Magazine Article | June 1, 2002

Head Toward Store Optimization

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

Now that your multiple channels are in place, ensure you are optimizing them all by creating a real-time enterprise.

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, June 2002
Stephanie Roussel-Dupre

Over the past few years, the buzz has been multichannel retailing and CRM (customer relationship management). Customers have become accustomed to a higher level of personalization and service, as well as getting what they want, when they want it, and through whichever channel they choose to shop. As retailers struggle to meet customer expectations, they are faced with yet another hurdle to stay in the competitive race - store optimization.

Fuse Your Operation With Real-Time Data Access
The seamless integration of your channels paired with the ability to manage those channels from anywhere and in real time is the next competitive edge in retail. We think the next buzz phrase will be "Retail Fusion." The process, which involves synchronizing the retail enterprise and all its selling channels in real time, requires that retailers take notice of alternatives that are available, such as lower bandwidth costs and a wide range of best-of-breed technology choices. How can you profit from this concept? Let me walk you through a couple of real-life scenarios.

Scenario one: Anne, one of your best customers, needs to purchase an outfit for a party next week. She finds the perfect dress. It fits like a glove, but the color is wrong. Anne asks the cashier for the right color in her size. The cashier calls some nearby stores but has no luck. Frustrated, Anne purchases a different dress from your competitor, and vows to shop there from now on. A repeat order of that best-selling dress was scheduled to arrive the next morning and could have been shipped to Anne or the store in time for the party. In this case, an enterprise-wide, real-time view of inventory may have helped you save a sale and a customer.

Scenario two: A new cashier has been hired during a peak selling season and has been ringing up sales all week. The following Monday, the store manager gets a phone call from the sales audit manager at corporate; more than 25% of the cash transactions entered by the cashier were manually discounted or had price overrides, especially the big-ticket items. The cashier has not reported for his shift this morning and cannot be reached. A real-time alert to the store manager about the overapplied discounts on the cashier's first day may have saved the company's gross margin and the store manager's bonus.

Imagine arming your employees with access to real-time data across the enterprise. Now, they can act immediately - instead of a day, week, or month later - reducing the profit impact of the negative events and increasing the profit impact of positive ones. If this was possible, you could:

  • Maximize inventory turnover while minimizing stock-outs with real-time inventory data.
  • Allocate resources more effectively within the store or the district with real-time sales data.
  • Reduce employee fraud or training issues with real-time transactional data.
  • Increase sales with real-time customer data for cross-sell activities.

Five Steps To Store Optimization
So, what does it take to achieve "Retail Fusion?" The right technology. To take your business from today to tomorrow while still being cost-effective, you need architecture and applications with five important factors built in.

1. Your architecture must enable the integration of the store, all current and new channels, and the enterprise in real time.

2. The solution must be scalable enough to meet the demand of enterprise, channel, and store personnel all accessing the application at one time.

3. Applications must be flexible enough to run anywhere and be easily customized to meet changing business needs and models.

4. The solution must include technology integration that cost-effectively shares data with corporate systems that support or benefit from store sales and operations intelligence, such as e-commerce, merchandising, sales audit, financials, and human resources.

5. You must leverage your existing technology investments by using an architecture that runs on your current operating systems and hardware.

These key elements work together for optimization of store profits.