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Business Smart Merchandising

Inter-store transfers; An inventory optimization solution

You have probably heard about the concept of inventory optimization, but do you know how to make the most of it?

Inventory management is a tricky business. Too much inventory and you are tying up valuable resources that could be used elsewhere, too little inventory and you risk losing sales. What if there was a way to optimize inventory to always have just the right amount in hand? A way to ensure ideal inventory at all times?

Maintaining the right quantity of inventory required to meet demand, keeping logistics costs low, and avoiding common inventory issues such as stockouts, overstocking, or deadstock — make optimized allocation and replenishment in inventory management essential for any retail business. Store-to-store or inter-store transfer effectively manages seasonal and geographical demand fluctuations and is an effective way to optimize inventory. 

How does Inter-store transfer (IST) optimize inventory? 

Demand forecasting is vital for any retail business, but it is not perfect. Demand forecasting often fails, resulting in too much or too little inventory. One way to mitigate the risks of demand forecasting is to use store-to-store transfers to optimize inventory. Inventory management is a crucial part of any retail business. Too much inventory can tie up capital and lead to stockouts, while too little can result in lost sales. Inventory optimization is the process of finding the perfect balance between these two extremes, and store-to-store transfer is an effective way to optimize inventory. 

This technique also ensures that all stores of the retailer have the right mix of products in terms of colours, sizes, fit types, etc., while reducing overall inventory levels and costs. It also improves customer service levels by reducing stock-outs and increasing the availability of products. Overall, it is a powerful tool to help retailers improve their inventory management and bottom line.

Optimize seasonal inventory management with IST

There are several benefits of using inter-store transfers to optimize and better manage seasonal inventory. The very concept of a season has been re-defined in modern retail. Some retailers choose the conventional path of four seasons in a year, viz, Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. At the same time, retailers like Zara do twelve seasons in a calendar year, which means new stocks in the stores every month. With significant variations in climatic conditions within a country and during the same period, a store in a warmer climate could be selling more of a different product type than a store in a cooler temperature. Real-Time Data analysis can enable timely Inter store transfer to ensure that stores have the right inventory to meet customer demand.

When inventory is not selling at one location, it can be transferred to another site where it is more likely to sell. This helps businesses avoid the cost of storing excess inventory and better utilize their space.

The Role of technology in Inter-store Transfers

  • Technology Solutions to ease inventory optimization

Technology solutions can help retailers optimize their inventory levels and improve customer satisfaction. Inventory management software can provide insights into customer demand patterns and help retailers plan inter-store transfers to avoid stockouts. 

With real-time data and automated processes, retailers can quickly and accurately identify where inventory needs to be transferred to optimize their overall inventory levels. 

Additionally, tools like predictive analytics can help retailers anticipate trends and plan inter-store transfers accordingly, further enhancing customer satisfaction levels. 

The right technology solutions help retailers:

  • Analyze demand patterns and make recommendations
  • Conduct new-season and mid-season replenishments, 
  • Automate replenishment of fast sellers, 
  • Adjust inventory for seasonal changes and spikes, 
  • Consolidate stock sizes between stores 
  • Avoid stock-outs or over-stocking in any particular store or season

Critical Advantages of Inter-store Transfers

  • Minimizes Dead Stock, i.e. inventory that sits on shelves and never sells. It is a waste of money and resources, as it ties up valuable space in your store. Transfer inventory that is not selling in one store to another store where it might sell better.
  • Helps reduce stockouts or overstocking in stores. Ensure your inventory is constantly moving and never stuck with inventory that you cannot sell.
  • Enhances ROS by making the right product available at the right location 
  • Helps manage seasonal demand spikes
  • Supplements mid-season replenishments 
  • Better inventory turns by allocating stocks in the most appropriate locations 
  • Enhanced customer satisfaction

There are a few things to keep in mind when using Inter-store Transfers. 

First, it is essential to have a good understanding of your inventory levels and needs. Second, Store-To-Store Transfer should be used in conjunction with other inventory management techniques, such as just-in-time (JIT) production and Kanban systems. Adopting a robust inventory management solution with JIT, Kanban, Allocation & Replenishment, etc., tools built-in can make Inter-Store Transfers easier.

Finally, Store-To-Store Transfer may not be a panacea for all inventory problems. Still, it can be a valuable tool in your inventory management arsenal when used efficiently with the help of intelligent software solutions available today.

