How to Plan for Exceptional Performance in 2019

We’re in the grip of a retail storm.

In 2019, smooth sailing looks uncertain for many big names.

Political uncertainty is slowing down consumer spending. Interest rates are creeping up, provoking cash and credit caution. It’s even been suggested that UK shoppers are reaching ‘peak stuff’ levels, preferring experiences to more ‘things’.

Footfall across high streets, shopping centres and retail parks is falling and even online pioneers such as ASOS are navigating choppy waters.

Here we look at how technology can help you batten down the hatches and thrive over the coming year.

From forecasting and ordering to warehouse and supply chain, anticipating your pain points and putting proactive solutions in place to resolve them is critical to exceptional performance in 2019.

THE IMPACT OF ONLINE

Shopping online

Slowly but steadily, online sales figures are creeping up. In January 2018, they accounted for 17.7% of all retail sales. By November, that figure stood at 21.5%.

As online shopping increasingly accounts for a greater proportion of consumer spending, there are a few operational considerations you need to make.

Which means stock needs to be distributed differently with a greater reliance on central warehousing enabling you to operate a just-in-time model.

However, predicting how much stock and human resource you’ll need – and where – is not as simple as deducting online from high street sales. As John Lewis’ MD Paula Nickolds states, omnichannel retail means “people browse online, buy on tablet and pick-up in store.”

This makes it more difficult to calculate stock levels, supply chain requirements and the supporting people power. 

To succeed in this increasingly complex landscape, retailers need real-time data and reporting that connects online with high street stores. The only way to achieve this is to employ cutting-edge software that monitors sales both online and offline and accurately predicts stock requirements across multiple sites.

Fail to adopt effective technology quickly enough and you could be in trouble. Already this year, high street stalwart HMV has had to call in administrators citing “a tsunami of challenges”.

In comparison, John Lewis continues to shine, posting strong sales figures for the challenging Christmas period. One of the reasons? Investment in ecommerce operations and extending deadlines for services like next-day delivery and click-and-collect.

And homewares chain Dunelm is reaping the rewards of investment in their website and in tablets for shop floor employees. Figures show a 10% rise in sales in the final quarter of 2018, with sales in-store rising by 5.7%.

So what can you do to prepare for the 2019 challenge?

TAKE HEED OF LEARNINGS

Asking the right questions of your firm’s yearly performance can identify areas for improvement that can be implemented:

  • did particular brands perform better than others?
  • did specific product groups perform well or drop off?
  • what was product availability like?

Using all the data at your disposal will unearth revealing insights. We believe this is best done centrally rather than allowing different stores to assess and predict stock requirements themselves.

By combining data on your entire operation and assessing it using leading data analytics tools, you’ll gain greater insight that will help you take corrective action.

With the right software in place, you’ll build a powerful mountain of data. And with in-built artificial intelligence and machine learning, your systems will gain a greater understanding of what consumers want, where and when. Which will help you predict supply chain demands with increasing accuracy.

NEXT-LEVEL WAREHOUSING, SUPPLY CHAIN AND WORKFORCE MANAGEMENT

Modern Warehouse

The way people shop has fundamentally changed: ordering online for home delivery and using click and collect services are on the up.

This means that warehousing and supply chains are under more pressure than ever before. They have to get it right or risk losing a customer for life.

Particularly in high-volume businesses, retailers need to blend data that considers whether there are sufficient:

  • staffing levels in warehouses and on the shop floor to shift, stock and sell the goods
  • warehouse space for peak days like Saturdays
  • transportation capacity to match the delivery plan

Ordering in the right amounts to a central warehouse and drip-feeding deliveries to where products are required will make best use of your stock. With the right systems, replenishment orders can be automated based on accurate real-time reporting.

ONGOING ANALYSIS

Invest in software that’s always learning and you won’t need to assess your performance as the system does it for you. Using machine learning and artificial intelligence, it will establish a range of improvements including:

  • where forecast accuracy could be improved
  • where product availability was lacking
  • issues with excess stock
  • problems with workforce availability
  • whether ad-hoc discounting was applied that could be avoided in future

The longer you have the software in place, the more data it can gather and the better its predictive capabilities. Giving you the upper hand over competitors who rely on less advanced approaches.

Retailers look poised to continue experiencing enormous pressure as we enter 2019. Implementing next generation software and systems will enable you to provide a joined-up response across every element of your business. Making you better informed, better equipped and ready to deliver strong performance with confidence.