least, sales teams often need to know:

1. In-store product placement

Product placement plays an extremely crucial role in how the product will perform on the shelf. It goes without saying that customers are more likely to buy items that are visible to the eye (eye-level is buy level). That is why placing the product at the eye-level is important. Apart from that, brands also need to make sure that they have covered the basics like the products are facing the right direction with the right promotional tags, and are well stocked.

2. Planogram Compliance

Even today, the challenge that retailers and brand owners face is to measure the degree of compliance of a shelf set against the planogram schematic. For this, it is necessary for them to periodically verify that products on shelves exactly match the planogram. Because planograms are based on demographic insights, they help retailers fine-tune their execution, display the right assortment mix for customers in a particular area, and influence the customers’ purchasing decisions.

in-store

3. POS Material Compliance

The level of POS compliance on the shelf determines whether your new launches or promotions are performing well or not. For a POS display to be effective, its location and the featured product need to go hand-in-hand. The advantage of POS materials is that they contribute to higher overall sales increases the chance of success of a new launch or the number of items a customer purchases

4. Competitor’s Activities

Monitoring competitors’ activities can help keep a check on their merchandizing and promotional strategies. It is a good way to understand what is working for them on the shelves and design a better execution strategy for your product to maximize customer engagement.

Each of these factors affects the success of brands in the retail environment and their overall sales. So how does the CPG/FMCG industry monitor shelf health?

Traditional Methods of Collecting In-Store Data

Brands typically monitor shelf by getting their representatives or partners to get images of retail shelves from different regions of the country and then code the attributes (brand facings, area, count) manually. Manual analysis is complicated, time-consuming, and costly. It is difficult to manage around work-peaks. Manual analysis is often prone to human error, insufficient analysis & theoretical interpretations. All this makes it difficult to ensure the quality of retail audit data. By the time the data reaches the management (almost after a month), it is too late and the data is insufficient for the management to intervene and quickly change implementations on-ground.

OVERCOMING THE LIMITATIONS OF TRADITIONAL METHODS WITH IMAGE RECOGNITION

All the redundancies in the traditional data collection method can be easily overcome with the help of technologically advanced image recognition solution.

Using artificial intelligence to improve retail execution is a merging concept with advances in AI technology Auditing shelf management using Image Recognition digitizes store checks. It plays an essential role in understanding the shelf conditions and how they affect the sales of their core SKUs. It analyzes the visual display to ensure the store is in compliance with the planogram for your consumer goods. With smart solutions and tools, data can be updated in real-time so that proper corrective measures can be taken rapidly as required.

This would ensure that the whole process becomes much faster and the reps are able to cover more stores in one day. It would be further beneficial if quick monitoring can translate to making the data available seamlessly to the decision-makers and ensuring that everyone from the reps to the store owner could be quickly instructed to fix the gaps in the execution strategy.

With Image recognition, brands are able to monitor the availability of the product on the shelf at least for the first 1 month of the launch on key outlets and high-velocity stores. Real-time feedback on the images from the shelf can help improve the gaps in planogram and in-store marketing initiatives.

Collecting In-Store Data Using ShelfWatch

In-store

ParallelDots offers ShelfWatch as an image recognition solution for the FMCG/Retail Industry. The core methodology is as follows- images are clicked using a handheld device either by the sales reps, the merchandiser, or in some cases a third-party auditor. The images are then uploaded to the ShelfWatch cloud server for analysis. Within a few minutes, the sales reps get actionable insights to take the necessary corrective measures. This data also helps the management team in measuring their execution strategy and gauging how the products are performing on the shelf.

Deploying ShelfWatch is easy and hassle-free. With low training set-up time, one good quality image of the SKU is all it takes to set up ShelfWatch for product recognition. The training takes less than 48 hours to complete and then ShelfWatch is ready to provide insights from the real-world.

This is one aspect where Shelfwatch really shines out when compared to other Image Recognition solutions in the market. While other solutions might take up to 90–120 days setup time, ShelfWatch’s agile AI training methodology ensures that new SKUs are learned very fast and sales reps are instantly alerted.

Shelfwatch’s algorithm is trained in such a manner that it automatically analyzes the images to give out a comprehensive analysis involving KPIs like out-of-stock, share-of-shelf, planogram compliance, etc.

Want to see how your own brand is performing on the shelves? Click here to schedule a free demo for ShelfWatch.

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Source: https://blog.paralleldots.com/product/in-store-data-collection-what-is-the-best-way/

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How does it know?! Some beginner chatbot tech for newbies.

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Wouter S. Sligter

Most people will know by now what a chatbot or conversational AI is. But how does one design and build an intelligent chatbot? Let’s investigate some essential concepts in bot design: intents, context, flows and pages.

I like using Google’s Dialogflow platform for my intelligent assistants. Dialogflow has a very accurate NLP engine at a cost structure that is extremely competitive. In Dialogflow there are roughly two ways to build the bot tech. One is through intents and context, the other is by means of flows and pages. Both of these design approaches have their own version of Dialogflow: “ES” and “CX”.