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Smart Merchandising

5 Extremely Useful Techniques to Boost Store Sales

While online shopping rises in trajectory, stores have continued to remain highly relevant. In the US, over 85% of retail still happens in physical stores, while ecommerce still represents a small percentage of total retail sales, that is, only 14.5%. 

Stores are widely known to add an element of localization to the business. Having a strong local presence is essential to establishing a brand identity and creating a meaningful personal touch. Customers continue to visit stores to experience the products physically and test them in person before purchasing them. 

In this blog, we take you through the top 5 highly useful techniques to boost store sales instantly.

  1. Maintain the health of your stock

Make sure every product has an adequate number of sizes and styles. Have enough XL, L, M, and S sizes for each product. By eliminating or reducing stock brokenness, there is the least likelihood of losing sales and revenues. To maintain the health of the stock, brands can use techniques like auto-replenishment or take measures like inter-store transfer or transfer from the warehouses. Data analysis has a significant role to play in maintaining the health of the stock as it can give brands a fair idea of the potential distribution curve for various sizes and styles.

2. Boost inventory exposure to maximize sales

A lot of challenges in modern inventory management lie in the lack of visibility across different markets and locations. This becomes all the more complex as omnichannel overtakes retail businesses and demands better integration among various channels. 

Improving integration and ensuring a seamless connection between ERPs and warehouse management solutions can drive inventory exposure significantly. Making the right inventory available in the right stores as per regional demand means enhancing the likelihood of conversions. It also helps increase the turnaround time and avoid unnecessary discounts by selling at just the right price on the basis of the local demand. Increff Offline to Online (O2O) helps expose store inventory to online consumers to increase sales conversion by enhancing product listings. 

3. Placing the right inventory in the right stores

Cutting-edge BI and accurate assortment planning help place the right products in the right stores. Demand analysis can keep brands abreast of the trends in regional demand and enable them to respond accordingly in terms of assortment planning. Demand analysis is not an ad hoc step, but a continuous process of evaluation of demand to enable better decision-making and create more accurate product assortments. 

Likewise, Regional Utilization has an entirely local focus and enables brands to make products available as close to the customer clusters as possible, besides reducing costs of logistics and delivery.

4. Top seller/core style identification 

Once brands are aware of their top-selling products or are able to identify the core style of their customers, they can have the right product mix in the right quantities. Each store could have a different top-selling style, shaped largely by factors such as local fashion outlook or cultural inclinations. Teaming a white shirt with blue jeans is a universal fashion favorite that brands must have in adequate quantities across stores so as not to miss out on sales opportunities. 

Conversely, it is also very helpful for brands to keep tabs on their slow-moving products so that they may avoid overstocking these items and freezing precious financial resources. Slow-moving products could be cleared faster using deals and discounts. 

5. Identification and pullback of dead stock

Brands must keep a vigil on the velocity of their products, especially the slow movers that can be cleared using markdowns. In case some products aren’t sold off despite using these tactics, brands must proactively identify the dead stock and pull it back into the warehouses. Alternatively, some products could also be shifted to other stores where they could be in demand in their local markets. This opens up the shelf space for better products that could attract buyers and help attain higher conversions for the brand. Replacing the dead stock with products that are trending in the market is simply a great way to boost sales.

Brick-and-mortar stores are unlikely to fade away anytime in the foreseeable future. Rather than ignoring this crucial source of revenue, brands must craft proactive strategies to pull customers into the stores, boost their conversion rate and raise a healthy revenue. The above-given tips are a proven solution to meet the growing challenges of physical store retail in times of the rapidly growing online retail industry.

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Smart Merchandising Technology

Seasonal Inventory Management: New-Season Allocation & Mid-Season Replenishment

In today’s retail environment of fast fashion, retailers have to replenish their inventory constantly. One of the main challenges faced is finding the right balance between being proactive in forecasting demand and reacting to changes in supply and demand.  

Seasonal inventory management is a business method used to manage inventory allocation and replenishment most cost-effectively and efficiently. The right seasonal inventory management plan can help a business understand its demand patterns and anticipate future demand. This allows retailers to plan their stock levels, new-season allocation, and mid-season replenishment efficiently. 

