How Retailers Manage Their Omni-Channel Demand Planning Needs: New Survey

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.