In my last post, I highlighted findings from a section within Boston Retail Partner's 2016 Merchandise Planning Benchmark Survey that looked at what retailers are doing today to manage their omni-channel planning needs. The JustEnough Software-sponsored research revealed that retailers still predominantly plan selling channels separately, most recognize the opportunity for better cross-channel integration.
In today's post, we'll take a closer look at a section of the survey that analyzes what retailers can do to overcome obstacles standing in the way of optimized merchandise-planning effectiveness. It basically comes down to two key challenges: the need for advanced analytics and overcoming technology constraints.
In regards to advanced analytics, 44% of retailers said this continues to be a top planning priority. They understand that having visibility into the finer details of their business is crucial in their quest to satisfy customer demand, fulfill inventory and maximize revenue, and that analytics around sales performance by channel, by assortment and even down to the item level will facilitate more accurate planning and allocation decisions. However, the survey found that half of retailers currently leverage advanced analytics in merchandise planning, while a mere 12% use it for omni-channel planning.
Despite access to readily available data that could reveal much about customer preferences, future demand, reaction to promotions and the like, retailers often struggle to interpret and utilize analytics. The survey suggests that the ability to use data to improve business performance suffers due to a lack of cross-organizational alignment and inconsistent processes, which retailers must address in order to create a unified commerce environment.
As noted at the start of this post, technology continues to be a hindrance for many retailers. Specifically, 21% of survey respondents cite disparate systems and process challenges, respectively, as their top obstacles. Solutions that address customer touch points typically get more attention because of the perceived immediate impact they’ll have; as such, it can be difficult to find the budget needed for back-end planning solutions. And, reengineering processes and getting internal buy-in required to support new system capabilities is a major undertaking. Regardless, the majority are not satisfied with their existing applications and plan to undergo upgrades and replacements over the next two years.
Although retailers realize there are huge gains to be made to improve their omni-channel planning environment, the survey indicates that fully integrated solutions have yet to make their way into the systems landscape at most organizations. Technology that allows for unified management of transactions across all channels will become more and more critical for retailers in the years ahead.
In next week’s blog post, we’ll talk more in-depth about the integration issues retailers are dealing with as it relates to pursuing an omni-channel inventory strategy. The Boston Retail Partners survey can be found here, and be sure to contact JustEnough today to learn more about our end-to-end suite of omni-channel demand management solutions.
Last week, we introduced findings from Boston Retail Partners’ 2016 Merchandise Planning Benchmark Survey, which ultimately found that planning teams within retail organizations are not prepared for unified commerce. In fact, the JustEnough-sponsored report, the research pointed out that a high majority (71%) of retailers have yet to create a formal omni-channel demand planning process. And, while 44% have integrated planning teams, 88% of those retailers indicated their teams could use improvement.
In this post, we’ll dive deeper into a section of the report that analyzes what retailers are doing today to manage their omni-channel merchandise planning needs. In terms of the formal planning processes retailers employ, the Boston Retail Partners survey concluding that advanced planning tools have enabled a better omni-channel retail model. Nearly 91% of retailers have a formalized merchandise planning process, and over half have formalized their store planning and allocation processes.
Yet, retailers still by and large plan selling channels separately, maintaining individual assortments and inventories for each. Regardless, most organizations recognize the opportunity for better cross-channel integration: while last year’s survey showed that 60% of respondents still planned their brick-and-mortar locations separately from other channels, that figure has decreased to 38% this year. Additionally, just 15% of retailers said they plan for e-commerce individually this year, versus 49% in 2015.
The report also found that cross-channel assortments remains an area of focus for most retailers. Less than one-fifth (18%) offer the same assortment across channels – despite universal acceptance that inventory availability across all channels is key to providing a truly unified shopping experience.
In regards to cross-channel inventory management, retailers are making progress: In 2014, 69% maintained separate inventories across channels, but by 2015 that figure had dropped to less than half (49%). In 2016, that figure has dropped even lower to 29%.
The use of advanced technology to facilitate better omni-channel retail planning continues to be a challenge, however. Spreadsheets remain in use, with 41% of retailers relying on them for store planning, 27% for assortment planning and localization and 26% for space planning – despite the fact that many retailers believe their planning solutions to be lacking in effectiveness and admit greater satisfaction with vendor or homegrown tools.
In next week’s blog post, we’ll talk more in-depth about the obstacles retailers are facing when it comes to creating an optimized omni-channel environment. In the meantime, the full set of Boston Retail Partners survey findings can be found here. Contact JustEnough today to learn more about how our innovative, end-to-end suite of omni-channel demand management solutions support many of the world’s most premier companies.
Despite ongoing efforts to create a seamless omni-channel environment, retailers’ planning organizations are not wholly ready for unified commerce, according to Boston Retail Partners’ 2016 Merchandise Planning Benchmark Survey.
Sponsored by JustEnough Software, the annual survey explores the current state of retail planning, identifying and analyzing retailers’ priorities for the coming year. It comes as no surprise that today’s retailers struggle with a host of business and IT issues as they strive for an efficient, successful omni-channel environment. Customers are increasingly demanding, armed with the ability to shop whenever, wherever and however they want with high expectations that what they are looking for will be available for the right price the moment they are ready to make a purchase.
Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll dive deeper in the survey findings, but below are the three most-commonly cited omni-channel planning challenges:
- The retailer’s organizational structure is not set up to support an omni-channel environment.
- Planning applications are ineffective and not integrated.
- The organization is ill-equipped to analyze the high volume of data required to optimize planning decision.
In fact, the research shows that 71% of retailers have yet to create a formal omni-channel demand planning process. Additionally, 38% of respondents plan brick-and-mortar as an individual channel, and while 44% have integrated planning teams, 88% of those retailers indicated they could use improvement.
When asked how to overcome the obstacles, just shy of half (44%) said improving analytics is a top priority. Twenty-one percent said disparate systems and process challenges are the biggest obstacles, and 41% are looking to upgrade their omni-channel demand planning systems within two years.
Finally, when asked about integration issues, while 63% of retailers have integrated their planning organizations across channels, three-quarters said they have work to do in that arena. Seventy percent said they have integrated planning business processes across channels in place, but of those 83% need improvement. Finally, just over half (53%) have integrated planning systems across channels, but 77% said they could be better.
Keep an eye out for next week’s blog post for a closer look at what retailers are doing today to manage customer expectations across all selling channels, according to the survey data. To access the Boston Retail Partners research, click here and be sure to contact JustEnough today to learn more about our fully integrated, end-to-end suite of omni-channel demand management solutions.
Black Friday sales confirmed that, above all, discounts drive consumers to open their wallets. A new study by the National Retail Federation published in Fortune found that shoppers spent $289.19 on average over the four-day weekend compared to $299.60 over the same period last year. The NRF estimates that 108.5 million people in the U.S. shopped online and 99.1 million visited brick-and-mortar stores on Black Friday and the days that followed.
The article also points out that discounting for the Black Friday rush started earlier this year (right after Halloween). Market Track analysis the week before predicted that deals would be deeper to drive up traffic – likely because top retailers like Walmart said they would fight hard on price. Best Buy and Macy’s Black Friday deals were 5 percentage points greater this year versus last, while Walmart’s were 4 points higher. Even luxury retailer Neiman Marcus was uncharacteristically aggressive in marketing its promotions this year.
The NRF survey also found that 36.2% of consumers indicated all their purchases were on sale, and two-thirds confirmed what they bought was discounted. BTIG analysts suggested that Black Friday shoppers responded solely to promotions – especially at lower- and middle-tier retailers. This aligns with pre-holiday predictions that discount stores, in particular, would thrive this holiday season given how well they did the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. Foursquare, a location tracking company, believes that the number of visits to dollar stores this year will exceed that last two holiday seasons for two reasons: for one, customers are less interested in traditional Black Friday sales, and secondly, Americans are increasingly shopping at deep-discount retailers year-round. This corresponds with the rise of dollar stores across the country, which have increased by 45% within the last 10 years, according to Nielson data. Additionally, research firm NPD Group found that discount shoppers account for two-thirds of all customers.