The first step in seasonal inventory management is to understand customer demand patterns. This can be done by analyzing past sales data and trends. Retailers can also use market research and surveys to gather information about customer preferences. Forecasting demand is tricky, therefore retailers need to consider several factors, including the season, upcoming events, and trends. If demand is overestimated, retailers could end up with too much inventory. On the other hand, retailers could miss out on sales if demand is underestimated.

The next step in seasonal inventory management is developing a plan for allocating and replenishing inventory. Retailers need to decide how much inventory to keep in hand, and how often to replenish and distribute among stores.

Critical Elements of Seasonal Inventory Management

Predictive Demand Forecasting: Predictive demand forecasting uses past sales data to project future demand. Merchandisers can use predictive demand forecasting to plan inventory levels and product mix to have the right products in stock when customers want them. Predictive demand forecasting is essential for seasonal businesses, like retailers who sell summer clothes or winter sports gear. By looking at past sales data, retailers can predict how much demand there will be for specific products in the future and plan their inventory levels accordingly. This ensures that they do not overstock on items that customers do not want to buy and helps them avoid stockouts of popular items. To make predictive demand forecasting more accurate, retailers can use multiple sources, like point-of-sale data, customer surveys, and weather data. This can help them account for changes in customer behavior and demand patterns. Retailers often use various methods to forecast demand, including trend analysis, statistical forecasting models, and market research, to get an accurate picture of future demand and plan their inventory levels accordingly. Merchandisers need to be aware of the latest demand forecasting methods and technologies to make the most accurate predictions possible.

New-Season Allocation: Product allocation is the process of distributing new products to store shelves. When allocating new products, retailers must consider the product’s popularity, shelf life, and the available space in stores to maximize sales and minimize stock-outs. New-season allocation involves organizing how much inventory should be allocated to be sold in the upcoming season. There are a few things to keep in mind when doing this:

– The amount of inventory allocated should be based on data for past sales patterns. If demand was high, then more inventory should be allocated. If demand was low, then less stock should be allocated.

– Allocating too much or too little inventory can be costly. If there is too much inventory, it ties up working capital and can lead to markdowns, too little inventory can result in lost sales.

– The goal is to have the proper inventory to meet customer demand without tying up too much working capital.

Mid-Season Replenishment: Mid-season replenishment involves rearranging inventory during a particular season. If a retailer seeks to maintain optimum inventory health, they will need to replenish before running out of stock. Mid-season changes in demand can be challenging to manage. If demand increases, there may not be enough inventory on hand to meet customer demand, which can result in lost sales. If demand decreases, there may be too much inventory on hand, which will tie up working capital. One way to handle mid-season changes in demand is to redistribute inventory across stores. This can be done by transferring inventory from stores with excess inventory to stores with low inventory levels. Store-to-Store or inter-store transfers will help to ensure that customer demand is met without tying up too much working capital. Modern warehouse technologies are a good investment for optimizing the mid-season replenishment process or making operations leaner. 

Auto alerts for low inventory levels: Retailers can use inventory management software to set up auto alerts for when inventory reaches a certain level. This allows retailers to replenish stock at the shortest lead time, which can help avoid stockouts and lost sales.

Auto-Replenishment of fast sellers: Replenish fast-selling items automatically to ensure they are always in stock while avoiding overstock of less popular items.

Inter-Store Transfers: An inventory redistribution method where inventory is transferred from one location to another. This type of transfer can be used to redistribute inventory based on changes in demand or to avoid stockouts at a particular site. Merchandising solutions can help retailers plan and execute inter-store transfers to minimize the impact on sales.

Adjusting inventory for seasonal fluctuations: Seasonal changes can significantly impact inventory levels. Retailers must be prepared to adjust their inventory levels to account for increased demand during holidays and other peak periods. They may also need to adjust their inventory to account for changes in demand due to weather changes.

Conclusion

Seasonal inventory management can be a complex and time-consuming process. However, it is essential for retailers to stay ahead of the competition and maximize sales. With the right inventory management strategy, retailers can manage seasonal changes and maintain healthy inventory levels. New-age merchandising solutions can help retailers track seasonal trends and make the necessary adjustments to their inventory levels. Auto replenishment of fast-selling items can help ensure that popular items are always in stock while avoiding overstock of less popular items. Inter-store transfers can be used to redistribute inventory based on changes in demand or avoid stockouts, and maintain healthy inventory levels at all times. 

