Shelfgram facilitates in-store visits from home

The retail photo platform aims to help marketers ensure retail experiences, displays and stock levels are consistent across markets.

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Retail photo platform Shelfgram, which launched three months ago, is a repository of shelf and product images supplied by the industry, fulfillment partners and consumers that lets users browse the aisles of over 2,000 stores globally from wherever they are – including the comfort of their own homes.

But even before the pandemic, a digital service that allows brand managers and retailers to check on stores without entering them was in high demand in the CPG and grocery industries, according Shelfgram founder Bram Warshafsky.

According to Warshafsky, the tool lets brands better understand what the competition is doing in-store, solve inconsistencies across in-store presentation and verify the execution of store programs. Users can even import best practices in specific categories from other markets and monitor product availability; retailers could, for example, look to similar stores in other markets for ideas, inspiration and learnings to establish new best practices.

Shelfgram also offers machine learning photo algorithms that generate heatmaps to predict human eye fixation patterns or automatically add photo tags so that users can sift and sort through images more easily. There are also private clouds of images available for a subscription fee.

On the manufacturer side, Warshafsky says, users can look at how many facings they have in terms of shelf share. “You could have 40% market share, but only 10% of the store shelf,” he says, and brands can address that by better understanding how their product is being stocked.

The insights firm Field Agent recently partnered with Shelfgram for a “Retail Out Of Stock Tracker.” Field Agent took shots of key product categories like household cleaners, liquid hand soap and bathroom tissue across 27 store locations in Canada, so users could compare the progress retailers were making to get each category back to normal as products flew off the shelf amidst COVID-19 concerns.

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Warshafsky says the company had been piloting Shelfgram with a handful of CPG brands, and when they had trouble finding what they were looking for, he added the option of being able to direct orders to the retail location. Suddenly, Shelfgram had more valuable in-store qualitative data and companies have been able to better direct supply.

One persistent challenge CPG marketers face is displays not showing properly in store (see below), whether it is being obscured by another display, the brand name being hidden from view, or even corrugates being placed upside down. With Shelfgram, Warshafsky says, it’s easier to monitor how things are being displayed.

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“All the reasons you’d want to do a physical store check, is why you’d want to do a Shelfgram one,” he says. Warshafsky used to be a brand manager in packaged goods and admits that while doing store checks are a “10” in terms of importance, it was difficult to do even pre-pandemic. He says he often couldn’t find the time because of meetings and would only be able to get out two or three times a year, sometimes during seasonal campaigns and often only at the stores that were closest to his office. As a result, he often would not know what was going on from the year prior to him taking over a role, or what was happening in on-shelf western Canada, Quebec, or the U.S.

With Shelfgram users can also use the app to institutionalize data from visits for the company and the next person in a role, and Warshafsky says user experience helps set it apart from other business tools, as it has consumer-style UX more akin to social media, which encourages exploration of other stores and uses popularity algorithms to see trends of what people are sharing on social media.

While its primary focus is CPG manufacturers in grocery, drug and mass merch, he says there could be a big opportunity for clothing retailers as well, who can, for example, see window displays in Tokyo or New York to adapt to other markets.