AWS for Industries

Retail/CPG Partner Conversations: Retail Store Shelf Technologies with Trax

The COVID-19 pandemic created unprecedented disruption. In a matter of days, our world turned upside down. As shelter-in-place lockdowns, mask mandates, and social distancing rules took hold, new patterns of consumption quickly emerged. Arguably, no industry felt the pandemic’s dramatic impact more than consumer packaged goods (CPG). However, leaders are forging ahead with resilience, tenacity, and innovation. We’ve embarked on a series of conversations with executives from AWS strategic partners, to showcase their leadership and innovation in challenging times.

In the latest installment of our Retail & CPG Partner Conversations blog series, we’re chatting with Bob Kothari, Chief Revenue Officer at Trax, a global technology company that helps CPG companies and retailers use cloud-based digital solutions to delight customers with the best shopping experiences possible.

AWS: Help our readers understand your vantage point. What’s the space you play in, and with what type of executives does Trax interact?

Bob Kothari: Trax enables brands and retailers to navigate the new frontier of retail where physical and digital come together—to delight customers at the shelf. Our computer vision, machine learning, and IoT-powered platform turn everyday shelf images into timely, actionable insights our retail customers leverage to optimize their in-store execution strategy and product availability. Many of the world’s top CPG companies and retailers use our dynamic merchandising, in-store execution, market measurement, analytics, and shelf-monitoring solutions to drive positive shopper experiences and unlock revenue opportunities along the path to purchase. Each day we interact with executives in sales, marketing, supply chain, category management, R&D, IT, and the C-suite to help define and solve retail-related pain points.

AWS: CPG companies have been managing through unprecedented disruption. What have been the biggest challenges for your customers?

Bob Kothari: According to a 2020 Trax survey of 22 CPG clients in 14 countries, as a result of the pandemic, CPG brands most notably dealt with unpredictability around stock shortages and supply chain disruptions, as well as fluctuations in ecommerce volume and changing consumer behaviors, especially as brand loyalty plummeted in response to empty shelves. This level of unpredictability made it difficult for CPG companies to plan for the long term. Here we are a year later, and many of these issues have been resolved. However, labor shortages remain, and there are new merchandising challenges since shopper behaviors have changed.

AWS: How do you see CPG companies adjusting their current operating environments to changing market dynamics and consumer expectations?

Bob Kothari: CPG brands are focused on keeping products on shelves, maintaining consistent product availability, and prioritizing core products to meet consumer demand. In addition, CPGs are trying to regain shelf-share, displays, and secondary placements, as well as restore merchandising standards and trade agreements with retailers.

CPG brands are also implementing new, adaptable ways to enable field teams. Some companies are leveraging technology and computer vision applications, like Trax’s solutions, so remote sales reps have timely shelf data at their fingertips to engage in cross-sell and upsell discussions with retail customers.

AWS: The CPG industry is incredibly resilient. As you look toward the new normal, what role do technology and the cloud play for CPGs? How do you see technology enhancing the way CPGs make, move, or market their products?

Bob Kothari: The pandemic showed CPG brands the importance of having the right digital tools in place to be flexible as the new retail reality set in. Innovative CPG brands are adopting advanced analytics technologies and digital image-recognition tools to optimize the efforts of field teams. By capturing and digitizing images of shelves, computer-vision solutions can provide an accurate, automated view of how products are performing on the shelf, including where they sit and how this affects purchase, as well as when products are out of stock. This data and insight allow brands to swiftly correct issues and maintain positive shopper experiences. The cloud is essential for capturing and processing this massive amount of shelf data.

AWS: With the current CPG industry disruption, how is your company innovating to respond to changes?

Bob Kothari: Our solutions allow CPG brands to measure and optimize in-store execution by providing comprehensive, timely insight about what is happening on the shelf. Our Dynamic Merchandising solution, a crowd marketplace of more than one million experienced retail workers (think Uber for merchandising), offers CPG brands and retailers a fast and cost-efficient way to merchandise and solve store issues. For one leading global snack brand, Trax Dynamic Merchandising helped increase revenue after deploying thousands of crowd representatives to a national convenience store chain over just three days.

AWS: There is much talk about a “new normal” going forward. What does this “new normal” look like to you, and how do you think the CPG industry will look three years from now?

Bob Kothari: The retail industry is evolving at a rapid pace and facing more challenges than ever to win at the shelf, especially with shifting consumer behavior from the pandemic and the growing popularity of online shopping. The legacy models of in-store data collection no longer serve this new normal because manual data-collection methods mean information is outdated and inaccurate. Also, legacy data collection tools simply can’t provide real-world insights or KPIs that retailers need in today’s rapidly evolving market. CPG manufacturers and retailers need scalable solutions that help them understand what’s happening at the shelf in real time to keep up with the new normal. CPG companies will continue to adopt dynamic merchandising, analytics, and shelf-monitoring solutions to efficiently manage supply chains and merchandising efforts. And as a bonus, these solutions can also drive positive shopper experiences and unlock revenue opportunities.

AWS: What makes you excited for the future of CPG?

Bob Kothari: Although CPG brands were hit hard over last year, I believe the lessons learned will lead to more innovation and creativity across the industry. For example, with rising competition from private label brands, CPGs are strategizing new ways to entice and connect with shoppers by closely monitoring competition and investing in personal promotions. The innovation that emerges in retail over the next several years because of the pandemic will change how we shop forever. We, at Trax, are looking forward to enabling the store of the future and helping CPG and retail companies meet the heightened expectations of consumers.

AWS: Thanks for chatting with us, Bob. We appreciate your insights and expertise.

We hope you enjoy our blog series. If you have questions for Bob, Trax, or AWS, please leave a comment or get in touch with Trax.

Kevin McCurdy

Kevin McCurdy

Kevin E. McCurdy is Global CPG Segment Lead – APN for AWS, responsible for identifying and engaging relationships with strategic ISV and SI Partners. Previously, he served as VP – Demand Signal Management at E2open; was Co-Founder and VP of Strategic Accounts for Orchestro, which was later acquired by E2open; and was also Co-Founder and VP of Business Development and Services at Mercari Technologies. Kevin has 25+ years of experience in supply chain management, category management, and demand signal management working with global CPG companies and retailers, including Coca-Cola, General Mills, Kellogg’s, PepsiCo, Unilever, and Kraft-Heinz. He holds a BSc in Business Logistics and International Business from Penn State.

Bob Kothari

Bob Kothari

Bob Kothari is the Chief Revenue Officer at Trax. He is responsible for the company’s go-to-market strategy and manages a team of sales professionals, sales engineers, and customer success managers. Before he joined Trax, Bob was managing director at Accenture and the business process services leader for products in North America, where he focused on the consumer products, retail, life sciences, industrial, and travel sectors. Previously, Bob led the integration of his company, Procurian, into Accenture.