With an effective seasonal inventory management strategy, retailers can increase customer satisfaction and keep inventory costs under control. A well-defined merchandise plan helps retailers tackle the challenges of seasonal inventory management by understanding customer demand patterns. Retailers can thus ensure that they always have the right products in stock.

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Smart Merchandising

Retail assortment planning; Creating a winning product mix & depth in stores

Creating a winning product mix and depth in stores is one of the biggest challenges for the modern retailer. The rise of online shopping, and the growth of e-commerce, have made it even more challenging for traditional retailers to keep up with demand in today’s dynamic omnichannel marketplace.

The rise of e-commerce has been good for consumers in many ways, but many still prefer to shop in stores, which means that retailers need to create a winning product mix and depth. At the heart of any successful retail business lies effective assortment planning. This refers to creating and managing a carefully curated product mix and depth in stores, ensuring that each location offers products that are well-suited to its target customers and market environment.

What is product mix and depth? 

A retailer’s product mix and depth can significantly impact consumer behaviour and sales. The mix refers to the type of products you carry, while depth refers to the number of SKUs or items within each category. Getting the mix and depth right is essential to ensuring that stores can meet customer needs while also maintaining efficient inventory levels.

What is assortment planning in retail?

Assortment planning in retail creates a winning product mix and depth for stores. Some of the critical elements of retail assortment planning include maintaining inventory health, reducing out-of-stocks and stock-outs, and identifying bestsellers. 

Retail assortment planning aims to have a product mix and assortment that meets customer expectations and demand.

To achieve this goal, retailers need to use new-age merchandising tools and assortment planning software to provide integrated inventory planning capabilities and instantly downloadable reports at multiple stakeholder levels. This creates a comprehensive, single repository of inventory data from all sales channels. A complete view of their product offerings’ depth and mix at the individual store level enables retailers to make more informed and data-driven decisions to optimize inventory management.

New-age assortment planning software also helps retailers use individual style analysis tools to identify the bestsellers among their products, focusing efforts on maximizing sales for those items. With such software solutions, retailers can quickly analyze historical data to determine the true potential of each style at the store level and identify store-specific assortments that take into account the unique characteristics of each location.

Conventional excel charts with limited capabilities due to manual input processes will not suffice in today’s thriving and fast-changing consumer trends.

There are many advantages to effective assortment planning in retail.

It helps:

  • Maximize sales and profitability by ensuring that stores are stocked with the right products in the right quantities. 
  • Reduce inventory levels and associated carrying costs while also lowering out-of-stocks and stock-outs.
  • Create a more seamless customer experience by ensuring that stores always have the products that customers are looking for. 
  • Using data and analytics to understand customer needs and preferences better, assortment planning can help retailers stay ahead of shifting trends and respond quickly to new opportunities in the market.

The retail product assortment solution optimizes your product assortment planning enabling retailers to maintain good inventory health by tracking inventory levels on an ongoing basis and identifying any products that may be at risk of stock-outs. This allows for better decision-making about which products to keep in-store and online and how to adjust the mix and depth of products to meet customer demand.

Finally, it is essential to have a system to review and update your assortment plans regularly. This may involve regularly reviewing sales and inventory data and conducting customer surveys and focus groups on staying on top of evolving trends and preferences. With the right assortment planning strategy and approach, you can create a winning product mix and depth in your retail stores that will help you drive sales, profitability, and customer satisfaction. By using new-age merchandising tools, retailers can comprehensively view their inventory, identify bestsellers, and prevent stock-outs. They can create a winning product mix and depth to keep customers coming back for more.

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Smart Merchandising

The Art of Merchandise Planning for Omnichannel Retail

While brands are increasingly taking to the digital space, physical stores continue to play an important role. Two ways in which physical stores can complement online channels are by acting as local fulfillment centers and being an easy contact point for receiving returned goods from customers. 

Omnichannel poses a number of challenges for optimizing operations, capturing maximum sales, and ensuring the highest levels of profitability. This has implications for retail strategy, information flow, physical flow of products, supply chain management, and last-mile delivery. Most importantly, it impacts retailers’ merchandise buying and planning decisions. 

