Case Study

How Asda tackled phantom inventory with Retail Insight


Solutions used

The Challenge

Inventory accuracy is a challenge that plagues grocery retail. Whether it's theft, poor process compliance or mis-scanned items, to name a few, the causes for phantom inventory are varied and complex. 

It therefore isn't surprising that recent research from ECR Retail Loss demonstrated that 60% of inventory records are incorrect, a stark reminder of the scale of the problem.

With over 800 locations and 18 million customers per week, Asda inevitably identified the effects of phantom inventory and were looking for a scalable solution that was easy to integrate across their estate.

  • 63x ROI Since launch
  • 1.6m units Removed from inventory
  • 19 Units removed, on average, per worked alert
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A Data-Led Approach to Phantom Inventory

Since 2009, we have been supporting Asda to enhance their in-store operations, with our data-led solutions enabling them to get a tighter grip on replenishment and availability.  As a result, we are able to use the data we already draw across the Asda estate to support tackling phantom inventory with our cognitive technology solution InventoryInsight.

Our solution uses a blend of AI and Machine learning algorithms, and human subject matter expertise, to train a data model for each store. Primarily leveraging sales and inventory data, we are able to quickly detect and alert store colleagues to instances of phantom inventory. 

Given that we use foundational store data, the technology is easy to implement and easy to use, and it was this approach that excited Asda about assessing our capabilities. Their primary focus was on assessing the accuracy of the alerts that we delivered to in-store colleagues as well as the improvements in product availability and sales.

"All retailers have a problem with phantom inventory, and the majority are looking to find a solution for dealing with it in an efficient and scalable way. Our solution was a perfect fit and we could draw on our extensive experience of Asda's in-store operations. It's been fantastic to work with the Asda team to deliver this project, with some fantastic results."

Wesley Mellor
Customer Success Manager, Retail Insight

Delivering tangible value, quickly

Roll out of our InventoryInsight solution across the Asda estate began in July 2023, and has focused on manual interventions. By that, we mean that a phantom inventory alert is sent to the store to manually validate at the shelf-edge, at which point the inventory file will be updated by the store associate. This gives stores the opportunity to review high-impact alerts to help drive total store performance, but it also creates labor efficiencies through prioritized action.

Given the close collaboration with the team at Asda, we were able to embed processes quickly and maintain a high level of compliance which has resulted in some incredibly positive results in under twelve months.

In line with Asda's goals for the project, we have, since July, seen:

  • 1.6m units of phantom inventory have been removed using our alerting methodology.
  • 19 units removed, on average, per worked alert.
  • A 63x return on investment for Asda.

"Given the impressive results we received at trial, we were excited to conduct a full roll out of the InventoryInsight solution. We have not been disappointed by that decision with metrics that have exceeded our expectations. The ability to accurately identify phantom inventory across our estate is a huge advantage for our business, and goes a long way in enabling us to deliver a better in-store experience for our shoppers "

Neil Fairclough
Senior Director of Retail Transformation, Asda

We will continue to work with Asda to tweak and refine our solution to maintain consistent benefits for the business. One of our future enhancements will be to deliver automation enhancements in how we correct their inventory record. 

To find out more about InventoryInsight you can visit our product page. Alternatively if you would like to find out more about how we can help you, you can get in touch with us using the form below. 

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