A new service predicts client traffic using AI and geolocation data. SoftBank Group is developing a $40 per month consumer forecasting service for retailers to make big data analysis more affordable to small Japanese businesses.
Starting this financial year, the Japanese IT giant will promote its “Sakimiru” service to many corporate clients, including SMBs. In January, “see the future” was rolled out to a few major companies.
The program tracks foot traffic using location data from about 30 million mobile phones connected to SoftBank base stations. The Japan Weather Association’s two-week weather forecasts factor in factors like temperature and wind to predict foot activity around retailers.
Businesses can input previous consumer traffic and sales data, and the system uses artificial intelligence to estimate future traffic. It also sorts consumer data by gender, age, and whether they’re natives or tourists.
Rates start at 5,390 yen ($41). Advanced services like product-level demand predictions and automatic stocking will be charged extra. In a March 2021 study at a pharmacy chain, Sakimiru estimates were roughly 7% off from actual consumer traffic figures.
Detailed traffic projections help retailers avoid overstocking or running out of inventory. The Sakimiru test reduced product waste by 3% and lost income by 15%. The technology may also automatically predict employee needs and plan shifts, saving labor costs.
These studies have been available to huge retail chains with extensive point-of-sale networks but not to smaller enterprises. Services that use local foot traffic data are frequently too expensive for these enterprises.
NTT Data’s demand forecasting service, which uses traffic flow data from NTT Docomo’s mobile network, costs at least 5 million yen ($38,000). KDDI charges 2.4 million yen per year for detailed demographic visitor data.
For 10,000-20,000 yen each month, businesses offer similar services. However, these generally rely on the weather and past consumer counts and exclude local foot traffic. SoftBank saved money by automating data scientist tasks. It has also developed a proprietary algorithm to estimate demand for businesses like retailers and restaurants, saving time and effort in customizing services.
The company has helped cut prices in other areas such as the internet and cellphones. It hopes to be the first in big data analysis by cutting costs. SoftBank said it would work with other firms as part of the service’s data expansion.
Startups like Shopify in Canada and Base in Japan have lowered e-commerce service prices. Line, a SoftBank group company, plans to establish an e-commerce website platform soon, with no upfront or monthly fees.
However, small and medium-sized enterprises have been slow to implement digital storefront solutions. While smartphone payment terminals are becoming increasingly common, digital marketing still consists of building online sales channels and promoting online.
On the whole, Japan had roughly 990 000 physical retail businesses in 2016. Eighty-two percent of retail stores employ five or fewer. In other words, there is a big demand for digital help for small businesses.
According to IDC Japan, Japan’s big data analytics market will rise 7% to 333.7 billion yen by 2020. Changes in the market are expected to increase in the next years. SoftBank’s investment may lead to cheaper analytic services.