The Future of Omni-Channel Inventory Planning for Retailers: New Survey

What does the future hold for retailers looking to improve omni-channel inventory planning? In this final installment of a series of blog posts that highlighted findings from the JustEnough-sponsored 2016 Merchandise Planning Benchmark Survey, we’ll dive into the three key areas retailers are turning their attention to: store clustering, dynamic re-allocation and customer-optimized inventory. Before doing so, we should state that retailers in today’s push for a “channel-less” world are seeking ways to better integrate data into their merchandise-planning processes, data analytics increasingly challenging as the number of sources of customer information grows.

  • Store Clustering:Understanding and managing demand is no easy feat when the customer journey crosses channels. However, retailers can improve forecast accuracy and assortments by leveraging tools that help identify patterns and cluster stores based on key attributes like geography, climate and size demographics. According to the survey, only 24% of retailers are doing this today, but that figure will jump to 74% over the next five years.
  • Dynamic Re-Allocation:Although an integrated cross-channel merchandise-planning process lowers the effects of misallocating product, moving inventory across channels or between stores is still a costly endeavor. But a modern dynamic re-allocation approach involves enterprise-wide visibility and accessibility, which provide retailers with the information they need to re-allocate inventory where it is most likely to sell. Although only 15% of retailers are applying such re-allocation techniques, 66% plan to do so within five years.
  • Customer-Optimized Inventory:A combination of customer demand and forecast data, CRM and transaction history can help retailers anticipate where customers will most likely purchase inventory. Integrating customers’ history into the planning process helps retailers satisfy shopper needs while forming a deeper relationship with them. The survey tells us that only 9% of retailers are currently practicing customer-optimized inventory strategies; however, 75% of retailers plan to do so over the next five years.

One area that is still under evaluation when it comes to unified commerce environment is social media-based planning. While social platforms are undeniably excellent listening tools, there is still some uncertainly as to how it fits into a retailer’s business model. One significant challenge is how to effectively quantify social media data to inform product decisions – i.e., how does a “like” or comment translate into anticipated sales? The survey indicates that only 6% of retailers today are leveraging social media in the planning process, and roughly half are looking to leverage it within the next five years.

In conclusion, the 2016 Merchandise Planning Benchmark Survey shows that most retailers are still struggling to optimize their omni-channel planning strategies. Be sure to check out the full report here, and contact JustEnough today to learn how we our end-to-end suite of omni-channel demand management solutions support some of today’s most premier retailers.