29 November, 2021
We live in challenging times.
On the one hand, unexpected situations like the pandemic affect how we live and work. On the other, technological advancements help us adjust to the New Normal.
The same applies to the retail store sector which the last couple of years has been hit hard by lockdowns, and occupancy and distancing restrictions. These setbacks intensified the downsizing of brick-and-mortar retail
stores and pushed even the non-tech savvy consumers to e-commerce.
Is this then the demise of Physical Retail? Well, it may be but only for those retailers that will miss the digital forest! The rest will re-think the purpose of the Physical Store and invest in customer experience. The new generation of retail employees and consumers represents a fertile ground for the adoption of new technologies. And when choosing the later, retailers should always prioritize one goal : to improve and eventually offer unprecedented customer experience (CX).
There are many ways in which different people define enhanced CX: Augmented and Virtual Reality, variety of displayed products, easy access to product-related info, Pick-and-Go shopping or anything else that makes us enjoy visiting and buying from the Physical Store.
Regardless, everyone understands that digitalization is important for any of the aforementioned improvements. What may not be so obvious, however, is that a strong prerequisite for consumer-centric digitization is the automation of the retail back-office processes such as organizational and per-store inventory management, category and space management based on modern systems that allow real time interaction, provide performance and in-store analytics, KPI monitoring, workforce management and many more.
Technology has given today’s retailers the opportunity to solve long existing automation problems once and for all. These solutions have formed new trends in the retail industry and set new standards on what is functional and acceptable. Let’s have a look at the most important ones.
Retail Digital Twins for localized efficiency
For years, category managers have been coming up with planograms without guarantee for how well they’d be executed. Will the store personnel read all relevant e-mails? Will they understand every instruction? The truth is that most in-store teams don’t have the expertise to decipher complex planograms and implement the proposed changes without deviations, especially in the case of generalized plans that need to be implemented in stores with different space arrangements and customer demographics.
Retail store digital twins can resolve all these issues. Through identical twin store representations, they provide a realistic overview of the individual physical stores. Moreover, specific store information such as BIM (building information modeling) files, pictures or pdf files are stored in a common system, together with all corresponding realograms, planograms and space plans. This “localized” information helps category managers create fully tailored planograms, which are easier to be followed by non-expert in-store employees and implemented without significant deviations, thus minimizing planogram audit time and maximizing sales potential per store.
Fully integrated, cloud-based platforms for higher reliability
In most retail chain companies, stored information is scattered across multiple systems, making it difficult for it to be quickly found and correctly updated. As users need to manually deal with the data or transfer it to a different location to be processed, precious time is wasted and errors are most likely to happen. Moreover, last minute category management changes may not be updated promptly in all systems or this information may slip through and never be followed. This promotes disconnection between collaborating departments and doesn’t allow the visual merchandising team to track performance of their plans or analyze execution performance patterns. And more importantly, it limits the profitability of marketing campaigns.
The solution to this inefficiency is cloud-based planogram platforms, fully integrated into existing corporate systems. Data can be securely stored in locations that anybody can easily access , minimizing the risk of data corruption and unifying communications between headquarters and stores under a single workstream. By having this information available on the shop floor in their tablet or even their mobile phone, in-store employees can save time from not having to run at the back room to review visual merchandising instructions. This collaborative planogram execution and workflow optimization increases productivity, can save labor time up to 50% and improve the use of physical space by 15%.
Artificial intelligence for maximized performance
The majority of retailers still make little combined use of their data and run analytics with limited scope. This prohibits them from leveraging lessons of the past, into building more successful future category management and marketing strategies.
The introduction of artificial intelligence algorithms in the retail management platforms gives the opportunity for deeper analysis of merchandising data and automatic decision making on product assortment, SKU (stock keeping unit) forecast per store or warehouse and inventory replenishment. Furthermore, ideal and alternative planograms per furniture can be automatically generated, that will need minimal editing by the experts, before releasing them for implementation.
A more efficient stock and shelf replenishment procedure can be translated into better space management and increased profitability, either by marketing more product lines or leasing smaller physical stores.
Additionally, as more information on customer’s purchases is stored and processed, sales forecasting and planning becomes more precise, and opportunities for more personalized and localized marketing arise . Customers living in different communities, have different needs and buying patterns. Localized merchandising helps retail chains to develop better connection with their customers and maximize their profits through educated product assortment.
Heatmaps & e-label use for targeted profitability
Another modern feature that can prove a game changer, is the ability to analyze the combined data of sales, profit and customer journeys in each shopping area to draw vibrant heatmaps. This can be further associated with e-label (pricing) systems, for better info-point management.
Visual merchandising teams can then use this function to develop specific space planning performance KPIs (key performance indicators) and assess their planogram performance in detail. They can maximize profitability per square meter by increasing space management cost savings and margins associated with every display position.
Paperless functions and sustainability
Another trend that is becoming increasingly popular is a growing customer appreciation for sustainability, which can be also translated in retail businesses consuming as little paper as possible.
As shown above, the digital category and space management platforms give the ability for seemingly paperless visual merchandising processes and can allow retail brands to develop another significant touch point with their customers.
If any of the above seem appealing to you and need more information on how your retail business can be benefited today, by leveraging the visual merchandising processes of the future, you can book now your 30-minute free consultation call with one of Yodiwo’s experts.