It’s back to school with a vengeance for retailers. The next quarter is filled with key dates from Halloween to Black Friday, Cyber Monday and even Christmas Day (now a huge day for online shopping).
Every team, from logistics to buyers, merchandising to marketing, will be pulling out all the stops, but they might be missing the ‘secret sauce’ that could optimise efforts to maximising revenues. I am talking about data and the competitive edge it offers.
For instance, although it is September the weather was mild enough for me to contemplate a barbecue. I went to a local shop to pick up some steaks and some BBQ charcoal. Guess what? There were no bags available.
This is the problem with relying on historic sales data and previous patterns of consumer behaviour. If businesses do not update their data collation and move to a more real-time model, then opportunities to drive efficiencies and add incremental sales will be missed. In this case, a better tracking of weather trends might have led to stores that traditionally sell a lot of BBQ-related accessories hanging on to stock a little longer.
Without up-to-the minute data and the associated insights, it is much harder to ensure inventory is in the right location - either in store itself or geographically. Buyers don’t know if they are making the right purchasing decisions so there can be overstocks of the wrong foodstuffs.
I’ll give you another example. I hosted Christmas drinks last year and bought in some mulled wine but soon realised no-one was interested. They wanted Prosecco. I know Prosecco is on an incredible rise but missed that it was now all-seasonal and taking over every occasion. A store with that kind of genuine insight could’ve helped me via marketing and Christmas content.
It pays to stay on top of customer trends and there are plenty of digital tools and data services, including Google Trends, to track what customers are searching for and spot patterns. With this information a supermarket will be able to offer the right content at the right time to help consumers via its website, social and app platforms.
The big challenge is to be able to make use of the information, to be able to disseminate it to the relevant teams and to be able to move or order stock, people or resources to where they are needed. I know how hard this can be in a massive, complex retailing organisation but digital-driven insights can help businesses to run a better, multichannel operation across offline and online. The next couple of months are critical to all retailers in terms of profits and you cannot afford to miss out on capitalising on a trend, thereby promoting the wrong product.
Martijn Bertisen is country sales director at Google UK