The role of analytics in retail has evolved substantially over the past few years and it’s having a significant positive impact. The days of hearing a vendor say “Oh, we get an EDI 852 but we don’t really do anything with it” are starting to fade into the rear view mirror. This blog post will discuss some of the mega trends we see occurring in business intelligence in retail and their impact on demand planning and forecasting.
Retailers are much more open to sharing point of sale (POS) data with vendors now than they were a few years ago. Wal-Mart paved the road with Retail Link, which gives vendors access to a wealth of data, and most other retailers use EDI 852 or a web site of some kind to make data available. [As a side note there are some major retailers like ACE Hardware and Publix that still refuse to share POS data, which is pretty amazing] Mega-trend: retailers will begin to expand the metrics they share and they will slowly move toward providing daily data. We have recently seen retailers begin to share on hand data and sales dollars which they had not shared previously. Providing those additional data elements enables category management and demand planners to greatly expand their analytics. We are also seeing retailers begin to make daily data available, which is probably the most exciting development in business intelligence for retail. Demand planning and forecasting for retail is dramatically improved by daily data vs. weekly data and daily data creates the opportunity for things like weather analysis.
Key performance indicators for retail are pretty easy to define and calculate. Sell-through, weeks of supply, year over year comp or % change, gross margin, gross margin return on investment, etc. We find however that many demand planners do not have the time or tools to monitor KPI’s at the store / SKU level of detail which diminishes the value that should be realized. Mega-trend: vendors are using cloud based software as a service (SaaS) to get access to sophisticated retail reporting without having to invest into business intelligence tools and a bunch of expensive development. Retail point of sale reporting and analytics can basically be purchased ‘out of the box’ and then customized to fit your precise business needs in a very small amount of time. When a large customer like The Home Depot is asking you to get into the POS data, you don’t have the luxury of waiting on your IT team. Outsourcing your retail POS reporting and analytics provides a very fast path to keeping your customer happy.
Mega-trend: Vendors use of EDI 852 and POS analytics will become more and more sophisticated. Not that long ago, when a vendor invested in POS reporting, they were getting ahead of their peers by using technology to improve their business. They would build relatively simple retail dashboards with key performance indicators for retail stores, like units and dollars sold. Today, however, we are seeing increasingly complex analysis for demand planning and forecasting, complex retail replenishment models, category management and even weather and demographic analysis. This is a natural evolution of business intelligence in retail and it is driven by the availability of SaaS tools and very real results that vendors are experiencing.