Innovation is advancing rapidly in many verticals, creating openings for startups. With the stagnation we observed from traditional legacy tools in space management, startups are seizing the opportunity. Some are looking for ways to significantly disrupt with new thinking and ambitious goals.
It’s time to focus on these new solution providers introducing innovative tools for space managers and analysts. These startups are offering promising glimpses of hope by embracing new thinking and technologies, revamping user experiences, and emerging from a decade of space management repetitive stagnation. They have identified gaps and successfully enhanced or provided alternatives. They can innovate unhindered with fresh thinking and approaches, unburdened by legacy processes and technical debt.
Time for change
As user expectations evolve, it’s becoming clear that outdated tools and methods won’t cut it. This current generation in the workspace that relies on intuitive interfaces and devices would find it challenging to use ‘80s style or heavy touch tools to get the job done. This is true for space management and any other tool in the category management portfolio. Do we expect that digitally moving boxes on a shelf will be the bulk of a space manager’s job in the future? Automation that is heavily based on the never-ending list to maintain formulas, rules, and scripts is not the answer.
Numerous innovative solutions are being developed by companies offering fresh approaches. While this list below is far from exhaustive, it outlines a glimpse of hope. I expect this will preview the possibilities of new upcoming solutions to explore and support and possibly open up opportunities for others to innovate.
345 Global is going all in, rethinking the end-to-end category management solution. The founder has deep knowledge of this space. 345 Global is his third go-around, following 5th Dimension and Red Dot Square. Now he is building on top of a gaming platform with the ambitious goal of erecting a complete space, floor planning solution, and supporting tools. From my early peek into the solution and plan discussion, it looks promising. It is a considerable undertaking and worth tracking its progress.
With the growing complexity of space management tools, Cantactix built a sizeable practice managing Blue Yonder implementations, leveraging the years of experience of its founder from Blue Yonder and the team talent he recruited. Cantactix grew its solution capabilities by building tools, automating workflows, and delivering a simplified Blue Yonder end-to-end planograming user experience process. They identified gaps in Blue Yonder Space Planning and built tools to address them.
After building a store operations solution for a major home improvement chain, MerchLogix organically expanded to create one of the first entirely cloud-based floor planning and space planning solutions, integrated from the ground up with store operations. Focused on future needs and unhindered by legacy thinking and approaches, this company can go further, faster.
Grown out of Bentonville and initially focused on solving for Walmart, Nuqleous managed to build a set of seamlessly intelligent solutions for the planogram space. They created ShelfIQ, a no-code user-driven approach, with a clean, visually appealing design that bridges the gap of communicating space planning capabilities to a transient user base while modernizing legacy tools through automation, analytics, and an intuitive UI. With the latest venture capital sizeable investment and added senior leadership, the future looks promising building on its current successes.
Organically built in the Czech Republic, nibbling on the edges and learning from smaller regional retailers, Quant made well-rounded desktop solutions for Windows and Mac and supporting tools of tasking and distribution for the web. This shows that it is possible to burn the boats and create a competitive solution with little investment and equipped with innovative minds open to learning.
Artificial intelligence is not enough
Making artificial intelligence the core of solutions must be done in tandem with a comprehensive data strategy. Working with traditional transactional market data only paints half the picture in an omnichannel world. Third-party data is more accessible and available and needs to be part of the mix. Innovative social media insights like the ones from PCSSO to detect and forecast trends will be the norm soon enough.
The future depends on newcomers
This is a great opportunity for players who can bring a fresh and innovative approach. This trend of newcomers with innovative solutions is being seen worldwide. It is a good idea to collaborate and form partnerships whenever possible, especially as the traditional rules and established ways of doing things continue to change. The industry is now more open to exploring and considering new and creative solutions.
I believe the space management industry is roughly five years behind in incorporating artificial intelligence efficiently into the process. This presents an opportunity for those offering authentic AI capabilities and a robust data strategy for planogram solutions to disrupt the industry and introduce innovations. We see it in several startups that are blurring the lines between assortment and space.
The AI disruption, in tandem with expanded datasets, will lead to a more efficient way of scaling, increasing speed and accuracy, and ultimately, delivering customer satisfaction on the shelf. Who will seize the opportunity to start collaborating and fast forward the end-to-end space management solution to the future?
About the Author
Georges F Mirza has been ahead of trends in developing retail/CPG market-leading industry-changing solutions. He led the charge and established the roadmap for robotic indoor data collection, image recognition, and analytics for retail to address out-of-stock, inventory levels, and compliance. Georges currently advises companies on how to strategize and prioritize their roadmaps for growth. Follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter.