Business Analytics Are Crucial to Optimizing Merchandise-Planning Effectiveness: New Survey

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.