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Schnucks Mobilizes Tech to Drive Results

St. Louis-based Schnuck Markets has leveraged technology from Simbe Robotics since first piloting the Tally inventory management robot and accompanying software in 2017. By 2021, the company began rolling the capabilities to its entire footprint and has communicated its utility to both employees and shoppers.

Tally is a robot that traverses store aisles up to three times a day to capture on-shelf data like inventory position, price accuracy, promotional execution, and more. It is in use at all but one of Schnuck Markets 115 stores. 

Schnucks' VP of IT infrastructre and application, Dave Steck noted that the original intention of implementing Tally was to help identify out of stocks.

“While we had performed well at managing these outs, we wanted to be better. With Tally, we were able to find items that needed to be addressed more quickly and consistently, which in turn greatly improved our OOS percentages to be among the best in the industry, meaning our customers are more likely to find the items that they are looking for on the shelf,” said Steck.

SFA News Daily spoke with Steck about how Schnucks uses Simbe’s technology in its stores.

How has Tally helped to deliver a better shopping experience for your consumers?

We can utilize Tally to find the precise location of items in our store. Tally monitors product location daily and that information is then provided to our customers within our Schnucks Rewards app. If a customer uses our app to build their shopping list, no matter what store they walk into, that shopping list will be sorted for them based on Tally’s location data for that store. Secondly, if they are in a store and looking for an item, they can search for the item [in the app], and we will give them the aisle, side, and section number for the item. We have location tags throughout the store for every four-foot section which ties directly to the app.

As a further refinement to the in-store experience for our customers, we have begun the process of installing electronic shelf labels in our stores which replace the traditional paper tags. In the 60+ stores where these are installed, we give the customers the option in the Schnucks Reward app to flash an LED on the tag so they can quickly locate the item on the shelf. We plan to have ESLs in all our stores within the next year.

What features do you find most useful?

Simply the overall design of Tally. We liked the form factor of Tally in that it is smaller than any other robot on the market, and it was the only one that didn’t use lighting to illuminate the shelving, which on all other robots was extremely bright. We also liked that it positions itself close to the shelves and doesn’t go down the center of the aisle like some of the other robots. Battery life and recharging cycles were important as well, as we have Tally traverse the store three times a day.

Have you been able to leverage the data collected to better understand your shoppers or your optimal planogram?

The data that we collect isn’t specifically used to better understand shopping. We can see if products don’t have enough shelf holding to last a day and can adjust the planogram to increase the space allocated for a product if necessary.

What growth hurdles are on the horizon for grocery? Do you feel technologies like this help future-proof the retailer?

There are a multitude of outside factors that can impact growth either negatively or positively. Ultimately, using technology to streamline operations, ensure good in-stock position, maintain accurate pricing, and improve the overall customer experience will help us prepare for the future.

Related: Wegmans, Instacart Partner on Alcohol Delivery; Significant Shrink Attributed to Self-Checkout

Image: Simbe