Here is a review of the top 5 merchandising automation programs.*
*This list is based on both our research and market feedback
Introduction to planogram software
Assortment planning and efficient merchandise display layout are among the most important elements in category management and require diligence and focus at every stage.
Managing merchandising in several stores is not that difficult of a task if you possess good skills in understanding customer preferences, managing sales promotions, and producing planograms.
However, managing the supermarket chain is a completely different game and requires a combination of the same skills and tools:
- allow to automate space planning and generate store-specific planograms for every category;
- allow to develop and schedule planograms in advance to meet anticipated seasonal, marketing and assortment changes, etc.;
- ensure prompt two-way communication between headquarters and retail locations;
- provide transparency in planogram task completion at any given moment at every location.
- create alignment and ensure seamless communication between the headquarters and branches, category, merchandising and store managers.
TOP cloud planogram programs providers
The planogram software market is responsive to business needs on process automation. Therefore, an abundance of solutions is available today, and it makes the selection of the "best fit" a very challenging task.
The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of the most popular offers that feature:
- planogram creation;
- communication capabilities;
- continuous performance optimization.
LEAFIO Planogram Optimization Solution
LEAFIO has been developing retail cloud solutions for over ten years now. Planogram software from LEAFIO is the only end-to-end macro and micro space planning solution in today's list. It includes:
- Macro and Micro configurators allow the generation of 2D floor plans and populating them with 3D fixtures from the pre-configured fixture and containers template library. Planograms can be generated automatically by applying proprietary and configurable algorithms based on assortment, volume, price, sales, turnover, priority, dimensions data that will produce financially and visually efficient store-specific planograms;
- built-in a planner for future layout design, modification, and timely distribution to all retail locations;
- single planogram optimization environment that aligns all managerial levels: from the head office that creates planograms, plans tasks, monitors performance to local managers who participate in planogram implementation and can communicate in real-time via a native mobile app.
- automatic recognition of photo-realograms compares visual parameters of submitted photo reports and planograms based on the Deep Learning capabilities that assign the level of conformity.
- Extensive analytical reports on the effectiveness of new planograms and planogram modifications, sales and margin performance, user activity heat maps, and assortment optimization insights.
- performance-oriented technical support and customer success services
LEAFIO offers free trials and supports an unlimited number of users. Overall this product provides an integrated Macro&Micro Space Planning and management integration designed to efficiently generate planograms for better financial performance and fast execution. Its capabilities, ease of use, and pricing are equally suitable for all types of retail chains, large or small.
DotActiv has been an active market player for over 30 years and currently features:
- Store plan creation. 2D plans are generated with a schematic visualization similar to the official floor plan diagrams. The functionality includes a customer action heat map with sales analysis that allows for space optimization and reduction of congestions in the supermarkets during rush hours;
- 2D layouts of goods with fixture sales performance analysis. In addition, customers are offered planogram automation capabilities based on a list of criteria (category, brand, size, etc.). Planograms connected to the floor plans;
- Planograms are sent to employees in the field via Activ8 tool while the layout control at the locations is completed with a mobile application's photo fixation of realograms and reference to the generated planograms. This allows the headquarters to check and verify task completion quickly;
- Operational retail task scheduling and management tool.
DotActiv offers a free trial for up to 20 users, which means that the cost of the product depends on the number of seats. DotActiv also provides space planning outsourcing services for those interested.
Overall, DotActiv has reasonably extensive capabilities in terms of planogramming software. At the same time, there is a feeling of some fragmentation and asynchrony of its components. In particular, lack of a planogram implementation status dashboard, the availability of reporting tools for field controllers vs. merchandisers at the store, etc.
Relex, like DotActiv, offers several separate products:
- planogram and retail space planning - features 2D planogram generation and space planning with remote access to them by merchandisers and local management, as well as the ability to replenish products at the specific fixture;
- an assortment planning tool - allows employees at the store to suggest assortment changes based on the planogram data;
- a program and application for communication between field staff and the central office of the retail chain - enables task creation, execution, and implementation monitoring in a different environment.
According to user reviews of Relex's planogram software on gartner.com, the product lacks synchronization of planograms and overall retail space plans. In addition, users identify the ease of deployment, quality of technical support, and communication with the help desk as mediocre, along with conclusions about the need for in-depth and detailed training on the platform's capabilities. This can cause additional challenges for employees and management of smaller retail chains, leading to the conclusion that the platform is more suitable for large players of the retail world.
Symphony RetailAI has been on the market for about as long as DotActiv. The planogram software consists of:
- a retail space clustering tool that offers artificial intelligence that selects the optimal mix of core and supplementary assortment at each point of sale, taking into account inventory levels based on customer demand levels;
- an assortment optimizer that tracks and learns user behavior in the store for better product placement;
- a planogram tool which makes it possible to create 2D layouts of the equipment by incorporating into the planogram the recommendations for the best placement of products, taking into account the rules of article compatibility and the general rules of planogram design;
- web programs for automated optimization of planograms that allow to reduce the number of routine processes and quickly send planograms for realization;
- Shelf Intelligence is a realogram recognition system that allows one to organize actions to improve the conformity of the realogram to the planogram (examples include creating a list of products that are not in stock on equipment, moving irrelevant products or replacing the wrong price tags and promotional stickers).
The Symphony RetailAI functional description fails to explain how the permanent feedback between the main office and retail outlets on task fulfillment is supported (except for the realogram recognition tool) and how daily operations planning is organized in the system.
NielsenIQ - Spaceman
This planogram software is part of the Nielsen Holdings family of products. The company traces its history back to 1923 and is named after one of the forefathers of retail analytics, Arthur Nielsen.
Spaceman provides planogram generation capabilities and ensures efficient layout arrangement on the shelf with semi-automatic planogram generation while NielsenIQ Shelf Architect synchronizes planograms and store plans. Store plans are displayed in a Smart Store tool with a 360-degree view. Analytics include charts for key performance tracking, planogram executions, and plan changes indicators.
NielsenIQ capabilities are quite extensive, but based on their description, they are not integrated into a single platform. Also, the description of these products does not disclose the communication inconsistencies between the points of sale and the headquarters. According to gartner.com reviews, this company's programs are more suitable for small retail chains and are not universally adaptable in functionality for different business sizes. In addition, if you choose this product, you may have problems synchronizing this product with an ERP system. This is not surprising since Nielsen Holdings' main specialization is, after all, market research and development of marketing tools.
The majority of the leading solutions are geared towards large retail businesses. In contrast, only a few solutions are suitable for medium and small retail and are flexible and configurable enough to serve their needs.
Almost all solutions feature layout and store plan optimization, but some of them are "stuck" in outdated 2D-modeling technologies, while others offer built-in 3D capabilities;
Few vendors offer solutions that consist of several separate tools that lack synchronization, and this might result in slower and less efficient performance.