Ramp up Your Retail Speed

Aug 01, 2009 9:30 PM  By

A multipronged marketing strategy can be executed only as fast as your slowest retail channel. Do you know which channel is preventing your organization from moving as fast as it should be?

For most retailers, it’s their brick-and-mortar stores whose merchandising processes and technologies have not been able to keep pace with new retail mediums.

In-store execution is critical to the success of any retail operation. Consider the AMR report, “Bridging the Merchandising and Store Operations Divide,” which highlights this issue. Retailers know that 85% of purchasing decisions are made at the shelf, so they should make the most of merchandising and promotional strategies.

Yet only 37% of retail merchandisers are confident in the ability of their store operations to execute these strategies.

Retailers frequently coordinate merchandising execution across hundreds or thousands of unique storefronts using outdated processes and technologies that create waste and confusion. AMR reported that 89% and 75% of retailers are using the phone and fax, respectively, as their primary communication methods to stores.

The result is inaccurate in-store execution and merchandising, slow time-to-market and a broken marketing process. The incorporation of e-commerce into the retail merchandising strategy has highlighted the inefficiencies of in-store marketing.

A retailer’s Web channel can launch campaigns with the click of a mouse, with complete visibility into what the consumer is viewing to provide customized offers based on the visitor’s past behavior.

While physical limitations prevent stores from being as fast as the Internet channel, multichannel retailers have taken steps to speed up their brick-and-mortar operations. How?

By implementing three key strategies: merging merchandising processes to one platform; opening visual two-way communication channels with store employees; and leveraging business rules to automate the process of delivering more localized campaigns.

  1. CREATE A SINGLE PLATFORM FOR MERCHANDISING PROCESSES

    Most retailers today use a number of different systems to execute in-store merchandising and data collection. As a result, the cross-functional teams trying to collaborate have an ill-defined set of tasks and little means to hold one another accountable for moving the process forward. Data silos are created and teams make decisions based only on the data available to them.

    A single platform also enables retailers to extend the reach of and relationship with their product suppliers, giving them insight into the merchandising process.

    This is becoming more important, as brands are demanding proof of execution — particularly as they make decisions about whether to allocate their marketing budgets to in-store or direct-to-consumer digital channels.

    Given the complexity of executing campaigns, retailers need to offer stakeholders a unified platform where all campaigns, assets, tasks and messages are stored. Having this single view ensures that everyone is on the same page. We’ve seen a successful migration to this type of in many other business processes, such as sales force, supply chain and marketing automation.

  2. IMPLEMENT VISUAL TWO-WAY COMMUNICATION

    Retailers tend to communicate merchandising and store changes to retail teams with written instructions that are generally lengthy and not completely applicable to their unique storefront. And that’s a problem, because most retail store employees function better with visually oriented instruction that targets exact changes to be made in the store. So it’s no surprise that merchandising campaigns are so often executed poorly.

    Retailers should focus on visually communicating with their store employees. This means giving store teams images showing displays should be set up and where in the store they should be placed.

    Store employees can, in turn, provide faster feedback when a campaign has been executed. This gives corporate a clear understanding of compliance and the impact that an accurately executed campaign has on sales.

  3. LEVERAGE BUSINESS RULES FOR LOCALIZED CAMPAIGNS

    The Internet is gradually delivering on the promise of personalized offers for consumers, generating exciting opportunities for those who embrace enabling technologies.

But a significant percentage of these Internet consumers are actually online researchers planning to make a store purchase. The brick-and-mortar channel must be coordinated with the e-commerce channel.

Many retailers understand this, but too often leave such localization decisions solely up to the “gut feel” of local store managers. While these managers do play an important role, retailers must better leverage the data they already have by automating the localization process. The result will be a stronger, more targeted connection with the customer.

You’re only as fast as your slowest retail channel. So don’t let your stores lag behind.

By executing your merchandising campaigns in a single environment, communicating more effectively with store teams and automating the localization process, you can pick up the pace of your retail operation.

Dan Wittner (dwittner@rbmtechnologies.com) is chief customer officer at RBM Technologies, a provider of in-store visual merchandising management systems.