Analytics, Forecasting, and BI

Accurate forecasting at all times is essential for the right buying and planning decisions. All the information relayed back from the market is put through smart algorithms that enable retailers to take the right future-focused merchandising decisions. 

In omnichannel retail, data streams from multiple POSs, capture, and store relevant data thus it is critical to ensure the integrity of the repositories. Data related to past customer purchase behavior, bestsellers & Never-Out-Of-Stock styles, seasonality, and festive purchase behavior, facilitate inventory planning and buying decisions. This requires an effective Merchandising platform to integrate data from across channels, enabling retailers to take the decisions with ease and agility.

Apart from leveraging conventional past data, Business Intelligence (BI) plays a critical role in a highly competitive marketplace. Timely customer-related information and BI can help retailers outdo their competitors and stay ahead in the market. With omnichannel retail, you can expect plenty of market-related intelligence and information flowing in. The big challenge is to process, analyze and represent that information effectively to enable accurate planning and decision-making. 

Retailers must integrate information across channels, use it to gain customer insights, and design growth strategies accordingly. Merchandising solutions help in gaining a competitive edge as it is impossible to manage and utilize massive, multifaceted data using conventional tools like Excel sheets. (read more)

Getting the right assortment at the store level

Placing the right assortment at the right store is critical for capturing maximum sales. Gathering information on customer preferences, past purchase behavior, and their response to discounts and promotions, coupled with robust BI analytics helps stock the right inventory.

Smart assortment plan

Fashion brands are experiencing increasing complexity due to the wide range of product styles with varying customer demands. Sub-optimal assortment planning and buying can result in overstocking or understocking of items at the store level, which amounts to inefficient distribution. 

With an end-to-end merchandising solution, retailers can leverage data to develop a smart assortment plan and achieve optimal store allocation. Using over 300 algorithms, the solution ensures accurate decision-making with the help of product clustering, store-style ranking, and the inclusion of seasonality and visual merchandising. A smart merchandise allocation plan also ensures the consistent availability of NOOS (Never Out Of Stock) styles in stores.

By ensuring the right product clustering, width, and depth of the product, automation-based merchandising solutions enhance the likelihood of conversions. They also help decide the true size-set ratio at the store level, leading to minimal size cuts. The solution keeps track of the inventory health, lead time, depletion rate, and reorder quantity, to create an ideal buy plan for each store-style combination.

Optimal store allocation

Optimal store allocation is achieved through regular replenishment and inter-store transfer of goods from low-performing stores to high-performing stores for better sales. It aims at ensuring that every single item reaches the right store. Allocation of a new store is determined by comparing the features and product assortments of similar stores nearby. 

In the context of omnichannel retail, a real-time assessment of the common pool of inventory both online and offline is important to stay up-to-date about the availability of inventory at all times. Customized reports for every stakeholder level, from CXO down to the merchandiser level facilitate the merchandising decisions at each level.

Integrate Multiple Plans into a Single Multichannel Plan

Retailers need to integrate individual plans tailored for each channel into a single multichannel plan that boosts sales, margins, fulfillment rates, and inventory turns across the whole business.  Increff Omni OMS allows retailers to expose offline inventory to customers online so orders can be placed at any point of sales and fulfilled either from the stores or the nearest warehouse, thus providing a unified shopping experience to all offline and online shoppers. 

Smart assortment planning tools help with individual store planning and forecasting, down to the SKU level. Real-time inventory updates and faster order fulfillment ensure higher margins and profitability. As omnichannel becomes the future of retail, brands experience greater reliance on tech-based Merchandising solutions that enable automation in decision-making, conduct advanced business analytics for strategizing, and facilitate forecasting at all stakeholder levels for faster business growth. 

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Smart Merchandising

Allocation and Replenishment for Omnichannel Retail

As omnichannel retail becomes a steady trend, conventional allocation and forecasting can cost millions and appear to be rather tedious. The omnichannel approach demands proactive and integrated strategizing across all points of sales, responsive allocation, and timely replenishment. The growth of omnichannel retail has therefore created new challenges for retailers, especially in allocation and replenishment. Accurate decisions to meet evolving customer demands can be taken by leveraging past data, customer buying patterns, competitors’ tactics, and seasonality with automation and analytics-based merchandising solutions. 

