BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE OUTFIT Blue Yonder recently announced that it has partnered with Microsoft Azure as its primary platform.
The predictive analytics company, which has its origins at the CERN facility in Geneva, uses the cloud to calculate variables at speed, primarily aimed at allowing retailers to make decisions on what to buy, what to stock and what to make in order to ensure that when you look for something in store or online, it'll be there.
"The fast-growing amount of data from customer transactions and replenishment processes makes it imperative that retailers switch to automated decisions based on data," says Jan Karstens, CTO of Blue Yonder.
"The high expectations of consumers in the face of contemporary cross-channel concepts like Click & Collect, where items are ordered online and picked up in-store, can only be met using machine learning."
By crunching data ranging from the weather in previous years, to customer footfall, perhaps due to known factors like transport links to a particular branch, the company has been able to perfect a technique that uses machine learning to constantly improve stock availability and decrease waste.
"Microsoft Azure enables retailers to use artificial intelligence not only to optimise existing processes, but also to pioneer new business models that will drive the transformation in their industry," said Sabine Bendiek, area vice president at Microsoft Germany.
Brands including Morrisons, Otto, Kautland, Eat and Natsu are using the Blue Yonder platform, powered by the Microsoft Cloud, leading to a string of awards from across the sector.
Last year, the INQUIRER looked at Eat, the sandwich chain with over 100 stores across London and beyond, which was able to demonstrate a 14 per cent reduction in waste during the initial trials of the service.
Eat CFO Strahan Wilson told us: "The skills for predictive forecasting are very specific and very technical. We lacked the skills in-house to build the model and, even if we paid someone to build it, we don't have the skills to maintain it,"
And that's part of the point. What Blue Yonder is doing is so far removed from anything that 99.9 per cent of companies could do in-house, it isn't worth even trying.
"I'm desperately trying to keep a lid on the excitement that this is building in the business. Everyone can see the possibilities and I'm just begging people to let me get to July when we go full rollout before we start to look at just how much it can actually do," said Wilson at the time.
More recently, German retailer Otto has shown great success in controlling stock using Blue Yonder services to measure the price that the public is likely to be willing to pay in the current climate (figuratively and literally speaking).
It is currently looking at ways to predict stock levels to optimise delivery to the customer in the fastest ways possible, by ensuring that the right products are at the most accessible places at the right time.
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