Using Technology to Improve Merchandising Efficiency
The brick-and-mortar retail landscape is changing. Macy’s, Sears and The Limited have all announced store closures in the new year, store sizes are shrinking and advances in retail technology are giving us a glimpse into the store of the future.
While the headlines may say otherwise, this time of reinvention presents a unique opportunity for omni-channel retailers to leverage their physical space better. The key to brick-and-mortar success will be doing more with less, increasing per square foot efficiency and experience of the store.
Why start with merchandising?
Bringing efficiency to merchandising is the ideal place to start because it’s a well-known entity to both retailer and shopper, a key driver of brand performance and also one of the most difficult tasks to execute consistently well at scale.
Third-party merchandisers are often tasked with “last mile” distribution of products to retailers nationwide. They sometimes not only stock shelves, but also monitor for shelf health, promotional compliance and proper setup of product displays. While these merchandisers are often more cost-effective than internal processes, expanding either model can become expensive and inefficient at scale. With pressure on retailers to provide increasingly exceptional and personalized shopping experiences, merchandising needs a shot of efficiency.
What technologies are available?
Technology is not a panacea, but it can certainly help retailers increase the efficiency of merchandising and other in-store operations responsibilities. Technologies built on mobile platforms are consistently excellent for capturing real-time insights, as some 77 percent of U.S. shoppers already use their smartphone in store to help them shop, according to a new survey on mobile shopping from DMI. Examples of these technologies include mobile apps linked to beacons or shopper tracking technology, and mobile crowdsourcing for low-cost, high-availability collection of data by smartphone users in-store.
In vetting technologies for increasing merchandising effectiveness, retailers should look for solutions that not only monitor merchandising compliance, but also mash up unique data sets, correlating merchandising compliance with store sales by location, and recommend solutions in near real-time.
How does technology support merchandisers?
Retailers should use appropriate technology to support the work of their merchandising associates and partners. By providing them with new tools, retailers can increase merchandising performance and efficiency in three ways:
Improve logistics, while reducing cost
Merchandising companies divide retailer store lists by region, meaning a single merchandiser may be responsible for maintaining fixtures and displays at multiple stores. Based on the route of the merchandiser, it can take weeks before any single store is visited again, and compliance issues may go unresolved until he or she returns. On the other hand, technology that delivers low-cost real-time store insights can identify merchandising compliance issues and immediately dispatch a field rep to only the stores in need, streamlining logistics and saving significant resources.
Strengthen relationships across the supply chain
Merchandising is a three-party partnership. Brands trust third-merchandisers to properly implement marketing initiatives and play a role in creating a lasting brand impression. Retailers trust these same merchandisers to help maintain the shelves and aisles of their stores. Merchandisers depend on both for opportunities. Technology helps create a comprehensive view of each store and region to ensure compliance with brand standards, retail shelf health and more efficient relationships across the supply chain.
- Measure the impact of specific events
Measuring the impact of a new product launch, display or retail planogram is crucial to any brand marketing strategy. While brands can use sales data to assume what’s working well and what isn’t, technology allows for greater in-store visibility at a local, regional or national level. By equipping third-party merchandisers with the right technology, brands can identify nuances in how their products are displayed and perceived in specific markets, and act with precision to increase sales for themselves and their brick-and-mortar partners.
Mike Grimes is chief revenue officer (CRO) at Mobee, an offline data and insights platform that uses crowdsourcing to collect, organize and analyze consumer data at scale. With more than 25 years of experience building digital solutions for retail-centric organizations, Grimes leads Mobee’s go-to-market strategy, sales and business development efforts.
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