In this interview, which originally appeared in the Insider Interview series on LinkedIn here, retail industry expert Cathy Hotka and our head of gStore Pareiya Gupta cover the trends, disruptions and shifting priorities driving retail stores into the next era.
It’s a great read for anyone who wants to learn about gStore’s capabilities and the problems it solves. Pareiya breaks down how the platform works and the value that it presents to retailers. She also covers why GreyOrange is uniquely qualified to understand and solve the challenge of omnichannel fulfillment in stores.
Follow Pareiya on LinkedIn for more industry insights and to stay up to date with new developments around gStore.
I’m leading the product management and go-to-market strategy for gStore, which is GreyOrange’s retail offering. My background has mostly been in product management for finance, supply chain and now the retail industry. I have spent six years with GreyOrange, and I have been deeply involved in building the core platform layer for our GreyMatter multiagent orchestration platform. For the past year, I’ve been actively leading the retail offering. I think there’s an interesting overlap between the supply chain and retail industries because today so many stores are mini fulfillment centers; you need to bring the expertise of fulfillment center automation into the store automation world.
I think one of the biggest challenges that we’re seeing is a lack of inventory accuracy. Inventory is the base for everything else. For example, if a walk-in customer cannot find an article within a few minutes or the store associate cannot help them find it, you end up losing that sale. Inventory accuracy not only leads to a better customer experience but also to higher omnichannel revenue. Without accurate information, you’ll either be forced to reject orders or end up fulfilling them at a very high cost.
From the bottom line standpoint, I think there are simply too many applications for the store staff to deal with. There’s an application for receiving, another application for replenishment, customer experience, omnichannel fulfillment, analytics and so on. You’re training your store staff on all these apps – and they are probably not going to stay with you for more than a few months, which is the attrition that we’re seeing. That’s just the reality of the market. Plus, most of these applications don’t even talk to each other, so in addition to giving employees an inefficient experience, they’re also leaving customers with a disconnected experience. There’s a need for a better solution, one that creates a seamless omnichannel experience.
I think Paula [Rosenblum] says it really well, in one of her blogs – it takes the right people with the right processes and the right technology to solve all of this. You can’t have one or two and expect everything to work. You need all three. You need the right people with the right processes and the right technology.
gStore is a single application that connects all the functions we just talked about and helps retailers transform a store into a customer experience zone and omnichannel fulfillment center. It sits on top of existing ERP systems, integrating with all the technology that you have in your store, and creates a single application for your store staff so they know exactly what to do, when to do it, where in the store to do it and the related SLA. You have end-to-end inventory management, omnichannel fulfillment, workforce management and intelligent tasking. Plus, if anything goes wrong in the store, the system can automatically create a remediation task to make it right.
It’s very different from the typical checklist-based method for store staff tasking; it dynamically creates the right task at the right time for the right associate. Stores have a dynamic environment — Sometimes there’s an influx of walk-in customers. Other times omnichannel fulfillment is very high. And sometimes there are a lot of orders from other stores. So the system has to intelligently prioritize each task for the right associate.
If a store has RFID, inventory accuracy can be next level. We’re talking about 99% or even higher. The system can collate millions of records in real time and process them to create the right task, the right dashboards and the right insight for every different persona. Store associates, store managers, area managers, merchandisers, operations leadership and customer support all have the right analytics on demand and can get actionable insights and take action in the same app.
Absolutely. As you said, effective inventory accuracy is key – the ability to find an article within a few minutes so that you don’t lose revenue, whether from walk-in customers or omnichannel orders.
If an item gets sold, moved or lost, the system can identify it within a couple of minutes and create a task to replenish, move or do whatever needs to be done. With that level of inventory accuracy, gStore helps transform the customer experience and the employee experience. Plus, it’s a single, full-service application for your store staff that can be deployed within a few weeks without interrupting any of your existing systems.
At COS [H&M Group], the holiday season was a huge turning point for us, because traffic was high and they saw that gStore had a tremendous positive impact on their top line, bottom line and even inventory accuracy. We’re also working with a pet retailer, at 1,700 stores globally, to help them with inventory management and omnichannel enablement.
The biggest value of gStore, if I were to sum it up, is around inventory management, omnichannel enablement, and transforming your customer and employee experiences.
AI has been around in the supply chain side for a very long time and it’s a key element of our GreyMatter software. We’re applying all that knowledge to utilize AI on the retail side as well. And that is precisely why our fulfillment experience has been instrumental in the development of gStore.
We’re using LLMs [large language models], a type of AI algorithm, to help transform stores. If you think about it from the customer standpoint, more and more people want to physically come to a store, talk to people, get assistance and whatnot. And they want to have that sense of relatability. If the digital billboards in the store display advertisements, images and models based on real-time demographics of store visitors, customers can relate to the experience.
We’re also using AI to enable store staff to use voice-based commands so they can go hands-free and get operational assistance from the system intelligently while continuing to interact with the customer.
Then there are the intelligent insights and recommendations that you could potentially give to merchandisers or leadership. Someone could ask a question like: “What would happen if store sales were to increase by 10%?” or “What is the impact that would create?” In the past, collating and manipulating all the data to answer those complicated questions would take days or weeks. With AI, we can get those answers much faster.