Right Stock, Right Customer
RIGHT STOCK, RIGHT CUSTOMER - A RETAILER’S GUIDE TO OUTSTANDING DATA REPORTING
by Jason Gewer
BCOM Marketing & Finance
Jason Gewer, CEO and founder of PricePoint IT, has over the past 18 years made it his business to perfect and enhance the systems used by retailers to keep track of their stock; their customers; and ultimately their sales.
Jason worked alongside his parents in their own family-run retail fashion stores where he gained an intimate understanding of the pain points a retailer faces. His consequent search to find a system capable of solving problems in terms of managing inventory, reporting, integration, and improving their customer’s experiences mean he has deep insight into exactly what a retailer needs and how to provide that.
His search eventually resulted in the establishment of PricePoint IT, a company with many years’ experience on both sides of the retail coin. A company uniquely qualified to provide retail management solutions capable of matching your stock to your customer with outstanding retail data reporting capabilities.
While the retail landscape continues to shift and change, growing a retail business requires you to be in touch with trends and digital advances, as these are what drive the pace of change.
The shopper’s path to purchase has broadened significantly with so many more touchpoints, greater access to product information, and shopping access which is pretty much anytime, anywhere and for just about anything.
To remain ahead of the curve when it comes to what your customers want and expect, it is essential that you understand how shopping behaviour evolves and actively address these demands.
This is knowledge gained through analysing and understanding the data which you already have at your fingertips. Being able to apply this knowledge to create a comprehensive and differentiated experience across your digital and physical environments could be the one strategy that ensures survival.
In Retail, Data is Everything
Your number one concern is always going to be around accurate stock and inventory management. As your biggest asset you need to know what stock you have; where it is; which items are selling better; whether it is located in the most appropriate store; which stores are selling more of a particular item; and do these stores have the stock needed in terms of colour and size to meet customer demand?
Being able to answer these questions and act accordingly means accurate, granular and up-to-date information from stock counting is important. Through the implementation of technology and the consequent advances from manual to barcodes to RFID, this process becomes easier and more efficient. So yes, a focus on your stock and how you are able to extract this information in the form of data - is the key to providing meaningful service to your customers.
Thankfully the days of manually counting, weighing or calculating all items in stock and recording the results are long gone – a process which used to take days to complete and often involved a complete shut-down of operations and many hours of begrudged overtime for staff. Even the process of scanning barcodes on shelves and then counting the items for system entry is time-consuming, inefficient and is always only accurate at the time of physical stock take.
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology with microchips embedded into labels or hang tags provide retailers with the means to identify individual products, and to track them throughout the supply chain from production to point-of-sale. This means that taking stock can be done on a daily basis, shortages can easily be identified and misplaced items can be located.
Having access to this data allows you to make highly informed decisions around your stock inventory, security headaches are reduced and reporting issues become a thing of the past.
Customer Loyalty, One Size Doesn't Fit All
While your focus may be on inventory management, reporting, integration, and sales - for your customers (yes, the people) who are “loyal” to your brand, their overall experience of interacting with you is shaped by every contact and this, in turn, influences their opinion and how they feel about the experience.
There are many aspects which influence this experience across all your channels and this encompasses the entire customer journey.
To create positive customer experiences, you absolutely must put yourself in their shoes - and make sure that the shoes fit. As a retailer it is your job to offer your customers a level of experience that not only meets their expectations, but exceeds and delights them regardless of device, platform or location.
By accepting that one size doesn’t fit all, you acknowledge that each customer is different; you can then craft the experience that they receive when dealing with you in such a way that their interaction is highly personalised.
A truly great customer experience has to be driven by information, and in analysing customer data you can identify behaviour patterns; gain access into personal preferences such as ideal clothing size or preferred colour; and pick up on retail trends which will assist you in developing the identities of your different customer groups.
You already have access to this data - you collect it at every touchpoint and through every interaction whether online or instore. By employing analytical technology you are better able to understand, predict and measure customer behaviour, you can track a customer’s path to purchase, including all their deviations. This essentially gives you a unique way to connect with your customers by offering information that you cannot get simply by looking at the figures.
You can then focus your loyalty programmes, communication and promotional messages in a more tailored manner suited to specific customer needs and, in turn, provide an outstanding shopper experience.
