"Personalized localization" is a focus for many category managers.

With unlimited choices, the modern shopper is becoming more intentional in the aisle, increasingly driven by brand name, price and now products bearing “local” and “organic” tags.

In its latest survey, JDA Software Inc. reveals nearly half of manufacturers and retailers, or 43 percent, plan to invest in customer-driven data science in the next five years, representing a 16 percent increase since its 2017 comparison.

Highlighting the “strategic importance” of product assortment, Todd McCourtie, senior director, industry strategy at JDA, believes assortments “must be centered on how these products will enable consumers to have their evolving needs fulfilled,” and doing so lies in the effectiveness of their data.

In its “Voice of the Category Manager Survey,” JDA surveyed more than 130 professionals with roles in category management and merchandising in North America, revealing greater confidence — and investment — in their effective use of customer data to tailor merchandising assortments. For category managers responding to the survey, providing shoppers deeper price visibility and clearer paths to purchase are the top priorities.

More so, category managers feel strained to offer greater visibility and highly personalized assortments with regard to lifestyle and localization trends. With the aid of data, retailers and manufacturers are also focusing on these shopper needs, according to the survey.

“By leveraging analytics-driven insights about shopper behaviors at the macro and local market level, they can develop localized, actionable, space-aware assortment plans for more profitable growth,” McCourtie reiterated.

Within the two years of the study, JDA found a 50 percent increase in the number of retailers and manufacturers that can effectively mine and leverage customer data, which is vital in making “smarter and more strategic decisions,” according to McCourtie.

The speed at which the respondents believe their companies can adopt newly implemented technology to unlock consumer insights is growing, and it may reveal another benefit — retention of talent.

From a human resources perspective, having new technology in the workplace enables employees to do their jobs better. More than three-quarters of respondents, “or 78 percent, believe that implementing new technologies helps retain talent.”

To “ride the wave of customer demand,” the survey suggests category management professionals are increasingly investing in data-driven technologies. Other “top of mind” digital technology investments include big data/predictive analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

A supply chain and retail software solution for “4,000 of the world’s leading retail, manufacturing and logistics companies,” JDA Software uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to power decision-making.

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