Is Your Merchandise Planning System Out-of-Date?

Most planning systems can’t support a complex omnichannel environment, Boston Retail Partners says
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As a convenience-store retailer, when is the last time you updated or replaced your merchandise planning systems? If you’re anything like the respondents to Boston Retail Partners’ 2015 Merchandise Planning Benchmark Survey, it’s probably been a while.

Boston Retail Partners, a consulting firm that serves clients including Wawa and TravelCenters of America, found current retail planning systems are out of date and don’t effectively address today’s requirements for an omnichannel planning environment.

Many retailers are using planning applications designed for old retail business models, with a large percentage of these systems installed in the late 1990s or early 2000s. Fast-forward to today, and many retailers are attempting to meet the needs of a 21st century customer while constrained by 20th century technology.

Today’s consumer demands an omnichannel retail experience offered in real time, whereby all retail locations—whether physical or virtual—converge to provide a fast, easy, unified shopping experience, the report says.

“Stores are under siege from other channels and, unfortunately, dealing with outdated and ineffective systems to address the complex planning process that is required in an omnichannel environment,” said Ken Morris, principal of Boston Retail Partners. “All of this negatively impacts the customer experience and, ultimately, sales. The good news is that retailers realize the issue, and 63% of our survey respondents plan to upgrade or replace their merchandise planning systems within two years.”

Key findings in the 2015 Merchandise Planning Benchmark Survey include:

  • Planning systems are outdated. Sixty-three percent of retailers plan to upgrade or replace their merchandise planning systems within two years.

  • Analytics is on the front burner. Fifty-eight percent of retailers indicated that improving analytics is their top priority for the next year.

  • Advanced analytics are gaining traction. Seventy-five percent of retailers use advanced analytics for merchandise planning; however, fewer use advanced analytics for store planning (45%), assortment planning (40%) and omnichannel planning (20%)

  • Integrated merchandising plans are not working well. While 50% of retailers have implemented integrated merchandising plans (financial plans, promotional calendars, planning teams and assortment plans), most of these retailers, across multiple channels, indicate they need improvement

  • Social media use for merchandise planning is opportunistic. While 71% of retailers indicated that they capture customer feedback via social media, only 23% are using social media for product planning

To read more, or to see the full report, click here.