Forecast right down to the store level

It is important to forecast demand across multi channel retail accurately to ensure that the right quantity of stock is allocated to the right warehouses and stores. Predictive analytics helps determine the timing of replenishment, size of the consignments, and frequency of allocation. 

Analyze Patterns of Online and Offline Demand 

To determine allocation and replenishment accurately, gauging customer demand patterns is critical. Retailers must consider factors that decide the quantity, timing, and motivations of customers’ purchase decisions. As compared to the traditional methods of analysis, data-driven decision-making helps in easy, instantaneous, and accurate demand analysis. New-age merchandising solutions help retailers drill deep into product & size level granularities to predict the exact style-size combination to serve customer demand across both offline and online channels.

Right Allocation for Ideal Demand Fulfillment

Once the pattern of demand is identified, it has to be backed up with the right allocation. In case of a sudden spurt in demand in a particular market, in-season reallocation can be optimized through inter-store and inter-warehouse transfer.

Likewise, using Increff Distributed Warehouse Inventory Optimization solution as part of your pre-season allocation strategy helps maximizes fulfillment from local warehouses. It enables retailers to provide cost-effective fulfillment by reducing the shipping distance. Delayed order delivery is one of the major reasons for returns, fulfilling orders faster from regional warehouses helps reduce this significantly. It increases margins, provides operational efficiency, and minimized shipping costs immensely while ensuring the highest levels of customer service and repeat purchases.  

Turn on Auto-Replenishment 

An ideal merchandising solution enables retailers to set auto-alerts to notify when the quantity of a fast-moving style has reached below a certain level and needs to be replenished. While setting the alerts, it is prudent to consider the average lead time and keep a provision for supply-side delays. In case a particular product or style is unavailable, the merchandising solutions can suggest the next best alternative which can be considered for replenishment. This helps capture maximum sales and avoid loss of revenue due to the non-availability of goods.

Sales of bestsellers (e.g., plain white T-shirts) are not seasonal and their replenishment can happen throughout the year. If sales of some styles that are in limited quantities, pick up suddenly during a season, then alternatives styles can be replaced to ensure consistent sales.

Use Markdown Management to Boost Sales and Improve Margins

Throughout the season, retailers expect crests and troughs in demand. Whether it is the end-of-season sale or festivities, retailers must anticipate demand accurately for the right inventory management and to avoid over or under-stocking of inventory.

At the end of a season, retailers usually sell off the leftover stock at high discounts so it can be replaced with new stock. A number of factors like True ROS™, Ageing & Cover, Health of stock in a store, etc,. are critical factors to consider in determining the right percentage of markdowns. Since omnichannel can complicate the markdown decision immensely, retailers cannot rely on excel sheets for decision making. They need to implement the right markdown optimization tools to accurately access discounting percentages, ensuring maximum sales and high profitability. 

Markdown management is also useful to expedite the sale of slow-moving stock during the season. For this, an appropriate discounting percentage must be applied that avoids causing excess loss or devaluation of merchandise. Discount levels can also be manipulated based on the store-level customer demand for a particular product. 

Manage Returns Proactively 

Omnichannel commerce increases the complexity of returns as customers who buy online often prefer to return the goods offline at physical stores. Brands, therefore, have to facilitate easy returns management by putting in place quality checks and product sorting right at the store level, or at a nearby fulfillment center. Finally, they are required to expedite reverse logistics to the warehouse so that the merchandise is made available for resale as soon as possible. 

As is evident, omnichannel adds to the need for proactive strategizing, better forecast and demand anticipation, greater demand fulfillment from regional warehouses, and accurate inter-warehouse transfer to meet customer demand, helping capture maximum sales and boost profitability. For all this, retailers need the robust support of automation and predictive analytics provided by an ideal merchandising solution.

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Smart Merchandising

Building Digital Supply Chains with Integrated Demand Planning

As the global economy becomes interconnected and complex, companies find it challenging to meet customer expectations. They must make supply chain decisions faster, decisive, and accurate, and have the ability to implement those decisions rapidly and transparently.

Integrated demand planning is necessary to remain competitive in today’s marketplace. It amalgamates the supply side and the demand side of a business to form a cohesive unit that is vital for meeting OTIF (On-Time-In-Full) for supply chain success. To achieve OTIF, a company must have end-to-end supply chain visibility and be able to balance demand and supply in real-time to make the right decisions quickly and effectively. It is important to improve customer satisfaction, optimize inventory levels and distribution networks, and achieve a faster time to market for sales maximization. 

