Retailers know that success in today’s environment requires them to align their systems and organizations around fulfilling customer-led demand. But outdated planning systems and the legacy of channel-specific inventories still present major stumbling blocks many retailers. Still, brands including Uniqlo, Zara and Bonobos have solved some of these challenges, in part by more closely aligning customer data with planning systems.
In its 2017 Merchandise Planning Benchmark Survey, Boston Retail Partners (BRP) set out to gauge the current state of retail planning processes and systems, including merchandise planning, assortment planning and localization, store planning, allocation, omnichannel demand planning and space planning. “To innovate the customer experience, [retailers] must transform their disparate systems, processes and organization into one cohesive environment with the ability to offer customers a seamless shopping environment across any channel and the capability to deliver merchandise immediately — wherever it is needed,” according to the report.
Although customer-centricity is the top strategic initiative for almost half (47%) of the retailer respondents, the road to implementation has been rocky:
- More than half (53%) of retailers that have integrated planning processes across channels say the initiative needs improvement;
- Almost one-third (31%) of retailers still maintain separate inventory in each channel, although this percentage has dropped from 69% a few years ago;
- Systems for store planning, merchandise planning, and assortment planning and localization are likely to be three to five years old; and
- More than one quarter (28%) of retailers view omnichannel demand planning systems as somewhat or very ineffective.
The survey underscores the fact that there are still opportunities for better integration across channels — and the people, processes and technology to support them. “Customers use technology daily to enable and control their shopping journey,” said Gene Bornac, Senior Vice President of BRP in a statement. “Now it is up to retailers to play catch up with their organization, processes and technology to…