Unified Commerce Demands the Right Tools

This is the fifth 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 delve into the technologies needed to enable unified commerce.

Here is part five:

A combination of appropriate tools and systems are necessary to fully support the unified commerce model. Absent the right technology, unified commerce strategies lack teeth and fail to achieve maximum efficiency and benefit for retailers. Best practices dictate employment of a full suite of merchandise planning, assortment planning, and store allocation systems working in conjunction with each other. This year’s survey results reveal that while there is movement in the right direction, there is still significant opportunity for retailers to evolve from a technological perspective.

Fully integrated solutions have not gained vast acceptance into the systems landscape at most retail organizations. Surprisingly, 38% of participating retailers reported currently using a spreadsheet for planning and allocation . This illustrates that despite rapid technological developments of best-in-breed capabilities and similar to the findings of the 2nd Annual Merchandise Planning & Allocation Survey, a large number of retailers have been slow to adopt integrated solutions. Leveraging robust tools that allow for management of transactions across all channels will become increasingly vital for retailers who seek to remain viable in a unified commerce environment.

Surprisingly, 38% of participating retailers reported currently using a spreadsheet for planning and allocation

The satisfaction level of retailers with their current systems environment also reveals further room for technological improvement. Although the satisfaction that retailers feel for planning applications is up from last year’s survey, the results are still neutral to negative. When asked to rate the effectiveness of their tools, 45% stated satisfaction with their merchandise planning tool, 21% with their assortment planning tool and only 15% with their space planning tool.

This dissatisfaction is not going unnoticed. Retailers are cognizant of the need for enhanced systems, with a majority planning to either upgrade or replace their assortment planning (65%) and merchandise planning (60%) systems within the next 1-3 years. Space planning enhancements will not be as strong of a focus for organizations.

A fully integrated unified commerce environment requires a solid technological foundation. As the survey shows, retailers are starting to appreciate the urgency behind systems improvements.  Nonetheless, transitioning from legacy systems and spreadsheets continues to be a challenge. Inability to fully embrace integrated systems will inhibit efforts to provide a truly unified commerce retail model. Those keeping pace with technological developments will find themselves at a definite competitive advantage until the rest of the industry is able to catch up.