When senior executives from grocery and consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies gathered in Miami for the recent FMI Midwinter Executive Conference, they were looking for a clear sense of how to use technology strategically.

As the theme of FMI Midwinter – “Upending the Apple Cart” — suggested, there are many ways that traditional retail is being challenged by new technologies.

From what we heard from executives coming out of sessions, there is a lot of interest in getting more insight about how innovative technologies can make a significant impact on their businesses, as well as help them capitalize on new opportunities.

With that in mind, here are a few post-event thoughts.

The ‘Test and Learn’ Approach Should Be Put to The Test
There are experts who suggest that using artificial intelligence in areas like the grocery sector will allow retailers to quickly “test and learn” what works.

For example, grocers could make promotional product selection and pricing decisions a lot faster by leveraging the power of A.I.

While this exciting, we believe the real potential of A.I. is reinforcement learning (a term that you’ll definitely hear more often) that will let companies do data-driven simulations to conduct literally billions of calculations.

At the same time, reinforcement learning technology continually improves over time to drive even higher ROI.

‘Fail Fast’ Doesn’t Mean Letting the Business Suffer
The notion of experimenting and moving on, even when you make mistakes, is a popular mantra in Silicon Valley, and it was echoed at FMI Midwinter.

There is a difference, however, in failing fast and learning when you’re working in a fledgling startup versus a business where real profitability is at stake.

By leveraging A.I., grocery retailers can become more strategically and tactically agile by making smarter and faster decisions and, as important, see tangible results quickly.

A.I. is the Future
At a time when grocery retailers are exploring new ways to improve how they do business and deliver a better customer experience, the time is now to leverage A.I. to optimize areas such as product selection, pricing, and demand forecasting.

Sure, there is a lot of hyperbole about A.I. but the technology is available and ready for companies that want to establish a competitive edge.

As Daisy CEO Gary Saarenvirta says: If you don’t embrace A.I. in your business, you will be left behind. You need to embrace the tools. A.I. is here today and affordable. This is a game that you don’t want to be late to.”

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