By Stefan T. Midford, CEO, Natural Insight
Merchandising is the heart of any retail business. As consumers have countless ways to purchase products, whether in brick-and-mortar locations or across dozens of online retailers, there is increasing pressure on merchandisers to ensure a consumer experiences products the way a brand manager intended.
Every detail matters — from visual appeal and organization to location. Amplified by the fact most merchandisers are managing a brand’s presence in dozens of retail outlets and across multiple websites, the task of executing the merchandising strategy to meet sales goals can be daunting.
Looking on the bright side, the rise of smartphones and tablets has contributed to the simplification of many tasks merchandisers must complete, primarily implementation, and remote reporting. What used to require extensive handwritten notes and countless email exchanges can today be executed in the palm of your hand through technology a majority of people use daily.
Merchandising Goes Mobile
According to Pew Research Center, 77 percent of Americans now own a smartphone and half own a tablet computer, up from just 3 percent in 2010. Enter the bring-your-own-device trend, or BYOD. Today, many workers are choosing to use their personal devices to complete job assignments. There are benefits for both employers and workers. For starters, employers save on hardware costs and research shows productivity, job satisfaction, and overall happiness increases.
Whether your company has a BYOD policy or not, mobile technology is critical for merchandisers. It streamlines the process of ensuring products appear in the right place at the right time, as well as in the correct quantities. It makes it easier for merchandisers to manage the process of rolling out new products and promotions, and gathering critical forecasting data, inventory levels, and product performance. Additionally, it allows them to transmit information from retail locations to headquarters in real time to improve retail operational efficiency in a constantly evolving environment.
Merchandisers can use mobile technology to prepare for their biggest seasons, especially back-to-school shopping, when the National Retail Federation estimates more people will shop in department stores (57.1 percent) this year versus online (45.5 percent). Effective merchandising strategies and proper inventory management will be key for driving sales during August when nearly half of consumers (46.7 percent) will begin their shopping.
As consumer spending is expected to reach $83.6 billion for back-to-school and back-to-college shopping, it’s critical retailers and product companies optimize their merchandising to maximize their piece of the profit. Even more important, merchandisers need to seize the opportunity to collect data about the effectiveness of their merchandising strategies to ensure a successful holiday season. Holiday spending has been steadily increasing over the years following the recession, with sales surpassing $658 billion during November and December of last year — up 4 percent over 2015.
Real-Time Merchandising Reporting Is Essential To Drive Sales
Many merchandising companies have reported growth in sales after seeing an uptick in operational efficiencies and employee productivity. Leveraging reporting and analytics tools, retailers and brands can monitor promotional execution, merchandising, store conditions, and in-store marketing events, then react to challenges in real time.
For us, it’s about continuing to innovate in the merchandising space to continually improve the customer experience through results-driven design. And while there’s no right way to deliver that experience, we know as technology evolves so will the way we operate. As the retail industry transforms, there is a stronger emphasis than ever before on creating connections with consumers. Focusing on driving sales by simplifying merchandising is vital.