Best Practices for Integrated Demand Planning:

Demand planning is a cross-functional approach that enables brands to meet customer demand while minimizing waste and quickly adapting to supply chain disruptions. Effective planning boosts profitability and consumer satisfaction. 

  • Implementing the Right Tech-Solution: In today’s complex and rapidly changing market, choosing robust tech solutions to organize data and estimate demand is crucial.
    When looking for a Merchandising or WMS solution, it is vital to analyze the tool’s capabilities in handling intricacies in demand fluctuations, supplier efficiency, and adaptability. Following are some critical elements to consider when choosing the right solution for your business:
    • Easy integration with existing ERPs
    • Ability to handle omnichannel, multi-region, and multi-product portfolio complexity
    • Demand sensing for better short-term forecasting by deep data analysis of daily demand fluctuations and trends
    • Enables end-to-end supply chain visibility
    • Ability to conduct performance monitoring based on real-time analytics and user-friendly dashboards
    • Ability to incorporate AI and machine learning to provide contextual intelligence
    • Integrating with Cloud Solutions
  • Business Intelligence & Data-Driven Decision-Making: Now more than ever, data drives demand planning. Digitized supply chains give real-time insights into inventory changes and market trends, and help identify key areas for optimization during demand planning. Traditional excel based analytical tools do not suffice anymore as big data analysis requires granular-level scientific decision-making that does not rely solely on instincts.  
  • Planning the Ideal Assortment Mix: Managing an ever-evolving portfolio of products by identifying top sellers among existing styles, seasonal styles, and emerging trends efficiently leads to the maximization of demand potential. An integrated demand plan helps understand how adding new products will affect the overall supply chain, and how the demand of one product affects the demand of another. Product portfolio planners are highly involved in scenario planning to ensure that each product line’s demand influence on the other products is positive and optimized. 
  • Optimal Allocation: Allocating and reallocating the right styles in the right locations as per changing customer demand is very essential for fast, accurate order fulfillment. Mapping style-size requirements at the Pincode level, using new-age merchandising solutions can help brands allocate the right stock in the right places at the beginning of the sales season itself. In-season demand fluctuations can be addressed by readjusting or shifting inventory (Inter-Store Transfers) from stores where the demand is low, to those where the demand is high. Such easy adaptability to changing market scenarios brings greater agility and flexibility in supply chains.
  • Autonomous Planning: In a fast-changing world, the ability of autonomous planning is to assist supply chains to function more effectively under pressure and with less direct human involvement and decision-making. Automated systems are designed to function within a framework in terms of what tasks they may execute, based on predetermined rules. An autonomous system, built on intelligent algorithms and the SaaS+ model, learns and adapts to changing market scenarios and evolves continuously. 
  • Easy System Integrations & User-friendly UX/UI: New-age merchandising and warehousing technology solutions are built to seamlessly integrate with the brand’s existing system and make the transition smooth. It prevents any loss of customer data or inventory mismanagement and leads to better inventory and order control. Simple UX/UI reduces training time and increases workforce efficiency and productivity by automating processes and eliminating errors due to human decision-making. 

The rise of the digital supply chain has presented new opportunities and challenges that can be addressed with advanced technology solutions. Integrated demand planning is the basis of digital supply chains for brands to cater to the fast-paced and constantly evolving customer demands. It has the power to increase efficiency, decrease lead times, and ultimately result in more satisfied customers, more efficient operations, and higher profits.

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Smart Merchandising

What is a High Low Pricing Strategy in Retail? Find the ideal price for your product.

A high-low pricing strategy is one that runs a substantial gap between the regular or listed price of any product and its promoted price. The high-low method is a retail price optimization strategy adopted to give consumers the perception of a bargain without any compromise on the perceived value of the brand. 

The most important aspect of this strategy is establishing the high reference price that a buyer compares to the discounted sale price of the product. This comparison with the original price is what makes the consumer perception that the product is a bargain when it is offered at a substantially lower price. 

