Beyond Sweaters and Ballet Shoes
By Sean Jackson, [email protected]
In recent weeks, there have been some well-publicised examples of retail giants whose financial performance has been severely impacted by breakdowns in the supply chain. As salt in the wound to these behemoths of retail, there are just as many examples of organizations that have exceeded market expectations due to an ability to behave nimbly and respond quickly to changes in consumer demand.
For example, leading U.K. retailer Marks and Spencer recently announced that it could have sold three times more sweaters, had it paid closer attention to data generated by its own stores. This had a major impact on its share price, making it the second biggest faller in the FTSE 100 for the quarter. At the same time, John Lewis (another retailer) predicted consumer demand and provided the right stock to the right stores. Sales of its ballet shoes were up 129% year-on-year and profits were big.
This news made me wonder what the root of this issue was; which factor could cause success for one and failure for another. Was it just a case of getting lucky with the right stock at the right time or was there something buried deep in the DNA of the organization that gave some retailers a crucial advantage?
The answer is simple — success comes from the ability to distill actionable intelligence from data gathered from a range of internal and external sources. This data consists of diverse factors including: the demographical characteristics of your main customers; their psychological state and purchasing patterns; how they plan to use your products; the macro economy; even what the weather is doing that day. Investigated quickly enough to catch the trend at its birth, these all come together to define crucial business decisions such as: what to stock; when and how much of it; how to position it in the physical environment of the store and how to package and market it.
Having access to a fast and affordable analytic database platform can unite all the data from operational systems (EPOS, stock, merchandising, loyalty, ERP etc) and give business managers access to the right information at the right time, helping them to drive growth, performance, competitive advantage and, ultimately, profits. With a fast and cost-effective analytic database engine, retailers can optimize their merchandising and product range by understanding buyer behavior and identifying trends immediately. They can also refine supply chain management by co-coordinating stock deliveries and replenishment, meeting the demands of each potential customer.
Cross-purchasing behavior analysis can also be calculated using a fast analytic database engine, which allows for large datasets to be joined together. Such intelligence can then be used for marketing purposes, product range decisions, promotional planning and evaluation, shop floor layout. The opportunities are endless.
Nevertheless, success is not just based on speed or high performance; any analytic solution needs to be cost-effective. There is no point in a retailer investing in analytics if the system to be deployed involves a stack of new hardware that needs to be powered and then cooled, as well as configured and maintained. Retailers will be far better off with systems that leverage off-the-shelf hardware and have as little a footprint as possible.
Savvy organizations, such as US retailer Sheetz, are using analytics to adapt product selection and availability to the needs of their customers faster, to improve customer service and tailor the shopping experience to the individual in a cost-effective way. In today’s competitive retail market where the slightest negligence renders giant chains out of business, it is no longer just about survival of the fittest, but survival of the fittest and quickest. Retailers cannot afford to be anything but ultra-responsive; they need a business intelligence system that provides analysis without prompts or delays. By ignoring this key need, they stand to lose out on opportunities that can make or break their business. And that is something that goes beyond the ability to analyze sweaters and ballet shoes.
Sean Jackson, marketing director, Actian Corp., which enables organizations to transform big data into business value with data management solutions to transact, analyze, and take automated action across their business operations. He can be reached at [email protected].
Kohl’s Department Stores, multiple locations
Kohl’s Department Stores opened 12 new stores nationwide in September, all featuring the chain’s updated store design. Eleven of the stores are smaller format locations, with some 64,000 sq. ft. or less of retail space.
The stores are designed to offer customers a comfortable and inviting shopping environment, with Wi-Fi throughout, updated checkouts and upgraded fitting rooms. Other features include innovative fixtures in cosmetics, expanded, upfront customer service area, in-store Kohl’s Kiosks and electronic signs in all departments.
The design puts the focus on Kohl’s brand portfolio, which ranges from its Jennifer Lopez collection to Simply Vera Vera Wang lines.
In addition, the new stores incorporate an array of green elements, including waste management to recycle construction materials, occupancy sensor lighting for stockrooms, dressing rooms, break rooms and offices, energy management systems to control heating and cooling and a recycling program for cardboard boxes, hangers and packaging. And nine of the stores were built to according to a prototype that received LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification at the Gold level.
Unilever promotion drives sales and grows trees
An intriguing shopper marketing initiative involving Unilever and Tesco’s Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market division was launched today in select markets.
The two companies launched an intriguing program designed to help shoppers save money, drive sales of Unilever brands at Fresh & Easy stores and help the Arbor Day Foundation plant trees.
Code named, "Buy any Three, Give a Tree," the initiative allows shoppers who purchase three select Unilever brand products at Fresh & Easy stores to receive a 33% discount instantly between September 26 and October 10. In turn, Unilever and Fresh & Easy will donate up to 25,000 trees to be planted by the Arbor Day Foundation in local communities throughout the Fresh & Easy trade area in California, Arizona and Nevada. Unilever brands involved in the promotion include Breyers, Ben & Jerry’s, Best Foods, Wish-Bone, Ragu and Skippy.
"At Unilever, we’re committed to sustainable living and making a difference in our local communities," said Paul Bello, vp of grocery for Unilever. "This partnership not only supports our larger Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, but it also allows us to provide consumers with great savings and support for a great cause such as the Arbor Day Foundation. By simply shopping for brands they love, our consumers in Arizona, California and Nevada are helping their local communities become more environmentally friendly."
At the conclusion of the promotion, Unilever, Fresh & Easy and the Arbor Day Foundation will host a tree-planting ceremony with trees donated from the "Buy any Three, Give a Tree" program.
"This initiative is a great opportunity for Fresh & Easy to come together with Unilever and the Arbor Day Foundation, and engage our customers and neighbors for a good environmental cause," said Tim Mason, CEO of Fresh & Easy. "Our commitment to the environment extends beyond just our stores and we’re excited to see the impact planting trees can have on the neighborhoods we serve."
Fresh & Easy currently operates 199 stores.