Dialogflow ES is the older version of the Dialogflow platform which works with intents, context and entities. Slot filling and fulfillment also help manage the conversation flow. Here are Google’s docs on these concepts: https://cloud.google.com/dialogflow/es/docs/concepts

Context is what distinguishes ES from CX. It’s a way to understand where the conversation is headed. Here’s a diagram that may help understand how context works. Each phrase that you type triggers an intent in Dialogflow. Each response by the bot happens after your message has triggered the most likely intent. It’s Dialogflow’s NLP engine that decides which intent best matches your message.

Wouter Sligter, 2020

What’s funny is that even though you typed ‘yes’ in exactly the same way twice, the bot gave you different answers. There are two intents that have been programmed to respond to ‘yes’, but only one of them is selected. This is how we control the flow of a conversation by using context in Dialogflow ES.

Unfortunately the way we program context into a bot on Dialogflow ES is not supported by any visual tools like the diagram above. Instead we need to type this context in each intent without seeing the connection to other intents. This makes the creation of complex bots quite tedious and that’s why we map out the design of our bots in other tools before we start building in ES.

The newer Dialogflow CX allows for a more advanced way of managing the conversation. By adding flows and pages as additional control tools we can now visualize and control conversations easily within the CX platform.

source: https://cloud.google.com/dialogflow/cx/docs/basics

This entire diagram is a ‘flow’ and the blue blocks are ‘pages’. This visualization shows how we create bots in Dialogflow CX. It’s immediately clear how the different pages are related and how the user will move between parts of the conversation. Visuals like this are completely absent in Dialogflow ES.

It then makes sense to use different flows for different conversation paths. A possible distinction in flows might be “ordering” (as seen here), “FAQs” and “promotions”. Structuring bots through flows and pages is a great way to handle complex bots and the visual UI in CX makes it even better.

At the time of writing (October 2020) Dialogflow CX only supports English NLP and its pricing model is surprisingly steep compared to ES. But bots are becoming critical tech for an increasing number of companies and the cost reductions and quality of conversations are enormous. Building and managing bots is in many cases an ongoing task rather than a single, rounded-off project. For these reasons it makes total sense to invest in a tool that can handle increasing complexity in an easy-to-use UI such as Dialogflow CX.

This article aims to give insight into the tech behind bot creation and Dialogflow is used merely as an example. To understand how I can help you build or manage your conversational assistant on the platform of your choice, please contact me on LinkedIn.

Source: https://chatbotslife.com/how-does-it-know-some-beginner-chatbot-tech-for-newbies-fa75ff59651f?source=rss—-a49517e4c30b—4

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Who is chatbot Eliza?

Between 1964 and 1966 Eliza was born, one of the very first conversational agents. Discover the whole story.

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Frédéric Pierron

Between 1964 and 1966 Eliza was born, one of the very first conversational agents. Its creator, Joseph Weizenbaum was a researcher at the famous Artificial Intelligence Laboratory of the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). His goal was to enable a conversation between a computer and a human user. More precisely, the program simulates a conversation with a Rogérian psychoanalyst, whose method consists in reformulating the patient’s words to let him explore his thoughts himself.

Joseph Weizenbaum (Professor emeritus of computer science at MIT). Location: Balcony of his apartment in Berlin, Germany. By Ulrich Hansen, Germany (Journalist) / Wikipedia.

The program was rather rudimentary at the time. It consists in recognizing key words or expressions and displaying in return questions constructed from these key words. When the program does not have an answer available, it displays a “I understand” that is quite effective, albeit laconic.

Weizenbaum explains that his primary intention was to show the superficiality of communication between a human and a machine. He was very surprised when he realized that many users were getting caught up in the game, completely forgetting that the program was without real intelligence and devoid of any feelings and emotions. He even said that his secretary would discreetly consult Eliza to solve his personal problems, forcing the researcher to unplug the program.

Conversing with a computer thinking it is a human being is one of the criteria of Turing’s famous test. Artificial intelligence is said to exist when a human cannot discern whether or not the interlocutor is human. Eliza, in this sense, passes the test brilliantly according to its users.
Eliza thus opened the way (or the voice!) to what has been called chatbots, an abbreviation of chatterbot, itself an abbreviation of chatter robot, literally “talking robot”.

Source: https://chatbotslife.com/who-is-chatbot-eliza-bfeef79df804?source=rss—-a49517e4c30b—4

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How to take S3 backups with DejaDup on Ubuntu 20.10

DejaDup is the default backup application for Gnome. It’s a GUI for duplicity, focuses on simplicity, supports incremental encrypted backups and up until recently supported a large number of cloud providers. Unfortunately as of version 42.0, all major cloud providers have been removed. Thus given that Ubuntu 20.10 ships with the specific version, any user […]

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DejaDup is the default backup application for Gnome. It’s a GUI for duplicity, focuses on simplicity, supports incremental encrypted backups and up until recently supported a large number of cloud providers. Unfortunately as of version 42.0, all major cloud providers have been removed. Thus given that Ubuntu 20.10 ships with the specific version, any user who upgrades and has backups on Amazon S3 won’t be able to access them. In this blog post, we will provide a solution that will allow you to continue taking backups on AWS S3 using DejaDup.

