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This Retail-Tech Start-up Helps Brands Keep an Eye on Their Store Shelves

Singapore-based Trax is re-envisioning the retail landscape in Southeast Asia

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BY Ezra Ferraz - 21 Dec 2017 Trax Uses Computer Vision to See Everything in StorePHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images Though Singapore-based Trax offers a diverse portfolio of products and solutions, at its core the company is re-envisioning the retail landscape. According to Fei Fei Ho, global vice president for marketing and communications, Trax moves beyond basic image recognition toward fully digitizing supermarket shelves. Ho says Trax can contextually analyze the entire shelf at the most granular level, including brand, stock keeping unit (SKU), product location, pricing labels, and more. This technical feat relies on the platform’s computer vision and deep learning to overcome real-world recognition challenges, such as near identical products, obstructed products, new packaging, poor lighting, and even reflective packaging. “This level of digitization of the store unleashes for the first time, a mass of actionable insights, on a scale never seen before, and allows brands and retailers to gain business insights that enable them to make game-changing decisions,” she says. There is tremendous value in such digitalization for both brands and retailers. Through IoT devices, such as fixed-shelf cameras, retailers can capture images across the entire breadth of their shelves and stores. “These images are sent to our Trax cloud for analysis, enabling retailers to access real-time insights about what happening on their store shelves to address product availability and replenishment issues, improve merchandising, drive operational efficiencies and ultimately raise their game in customer experience and keep shoppers coming back to their stores,” Ho says. Once images are sent to Trax cloud, brands can also obtain accurate key performance indicators and shelf conditions in real time, which eliminates manual audit processes and tools used by most companies. This improves cost and operational efficiencies. “To date, Trax has over 8 billion products recognized, creating the world’s largest retail shelf database. With each day and each image analyzed, Trax’s platform gets smarter and smarter; deepening its knowledge of the retail landscape,” she says. When Trax pitches their solutions to companies in Southeast Asia, Ho says one of the most common concerns is how computer vision solutions can be practically applied to their particular business, as well as the return on investment (ROI). Most businesses already know how a technology solution like Trax can automate their manual audits, so the company tries to focus on the bigger picture. “The greater value that clients see us bringing is beyond automation, it’s the accuracy in the data and the quality of insights they derive to grow their products and brands in all retail channels, including traditional trade, on-premise (restaurants, bars, airports) convenience, and more,” Ho says. As an example of how Trax can help businesses in Southeast Asia, Ho shared the case of a leading global beverage company who discovered that 60 to 80% of shoppers never visit the beverage aisle in supermarkets. The company needed to improve product placement to increase facings within various store locations. “Using Trax’s in-store location comparative audit, the client understood where in the store they had lesser number of facings. [For example], cold shelf, ambient shelf, gondola, etc., and also uncovered assortment errors that needed to be fixed, [such as] 500/523 ML in warm shelves,” Ho says. She says Trax will continue to expand its footprint across Southeast Asia, with a particular focus on Thailand and Indonesia. For other entrepreneurs who may want to reach the scale that Trax has had across Asia, Ho has this piece of advice. “Have a clear vision of the purpose and path of the company. Be relentlessly focused on developing mature technology that adds real business value to clients. Always deliver to local market needs and requirements, particularly in Southeast Asia, where there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution,” she says.
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