The Final Installment in Our Merchandise Planning and Allocation Series

This is the final article in our series based on a research report JustEnough recently sponsored with Boston Retail Partners into the current state of the industry around Merchandise Planning and Allocation. In this article we’ll review the conclusions and key takeaways from the study.

Here is the final installment:

The 2014 Merchandise Planning & Allocation Benchmark Survey confirms that retailers understand the necessity of a unified commerce model, and are working to improve planning processes to support this retail environment. The data also reveals that a majority of retailers recognize the importance of standardized planning, and thus have introduced formal processes within their organizations.

Progress towards unified processes

  • 69% are planning to expand their unified commerce capabilities within three years
  • More than 45% have integrated business processes and systems across channels
  • 26% offer real-time visibility across channels with another 65% offering “some” visibility of in-store/online inventory

However, many have yet to implement the measures necessary to support the demands of a unified approach across all channels. Key best practices are showing a lack of process alignment to support unified commerce initiatives, which present several opportunities for improvement.

Unified process opportunities

  • 69% of retailers still maintain separate inventory across channels
  • Only 8% have a working cross-channel forecasting method
  • 46% have no plans to offer the ability for a store transfer where the customer orders an item in store A and store B ships the order to store A where the customer picks up the order

One of the most encouraging developments within the last 12 months is the increased focus on incorporating social media data, including customer preferences, affinities and trends, within the merchandise planning processes.

Social media analytics progress

  • 39% use social media to facilitate planning within product development, up from 6% last year
  • More than 50% plan to expand their social media analytics capabilities within three years

In addition, while assortment accuracy is cited as a top priority, there are opportunities within business intelligence that are currently being overlooked when planning and allocating inventory.

Opportunities within data analysis

  • Only 33% currently utilize CRM data to feed business intelligence tools
  • 41% do not capture customer feedback from social media
  • 73% have only basic analytical and reporting capabilities

Consumers expect a fast and efficient selling and delivery process, where the physical and digital selling channels converge to provide a cohesive shopping experience. These unified commerce shopping concepts continue to grow significantly, requiring retailers to put more functional capabilities in place than ever before. With a multitude of emerging tools and techniques available to support and expand business, it is an exciting time to be a retailer.