The mandatory rant (feel free to skip)

The removal of the cloud providers should not come as a surprise. I’m not exactly sure which version of DejaDup deprecated them but it was around the release of Ubuntu 17.10 when they were all hidden as an option. So for 3 long years, people who had backups on Amazon S3, Google Cloud Storage, Openstack Swift, Rackspace etc could still use the deprecated feature and prepare for the inevitable removal.

So why complain you might ask? Well, first of all, when you update from an earlier version of Ubuntu to 20.10, you don’t really know that the all cloud providers are removed from DejaDup. Hence if something goes wrong during the update, you won’t be able to easily access your backups and restore your system.

Another big problem is the lack of storage options on the last version of DejaDup. They decided to change their policy and support only “consumer-targeted cloud services” but currently they only support Google Drive. So they eliminated all the cost efficient options for mass storage and kept only one single very expensive option. I’m not really sure how this is good for the users of the application. Linux was always about having a choice (too much of it in many cases), so why not maintain multiple storage options to serve both the experience and inexperienced users? Thankfully because we are on Linux, we have option to fix this.

How to use Deja Dup v42+ with AWS S3

WARNING: I have not tested thoroughly the following setup so use it at your own risk. If the computer explodes in your face, you lose your data, or your spouse takes your kids and leaves you, don’t blame me.

Installing s3fs fuse

With that out of the way, let’s proceed to the fix. We will use s3fs fuse, a program that allows you to mount an S3 bucket via FUSE and effectively make it look like a local disk. Thankfully you don’t have to compile it from source as it’s on Ubuntu’s repos. To install it, type the following in your terminal:

sudo apt install s3fs

Setting up your AWS credentials file

Next, we need to configure your credentials. The s3fs supports two methods for authentication: an AWS credential file or a custom passwd file. In this tutorial we will use the first method but if you are interested for the latter feel free to view the s3fs documentation on Github. To setup your credentials make sure that the file ~/.aws/credentials contains your AWS access id and secret key. It should look like this:


[default]
aws_access_key_id=YOUR_ACCESS_KEY_ID
aws_secret_access_key=YOUR_SECRET_ACCESS_KEY

Mounting your bucket to your local filesystem

Once your have your credentials file you are ready to mount your backup bucket. If you don’t remember the bucket name you can find it by visiting your AWS account. To mount and unmount the bucket to/from a specific location type:


# mount
s3fs BUCKET_NAME /path/to/location

# unmount
fusermount -u /path/to/location

Mounting the bucket like this is only temporary and will not persist across reboots. You can add it on /etc/fstab but I believe this only works with the passwd file. If you want to use your AWS credentials file an easy workaround it to create a shortcut in your Startup Applications Preferences.

Note that you can add a small 10 sec delay to ensure that the WiFi is connected before you try to mount the bucket. Internet access is obviously necessary for mounting it successfully. If you are behind VPNs or have other complex setups, you can also create a bash script that makes the necessary checks before you execute the mount command. Sky is the limit!

Configuring DejaDup

With the bucket mounted as a local drive, we can now easily configure DejaDup to use it. First of all we need to change the backend to local. This can be done either by using a program like dconfig or the console with the following command:

gsettings set org.gnome.DejaDup backend 'local'

Finally we open DejaDup, go to preferences and point the storage location to the directory that has your S3 backup files. Make sure you select the subdirectory that contains the backup files; this is typically a subdirectory in your mount point that has name equal to your computer’s hostname. Last but not least, make sure that the S3 mount directory is excluded from DejaDup! To do this, check the ignored folders in Preferences.

That’s it! Now go to your restore tab and DejaDup will be able to read your previous backups. You can also take new ones.

Gotchas

There are a few things to keep in mind in this setup:

  1. First of all, you must be connected on the internet when you mount the bucket. If you are not the bucket won’t be mounted. So, I advise you instead of just calling the mount command, to write a bash script that does the necessary checks before mounting (internet connection is on, firewall allows external requests etc).
  2. Taking backups like that seems slower than using the old native S3 support and it is likely to generate more network traffic (mind AWS traffic costs!). This is expected because DejaDup thinks it’s accessing the local file-system, so there is no need for aggressive caching or minimization of operations that cause network traffic.
  3. You should expect stability issues. As we said earlier, DejaDup does not know it writes data over the wire so much of the functionalities that usually exist in such setups (such as retry-on-fail) are missing. And obviously if you lose connection midway of the backup you will have to delete it and start a new one to avoid corrupting your future backups.
  4. Finally keep in mind that this is a very experimental setup and if you really want to have a reliable solution, you should do your own research and select something that meets your needs.

If you have a recommendation for an Open-Source Backup solution that allows locally encrypted incremental backups, supports S3 and has an easy to use UI please leave a comment as I’m more than happy to give it a try.

About Vasilis Vryniotis

My name is Vasilis Vryniotis. I’m a Data Scientist, a Software Engineer, author of Datumbox Machine Learning Framework and a proud geek. Learn more

Source: http://blog.datumbox.com/how-to-take-s3-backups-with-dejadup-on-ubuntu-20-10/

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