It’s a fact that deep-discount retailers are the clear 2016 Black Friday winners and are likely to garner the majority of all sales this holiday season. Contact us today to learn how JustEnough helps dollar stores, like the 99 Cents Only, navigate the season and beyond with best-in-class, full integrated and easy-to-use retail planning solutions – from accurate demand forecasts to optimize assortment planning to allocation and replenishment.
Holiday shopping splurges are not uncommon, according to a new study conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics for the NRF. Last year, four in 10 consumers spent at least $50 more than they originally budged for, and one in eight spent more than $200 than they planned to.
Although 43% of shoppers said they’re planning to be more conservative in their spending this holiday season, 90% could be convinced to extend their spending budgets by $25 for the right reasons – 51% of which said a really good sale or promotion was the main driver. Generation X shoppers are the most likely to give into a good deal at 55%. As such, the article expects that deals and discounts will be leveraged by retailers throughout the year to drive sales.
The second-most cited reason shoppers gave as to why they’d spend an extra $25 on holiday shopping is if they found the perfect gift for someone they originally hadn’t planned to buy for (34%). Millennials are more likely than their older counterparts to do so, and one in five in this generation said they’d open their wallets for something that’s hard to come by. More than one-quarter (27%) of consumers said they’d spend more if they found something they wanted for themselves. The article suggests retailers provide gift list ideas and reminders, as well as offer “limited-time” or unique items, to capitalize on shoppers who are motivated by these reasons to bend their budgets.
Free shipping with no minimum thresholds would get 27% of consumers to spend a bit more than they planned to. In fact, women (31%) are much more likely than men (22%) to do so. An easy return policy could entice 15% of shoppers 65 years of age and older to go over their holiday budgets. Finally, 17% of consumers said they’d be willing to spend an extra $25 if they needed supplies for a last-minute holiday party.
The article also mentions the rise of personal shopping and subscription services in recent years, which points to a growing desire among consumers for extra help and advice on finding what they need. Ten percent of shoppers said they could be convinced to purchase a higher-quality product than what they initially intended to buy, and others admit that a knowledgeable sales person could influence their decision to purchase something that wasn’t originally on their list.
Read the full article here, and contact JustEnough today to learn how our Price & Markdown Planning and Promotion Management solutions help retailers maximize sales and increase traffic by making it easy to set multiple price and markdown structures with complete visibility into inventory, revenue and margin impacts.
Many retailers are looking to make omni-channel technology investments next year, according to new research from RSR. The annual benchmark on omni-channel strategies found that while the term “omni-channel” has applied to the retail industry for less than 10 years, many of the solutions that help retailers present a unified face to customers are becoming outdated. In addition, the way retailers define omni-channel and what it means for their business is evolving.
In 2017, the top three omni-channel areas retailers plan to invest in are:
- Enterprise-Wide Inventory Visibility: 37% of retailers endeavor to make a change to their system and/or process, 19% of which are planning net-new projects. RSR believes retailers have some ways to go to maintain inventory visibility – due, in part, to ship-from-store and other cross-channel efforts to save the sale at any cost. The article suggests retailers take a step back and evaluate what inventory visibility actually means to them considering that key internal stakeholders – merchandisers and store employees, for example – often have their own interpretation. In addition, the term “enterprise-wide” does little to describe what level of visibility is actually needed, how “real-time” it needs to be, or how frequent as this can vary from company to company.
- Distributed Order Management: 46% of retailers say they are planning a change to their system and/or process, 14% of which are embarking on net-new projects. Retailers may hesitate to engage in a distributed order management overhaul as the often-lengthy and complicated implementation can shine a spotlight on major process issues. However, retailers that bite the bullet and let the implementation play out as it should will be best-positioned to take advantage of newer distributed order management advancements, especially if store capabilities that drive ship-from-store and other cross-channel save-the-sale activities are included.
