The retail landscape is undergoing significant changes. As competition in the industry continues to increase exponentially, retailers need to ensure the right products, through assortment planning, are readily available, through the right channel, at the right time, and for the right price point, in order to maintain a competitive edge. But finding the answers to important merchandising questions isn’t always easy; the savviest merchandisers know that technology can help to give them an edge in the fast-moving retail industry.
How Technology Has Changed the Game
According to a recent survey conducted by retail consulting firm RSR, firms that surpass industry averages tend to leverage specialized tech tools to manage specific merchandising processes. The most important tool used was forecasting. These specialized systems help predict customer needs and stocking patterns that can best satisfy customer demands, while minimizing the capital invested in inventories.
Before now, retail forecasting tools were largely seen as tools for supply chain management, with the focus on ensuring reduced operational costs. Today, however, these systems have become integral to the expansion of sale opportunities, helping retailers make informed decisions through practical customer insights. Customer analytics is another equally important tool – and this makes a great deal of sense. It will be impossible to create a great customer demand forecast without understanding their needs.
Using Technology to Improve the Merchandising Process
A new era in information science continues to evolve. Here are three ways technology helps to improve merchandising efficiency and performance:
Improves Logistics and Minimizes Cost
Merchandisers typically divide retailer stores by region, meaning that one merchandiser may be responsible for managing the supplies of multiple stores. Based on the merchandiser’s route, it may take a few weeks before a particular store is visited again. Technology, on the other hand, provides real time store insights, helping merchandisers dispatch products and services to only stores in need. This not only streamlines logistics, but saves resources significantly.
Strengthens Partnerships and Relationships across the Supply Chain
As a three-party partnership, trust plays a key role in ensuring a fruitful merchandising process. While brands trust that merchandisers will implement marketing initiatives properly, retailers trust the merchandisers to ensure their shelves meet customer needs at all times – and merchandisers depend on both brands and retailers for opportunities. With technology in place. A comprehensive view of every store and region is achieved to ensure merchandisers comply with brand standards, shelf health for retailers, and ensure efficient relationships across board.
Measure the Impact of Specific Products, Services, and Events
Understanding the impact of a new product launch, product display, or retail plan is key to the success of any brand marketing plan. Although many brands use sales data to determine what is effective and what isn’t, technology ensures better in-store visibility across all levels: local, regional, or national. When merchandisers are equipped with the right technology, brands can better determine how their products, services, and events are perceived in specific markets. This helps these brands act with precision to boost sales for themselves and their retail partners.
What Technologies Are Effective and Available?
While technology is not a “sovereign remedy”, it can help retailers improve the efficiency of their merchandising process and other essential in-store obligations. With most shoppers largely depending on their smartphones for leads to specific stores and markets, technologies built on mobile platforms are an excellent option for merchandising effectiveness.
Assortment planning, reduced costs, and streamlined marketing efforts are some of the major gains of technology in the retail and merchandising industry. Companies that recognize and promptly adapt to the constantly evolving reality will not only ensure better customer experiences, but continued growth even into the future.