For optimized product placement and pricing: NRW state government supports AI project in retail trade
Artificial intelligence for retail: NRW state government supports innovative research project in retail.
Stationary and online retail are two sides of the same coin, but the digital potential is often not fully exploited in local retail. As part of the “Thinking digital and stationary retail trade together” project, the NRW state government launched a corresponding offensive by innovative partners from retail, local authorities, universities and technology companies. Among the five selected projects is a concept that is now being implemented at the Warendorf`s fashion house “Modehaus Ebbers” together with the Bielefeld-based EK/servicegroup, the Frankfurt AI software company Panther Solutions and the Retail Artificial Intelligence Lab (retAIL) of the faculty of Prof. Dr. Reinhard Schütte at the University of Duisburg-Essen.
“The great advantages of the stationary specialized trade compared to the pure online retailer are simply said: Look, experience, take away. And in the fashion sector, even try it on. We have found that, in addition to the actual selection and pricing of the products, it depends on where in the store which products are positioned. This ultimately led to the project idea KIEPO – Artificial Intelligence in Retail for Product Placement Optimization. We are very pleased that our project is being financially supported by the state of NRW,” says fashion “Modehaus Ebbers” owner and EK retail partner Christoph Berger.
AI expertise in retail
KIEPO is about researching sales-related decisions in the retail industry. On the basis of the software solution “Panther Pricing” from the company Panther Solutions, the forecasts of future article sales and the know-how about the effects of buying impulses are to be optimized – not under laboratory conditions, but 100 percent oriented to practical applications. “AI competence without industry expertise is like a bazooka without a scope and rarely leads to good results. Our pricing software is already successfully in use at “Modehaus Ebbers”. Now it is time to develop the next milestone of optimal sales control together with KIEPO”, says Nils Streitbürger, founder of Panther Solutions. The “Panther Pricing” software uses AI-based algorithms for the automated generation of optimal price recommendations for retailers – in stationary trade as well as in e-commerce.
In the future, Ebbers will use electronic price labels to localize items in the store. The Retail Artificial Intelligence Lab (retAIL) of the faculty of Prof. Dr. Reinhard Schütte at the University of Duisburg-Essen is developing the scientific basis for the implementation in practice: “The collected information will then be merged with other data, such as master data, movement and transaction data, and form the basis for the development of an AI model for the optimal combination of placement and pricing,” says Reinhard Schütte.
Ensuring long-term competitiveness
After successful completion of the project, the Bielefeld-based company plans to roll out the jointly developed solution throughout the retail sector. “Here we are creating an objective control instrument for noticeably increasing sales and profits that does not yet exist in the retail sector. KIEPO leads our retailers into the age of artificial intelligence and thus makes a significant contribution to securing long-term competitiveness,” emphasizes Susanne Sorg, member of the EK/servicegroup board.
Fashion specialist with IT know-how
With Ebbers, a company is in the “project boat”, which not only operates at the highest level in fashion. The EK Passion Star winner Christoph Berger, who is the fourth generation of the family to run the company, can look back on over 10 years of professional experience in IT consulting – specialized knowledge that he is only too happy to incorporate into the strategic orientation of his fashion house. In the field of energy efficiency, his company was awarded the “EnergyInnovationsPreis NRW” of the Energy Agency NRW in 2018 and 2020.
Employees from various areas of the company are involved in the current project, which is important to Christoph Berger. “We are starting here directly with the core tasks: The presentation and sale of goods. In addition to conceptual skills, the operational competence of the entire team is particularly important here. And fortunately we have a lot of that”. These are the best conditions for a successful project plan.
Support retail trade, preserve city centers
The overriding aim of the project, which was initiated by the NRW Ministry of Economic Affairs, Innovation, Digitization and Energy, is to support retailers in combining digital solutions with stationary elements. The focus is on the sustainability of the retail trade and the preservation of lively city centers. These are concerns that are anchored in the corporate DNA of EK/servicegroup, a group of around 4,000 affiliated retailers across Europe.
Of a total of 30 project proposals submitted, five were recommended by a jury for funding by the State of NRW – one of them is the KIEPO project. In future, the partners will report on the progress of the project on the website www.kiepo.de.
About the project partners:
Ebber’s Modeerlebnis from Warendorf is a traditional fashion house with a high degree of innovation and thus offers the best conditions for practical project development.
The EK/servicegroup is one of the largest European retail cooperations. The primary objective is to promote the competitiveness of the affiliated stores on a long-term basis. Forward-looking projects such as KIEPO are important stages on this path for the Bielefeld company.
The technology start-up Panther Solutions from Frankfurt, founded in 2018, focuses on artificial intelligence applications in retail. The cloud software Panther Pricing, which is already in use on the market, generates automated price recommendations and is to be expanded to include the dimension of product placement within the framework of KIEPO.
The University of Duisburg-Essen is represented by the Chair of Business Informatics and Integrated Information Systems and is accompanying the project from a scientific perspective. The affiliated Retail Artificial Intelligence Lab at the chair of Prof. Dr. Reinhard Schütte contributes its expertise from the retail sector and the use of algorithms and software systems.