- Enterprise Content Management: 42% of retailers are planning to make a change to their system and/or process; 17% of which have budgeted for net-new projects. This area within the omni-channel sphere is the most digital in nature. Today’s content management systems incorporate both product and marketing needs and may continue to evolve to include capabilities like managing user-generated content.
Aside from these three omni-channel areas, retailers will also be looking to improve their Enterprise Cross-Channel Analytics. Thirty-two percent indicate they are planning a change to their current system and/or process – the majority of which at 25% have budged for net-new projects. RSR predicts this boils down to purchasing enterprise analytics that provide cross-channel visibility. The ability to tie digital insights to larger business decisions is key to succeeding with omni-channel shoppers.
Read RSR’s full omni-channel retailing analysis here, and contact us today to learn how JustEnough Software’s fully integrated suite of planning solutions help leading retailers compete in today’s ever-more complex omni-channel environment.
There’s no doubt that the retail sector has been undergoing rapid transformation – fueled by the rise of e-commerce and mobile shopping, as well as post-Great Recession changes in consumer purchasing behavior. What has emerged, according to an article published in The Huffington Post, are remarkably agile and flexible retailers that are growing and profiting despite a still-volatile marketplace.
Recent Census Bureau news shows that the change to the retail industry is not simply isolated to how and when consumers shop: In fact, there has been shift in regards to what they are purchasing. Although median incomes in the U.S. jumped an astonishing 5.2% in 2015 and core retail sales following the Great Recession had recovered by 2010, overall retail spending levels have not yet matched those pre-2008. Not unexpectedly, there has been an overall decline in sales at brick-and-mortar stores – specifically among general merchandisers (i.e., department store and discount retailers), as well as electronics and home furniture retailers. Only the food and beverage services sector (restaurants and bars) are realizing growth in this area.
According to the Census Bureau data, there are two clear trends impacting the retail industry today:
- A significant portion of goods sold at brick-and-mortar stores have shifted online, where e-commerce comprises almost 10% and is on the rise
- Customers tend to dine out when they are in brick-and-mortar locations, which is reflective of the increase in food services sales
The article points to businesses that are exhibiting the creativity and agility needed to thrive despite this shift. Gap and Macy’s, for example, are downsizing their store counts and putting more emphasis on the online shopping experience. Barnes & Noble is capitalizing on the growth of food sales by expanding its dine-in services in an effort to drive up traffic, and Amazon is opening brick-and-mortar bookstores in select markets to add to its incredibly successful online shopping model.
Although consumer spending behaviors have changed, there will always be a need for goods and services. Retailers that focus on understanding what motivates their customers to open their wallets, make data-driven decisions and can swiftly adapt to further change will be those that succeed.
Read the full article here, and contact us to learn why the world’s leading brands rely on JustEnough’s highly scalable, flexible and easy-to-use suite of retail planning solutions to keep pace with ever-more demanding shoppers and the rise of new selling channels.
Supply chain management has come a long way over the last 20 years, according to a new whitepaper by Hatmill, a leading supply chain and logistics consultancy and JustEnough implementation partner. Before the advent of social media, online shopping and increasingly demanding and discerning customers, forecasting and replenishment activities existed but only at a very basic level. Today, very few retail, wholesale or manufacturing organizations can function without a dedicated team of supply chain professionals – and for good reason. A solid supply chain gives businesses a competitive advantage, allowing them to forecast and plan for demand, which in turn helps increase availability, reduce stock levels and markdowns and, ultimately, increase sales and profit margin.
However, as the supply chain game has changed, so too has the competitive landscape. Businesses must contend with challenges that run the gamut from higher customer availability expectations to increasingly complex supply networks to erratic demand patterns resulting from promotions and markdowns.
As such, the stakes are high to achieve supply chain optimization – companies that succeed stand to see significant gains in terms of higher turnover, lower inventory levels and reduced operational costs. This is no environment for spreadsheets and disparate planning tools – the right solutions are paramount. Advanced supply chain technology is designed to intelligently forecast for demand; strategically define service-level, product-segmentation and associated safety-stock policies; provide full modelling capabilities against complex supply networks; as well as correlate demand impacts – from weather to social media.