Right Stock, Right Customer– Navigating The Digital Divide
Whilst it is true that traditional bricks-and-mortar stores still dominate the South African retail market, consumer buying patterns indicate that South Africans prefer using a combination of physical and digital channels to inform their purchases. Sometimes researching what they’re after to find the best deals online and to ensure stock is available and then actually going in-store to buy, or vice versa.
According to Google 65% of South Africans over the age of 16 are online. Online shopping is easily available, whether on a computer, laptop or mobile phone, and social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram aim to enrich online retail accessibility and influence purchasing decisions, while acting as marketing platforms for retailers too.1
How this translates for your retail business is that you absolutely have to consider navigating the digital divide to ensure that your customers receive a truly robust and cohesive shopping experience.
Whilst an omni-channel strategy may appear way too sophisticated for your own business, consumers are using multiple channels; consequently you should be facilitating customer conversion on any channel.
Having the ability buy online and pick-up in store; using mobile in-store to support the shopping experience; and having access to inventory information online all go towards making shopping easier and more convenient. This in turn equates to greater customer satisfaction.
Consumers expect this kind of flexibility and companies not capable of providing it offer a reduced customer experience and run the risk of losing sales as a result.
Omni-channel retailing is not easy to crack, this is exactly why retailers must have the proper systems in place to support it, and why integrating the two to work together is vital.
You can then use your data to run your business more efficiently. You may pick up from your reporting that Tuesday mornings are quiet, making an informed decision you can have reduced till staff and perhaps offer in store promotions to boost traffic at this time.
An omni-channel approach is all about the data, using data to influence consumer buying or using the data to support your interactions with your customer. Leverage the internet to get people into your physical store, and leverage your in-store customer interactions to enhance your digital marketing.
This all goes towards the customer journey, whilst the insights gained in determining your shoppers’ experiences and paths to purchase, and ability to monitor retail performance and trends, go towards informing your next move.
Intergration - Driven and Enhanced by Technology
An integrated retail management system capable of incorporating all the operational tiers within the retail environment, from point of entry to POS and beyond, will improve management in every facet of your business and ensure scalability alongside your growth.
Platform based application integration can provide a total solution since the platform approach means all applications work together, data is shared, and you can manage everything from one system. Taking advantage of a system with open architecture provides easy access to APIs for integration with your other business systems and applications and allows for the development of additional tools.
Imagine having real-time visibility into every area of your business with improved productivity, improved communication and streamlined operations. The knock-on effect is inevitably passed on to your customers through efficient and more effective service and ultimately an enriched customer experience.
And you are equipped with outstanding data analysing capabilities due to systems which communicate impeccably and allow you to connect the data dots in innovative ways.
Right Stock, Right Customer - Trends, Sales and Customers
A recent report published by Stats SA shows that national retail trade sales fell by 1.4% over December 2018, usually SA’s busiest retail trade period as many consumers take annual leave and do their year-end shopping. Stats SA further highlights a steady decline in the 2018 annual retail trade growth rate as the year progressed.2
Click here to view graph
Consumers are spending less and are feeling pressure due to financial constraints.
Additionally the latest outcomes by The Conference Board Global Consumer Confidence Survey, conducted in collaboration with Nielsen points out that 79% of South Africans believe the country is in a recession; and 85% say they have changed their spending on household expenses in Q3, 2018. In order to save on household expenses consumers have cut down on takeaway meals (66%), spend less on new clothes (61%) and are switching to cheaper grocery brands (50%). 47 percent spend less on gas and electricity, with 45% cutting down on out of home entertainment.3
What this means is that consumer loyalty is on the decline as the average shopper actively compares products and prices in order to make more informed choices when spending their hard-earned cash.
Is that Data in your Pocket, or are you just happy to see me?
Given the complexity of the individualised customer journey, the technology, systems and platforms you employ to inform your strategies and ultimately your business plan must be capable of supporting the kind of data analysis you require.
Location: Johannesburg, South Africa
3 https://www.nielsen.com/za/en/press-room/2018/south-african-consumer-confidence-in-a-holding-pattern.html Broll Property Intel - The Evolution of Retail Report - Apr 2019
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