The Best Way To Address On-Shelf Availability Issue In Retail - Financial news

The Best Way To Address On-Shelf Availability Issue In Retail

shelf availability

These days, its easy to buy anything you desire, courtesy e-commerce platforms. But still, when it comes to customer satisfaction, you will have to agree that nothing beats the good old practice of visiting a store near you. You move between the aisles, gazing at the products, picking them up and deciding if you want to go further with your purchase. This happens even more so when there’s a new product in town. And this, is exactly where on-shelf availability of that particular product makes or breaks a brand!

The whole purpose of shopping at a physical store is to get the real feel of the product. If the product that they are looking for is not present on the shelf, they are very likely to switch to a competitor. Retailers miss out on nearly $1 trillion in sales courtesy low OSA : because they don’t have on hand what customers want to buy in their stores. The message is therefore, simple – Stock-outs cause walkouts.

Why On-Shelf Availability is Important?

shelf availability

On-Shelf Availability is the availability of products for sale to a consumer, in the place they expect it to be and at the time they want to buy it. Today, ensuring high on-shelf availability is crucial for retailers. Apart from switching to other brands, some consumers might not even return to that particular shop at all.

In fact, in a study, it was found that in case of low on-shelf availability, as much as 50% will choose a substitute product, 40% will most likely leave empty-handed, and 10% will head to a competitor to meet their needs

Unfortunately, OSA is an area where many retail outlets struggle even today. But OSA is not just the retailers’ problem. It is also a critical growth lever for manufacturers, opening opportunities for increased sales.

What causes low On-Shelf Availability ?

Store execution procedures fail to recognize pending out-of-stock conditions and task associates with replenishing shelves on a timely basis. Often it happens that a product is present in the backroom but is not available on the shelf when the customer wants to buy it. OSA suffers heavily due to out-of-stocks, poor product placement, etc.

shelf availability

2. Improper Planning and Mismanagement

According to a study, over one-fifth out-of-stock cases are the result of poor planning and management techniques. Stores often fall short of SKUs as the shipped inventory is not enough. This leaves empty spaces on the shelf and also affects planogram compliance.

3. Inaccurate Forecasting and Ordering Problems

Inaccurate forecasting is the case when stores wrongly anticipate the demand for products which leads to insufficient supply. Another case that arises is sometimes retailers too little or too late because of which SKUs run out on the shelf before the inventory arrives. The problem worsens during promotions when demand for a product exceeds its supply.

A study found out that, if not kept in-check, low on-shelf availability could cause both manufacturers and retailers to lose up to 4 percent in sales.

Challenges In The Present Execution Methods

shelf availability

The major reason why brands suffer at the store is because of the lack of visibility into what is happening at the shelf. Present retail methods fall short of providing accurate information in real-time for better decision-making.

Manual Audits: Manual store audits have been the most opted method by retailers for keeping a check on compliance. But this method is expensive and non-scalable. It is also prone to human biases and error of judgment.

Using POS Data: This method is almost as accurate as collecting data manually. In this method, out-of-stocks are estimated based on historical sales data. This method is unreliable since the sales patterns are subject to SKU type. Some SKUs might sell really quickly while some might take a longer time to sell. POS data is usually available only at an aggregated level and not at the store-level. This means that brands cannot access granular insights.

Image Recognition For Improving The On-Shelf Availability

The Global On-Shelf Availability Solutions Market is projected to grow from USD 1.41 Billion in 2021 to USD 3.18 Billion by the end of 2028, at a CAGR of 17.6%. The market’s growth can be attributed to factors such as increasing demand for real-time data analysis and an increase in eCommerce stores globally and with good reason!

The goal here is to create a SMART Shelf. According to a report by Nielsen, A planogram will generate a “SMART” shelf only if it has the right balance of art and science. A SMART shelf is – Shopper friendly, Maximizes sales and profits, Avoids out-of stocks, Reduces operational inefficiencies and Triggers experimentation. Thus, a SMART shelf will help shoppers, manufacturers and retailers.

Image recognition solutions provide dedicated on-shelf information by giving brands digital eyes in the stores. The solutions capture images of retail shelves, which are then processed and analyzed to offer insights around out-of-stocks and planogram compliance. Auditing shelf management using Image Recognition digitizes store checks. It plays an essential role in understanding the shelf conditions and how they affect the sales of their core SKUs.

The following workflow below demonstrates how an Image Recognition solution like ShelfWatch works.

ShelfWatch eliminates all the bottlenecks in the traditional retail audit process that are currently eating into the time of the sales rep or merchandisers during their store visit. Using Image recognition, ShelfWatch empowers reps to collect photos with a click of a button and generate actionable, real-time store insights. It is reliable, free of human biases, and fast. The algorithm controls the data quality at the collection level to bring out the standard and objective analysis.

Found this blog useful? Read this blog to read more on ShelfWatch.

Want to see how your own brand is performing on the shelves? Click here to schedule a free demo.


  • Ankit Singh
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Ankit Singh
Co-Founder & CTO, ParallelDots at
Ankit has over seven years of entrepreneurial experience spanning multiple roles across software development and product management with AI at its core. He is currently the co-founder and CTO of ParallelDots. At ParallelDots, he is heading the product and engineering teams to build enterprise grade solutions that is deployed across several Fortune 100 customers.

A graduate from IIT Kharagpur, Ankit worked for Rio Tinto in Australia before moving back to India to start ParallelDots.

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Latest posts by Ankit Singh
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  • ShelfWatch – A Smart Image Recognition based Retail Execution Software - November 10, 2021
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  • Announcing our ISO 27001:2013 Certification - August 14, 2021

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