Choosing the right supply chain management solution is only part of the equation: the implementation itself is also a key consideration in the quest to achieve operational excellence and a quick return on investment. The Hatmill article outlines the following challenges organizations often encounter when implementing new forecasting and replenishment solutions – and how independent support can have a positive impact:
- Providing implementation balance: How much should a business bend its ways to accommodate new technology, versus how much should a supply chain solution be modified to fit the business? That's a tricky balance to strike, but a knowledgeable, experienced implementation consultant can help weigh the options and help the organization avoid costly mistakes.
- Effectively resourcing the change: An organization’s technology team should be focused on driving a successful software integration, whereas the solution’s future users – a.k.a. the forecasting, planning and replenishment teams – often struggle with being involved in the implementation while keeping up with the day-to-day needs of the supply chain operations. Qualified implementation consultants know what it’s like to be in either role – as such, they are best-positioned to drive the deployment while ensuring all parties are in full agreement, continuously engaged but with minimum disruption to the business.
- Ensuring strategic alignment: No doubt, the decision to deploy new supply chain software is often a costly endeavor that stratifies the entire organization – not just its supply chain and IT teams. Good change management practices point to the need for consistent, cross-business communication regarding the implementation. Showing how the new system aligns with the company’s overarching strategic goals is paramount to ensure buy-in. The cross-functional benefits, impacts and change in process should be identified, planned, communicated and managed throughout all phases of the project.
- Capability to succeed: The best implementations take into account the needs future users will have – well before the solution goes live. New skills and expertise may be required to manage the system, which could impact existing team structures. An experienced consultant can help organizations assess their existing teams and understand where any gaps may exist, as well as provide day-one support until new talent is on-boarded.
- Effective process adoption: The ease in which new supply chain technology is adopted varies from system to system, and from organization to organization. Having led any number of implementations, outside experts can assess existing business processes, capabilities and user behaviors, as well as identify any barriers to adoption success. Such consultants often bring to bear best-in-class process flows and training programs to help ease the transition.
- Accelerated Benefits Realization: Knowing where to begin once a new system is live is crucial. Often, the simplest approach is the right one: The Hatmill article points out that utilizing a new solution in the most basic form often drives 80% of the anticipated benefits.
- Making it stick: To underscore the point above, the first six months following deployment is the most important and can make or break the decision to invest in new technology. During this time, users are most susceptible to adopting or rejecting the solution. As such, post-implementation support should not be overlooked: It’s often much more about managing user expectations and process changes, versus the technology itself.
- Making it great: Supply chain consultants can help users become more sophisticated in their approach to using new technology as time goes by. Doing so will generate greater results and establish a culture that celebrates ongoing optimization – a clear win for the business.
For more on implementation best practices, read the full article or visit www.hatmill.co. Contact JustEnough today to learn how our end-to-end, fully integrated and easy-to-use suite of retail planning solutions are quickly and seamlessly implemented to help businesses achieve bottom-line results within months of go live.
It's no secret that retailers have struggled to corner market share, drive brand loyalty and increase revenue due to changing consumer purchasing behavior. The emergence of new channels, heightened price and promotion sensitivity as a result of an in-flux economy and the rise of a more tech-savvy demographic have also weighed down profitability.
In response, retailers are becoming increasingly consumer centric to ensure that today’s demanding and discerning shoppers find exactly what they are looking for at the right time, in the right location and for the right price. While not a new concept, many have adopted an attribute-based planning approach. This means leveraging store attributes like sales volume, selling space and climate, and product attributes like color, silhouette, fabric, fit and size, to estimate demand for new products and guide their merchandising, forecasting, assortment planning, allocation and replenishment strategies.
Traditional attribute-based planning has proven to be beneficial in many ways: retailers can better anticipate likely demand for new products, gauge how changes in inventory will impact sales, and as a result, create more targeted cross-channel assortments and allocations.
However, there are drawbacks. Here’s an example of how relying solely on store and product attributes can take a toll: A clothing retailer leverages quantitative store and product attributes and, as a result, realizes blue cashmere sweaters performed well last spring in a specific cluster of stores. While helpful, that information alone fails to give the retailer true insight into why that was the case, or if the trend will continue.
This month, JustEnough Software and Capgemini collaborated on an article published in Apparel that focuses on a shift in the way advanced retailers think about their planning processes. Today, organizations are armed with greater access to increasingly granular and more meaningful shopper insights made available through digital commerce and marketing initiatives, customer loyalty programs and transactional data, which can reveal critical insights about a shopper’s lifestyle, aspirations and interests. Dynamic and qualitative in nature, such customer attributes help retailers better understand what drives customers to open their wallets.
Let’s take, for example, a retail chain whose San Diego store sells more cold-weather outerwear than any other across the country. Store attributes suggest that the store should behave like those based in other warm weather climates; yet, customer attributes reveal that shoppers in the area tend to head to higher altitudes to ski on weekends and holidays. Offering an assortment more conducive to its customers’ active lifestyle has helped the store increase sales by providing customers with the products they want and need.
But, zeroing in on the driving characteristics among a retailer’s core customer base and not just the once-in-a-while shopper can be challenging. In the article, we explore strategies to help retailers move toward customer attribute-based planning:
- from combining what they know about their shoppers with their own brand vision to create customer profiles;
- to tapping their e-commerce and marketing teams to better understand where their customers live and what drives them to purchase;
- to gathering information about local culture and product affinity from store managers;
- to testing their customer-attribute theories by rolling out localized assortments to a limited number of stores at first.
Be sure to read the full Apparel article here, and contact us to learn how JustEnough Software and Capgemini can help your organization adopt a customer attribute-based planning model.
In this final blog post highlighting findings from the EKN 2016 Assortment Management and Optimization report, I’ll shed light on the recommendations it offers to help retailers create balanced assortments that drive sales while aligning with financial and merchandising goals.
Sponsored by JustEnough Software and based on survey responses from about 50 North American retailers, the report concludes that for more than one-third of retailers, assortment management is yet to be connected to allocation in a real-time process or at a user level. Roughly the same percentage of retailers cite that their assortment planning process is not integrated with financial and merchandising plans. Additionally, shortcomings related to a lack of accurate demand forecasts, consumer insights and a multi-attribute based planning process hinders the development of precise assortments that boost both traffic and margins.
Retailers can circumvent these challenges by transitioning out of legacy systems, opting instead for a single, unified and integrated merchandising process-based platform guided by four strategic pillars: customer science, digital user interface and experience, integrated workflow and functional collaboration. They can further reduce the silo effect by adopting a series of user-level integrated workflows supported by best-in-class solutions that generate targeted and balanced assortments.
The EKN 2016 Assortment Management and Optimization report offers specific recommendations to help retailers improve their assortment planning and execution process over a short-, medium- and long-term period of time. A few examples include:
- Over the course of the first six months, retailers should set benchmarks and KPIs to measure targeted pre-season and in-season assortment progress – i.e., shorter lead times, on-time orders, inventory accuracy, lower lost sales, higher full-price sell through and reduced markdowns, for example.
- Within the first 12 months, retailers should migrate to a multi-attribute based assortment planning system, enabling them to create attribute-based assortments based on common product specifications (i.e., size, color, styles, etc.) and customer segmentation attributes (i.e., preferences and affinity).
- At the six-month mark, retailers should ensure full functional and organizational integration between merchandise planning, assortment management and allocation for strategic planning. At this time, they should also add a consumer insights module within the merchandise and assortment management system for seamless access to customer behavior data at the end-user level.
- At the halfway point of the transition and through to the end, retailers should use investigative and predictive data insights to identify and resolve gaps in assortments through a phased evaluation of pre-season, in-season and end-of-season assortment plans.
To read the full list of recommendations or to download the EKN Assortment Management and Optimization report, click here. Be sure to check out how JustEnough Assortment Planning fully integrates with an innovative suite of retail planning solutions to help organizations create differentiated, customer-centric assortments that drive sales, reduce markdowns and increase margins.