A high-low pricing or dynamic pricing strategy can be used to promote sales in retail stores and D2C e-commerce businesses, but if the high price appears to be an inflated price for the customer without establishing the perceived value proposition, it may prevent sales. The high reference price should initially establish a high level of interest and curiosity in the product before prices are discounted at the point of sale. The low price of the product must be attractive and affordable for consumers, high enough to maintain high gross margins, but low enough that it does not appear that goods are being sold at too steep a markdown. 

An important aspect that must be noted about the high-low pricing method is that the markdown and discount in the selling price are temporary. This ensures that the perceived value proposition of the product and brand is not compromised. The highest and lowest prices must still be in line with the overall value perception of the brand. 

When is the right time to use high-low pricing? 

  • High-low pricing is also effective when demand for products is low and retailer stores need to attract customers over a longer period of time, perhaps to recover fixed and variable costs associated with high stock holding levels
  • Large retail chains that operate several stores and high turnover may choose high-low pricing because it is cheaper than extensive advertising and promotional campaigns
  • The pricing can also be adopted when products are nearing their shelf life and the inventory needs to be liquidated quickly. While this is the case with edibles, the same applies for other product categories as well – for example, fashion stores or online sellers running end of season sales to quickly sell out stock before the start of a new fashion season
  • High prices are set when the market is relatively nascent and customers are willing to pay a premium. However, the high-low method might become useful when competition enters the market and the product has moved along the product life cycle; therefore there is a need to establish competitive pricing

Advantages of High-Low Pricing Method:

  • Creates Excitement: When the price is reduced as per the high-low pricing method, this change is not permanent. This psychological pricing creates excitement because customers know that the price will rise once again
  • Enhanced Sales: Various price levels offered especially during promotions and campaigns can generate additional sales and appeal to more price-sensitive consumers. It also helps cater to an aspirational market who can become brand advocates
  • Turning Inventory: Slow-moving inventory at retail outlets can be liquidated quickly with a high-low pricing strategy
  • Increased Footfall/Website Hits: The pricing strategy helps get more eyeballs and expand the customer base for the brand

The best example of using a high-low pricing strategy could be the fashion retail industry. When a new trend is in vogue, retailers would drop a new collection at a high price point. At this stage, all colours and sizes are usually available across all sales channels. As the fashion trends change and/or the season changes high-low pricing kicks in by offering slower selling colours and sizes at marked down or high-low prices.

For example, brands like Zara or H&M, often mark down their prices during festive periods or if they are running certain promotional campaigns. The price is marked up to the usual once the campaign ends. 

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The high low pricing method is used extensively by medium and small retailers. Especially now, in the internet era where shoppers are more capable of finding lower-priced items, its usage and relevance are widespread in the e-commerce space too.

Disadvantages of High-low Pricing Method:

  • Customer Perception: When discounts are frequent, it could give consumers an impression that the product/brand may not be premium as perceived or positioned
  • Customer Doubt: Low prices are often associated with lower quality. High-low pricing may seed doubts in the customers’ minds about the perceived quality of the product 
  • Timing: The high-low method will always have to be timed perfectly. Or else it could lead to lower margins, loss of sales at an otherwise higher price point
  • Customer Understanding: A predictable high-low pricing strategy may make the loyal customer learn and wait for high-low pricing to set in for their purchase

Many of the disadvantages and risks involved in making a high-low pricing strategy could be minimized by using robust order management or product life cycle management software. It must also be kept in mind that the lowest selling price should always maintain the basic cost-plus pricing to recover operational costs while achieving a healthy margin. There is an urgent need to plan and implement a dynamic pricing strategy to remain competitive in this dynamic market. The use of intelligent software, like Increff Markdown Optimization, to devise high low price points can help companies make sound, data-driven decisions that will help maximize profits while keeping customers happy! 

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Smart Merchandising Technology Warehouse Management

How D2C Brands Scale Exponentially with New-Age Inventory Management & WMS Solution

D2C e-commerce is growing faster with increasing penetration of mobile and internet services, and the mushrooming growth of 3PL companies, especially in the urban areas. It offers benefits like cost-cutting, greater control of the supply chain, better quality management, and more efficient returns management. 

All this requires automated support in terms of inventory storage, order management, packaging, and logistics. This is where a new-age Warehouse Management Solution (WMS) plays a crucial role in inventory management for D2C businesses.

Inventory management and merchandise planning for e-commerce

As soon as brands take charge of their supply chain, a number of technical areas demand attention. Foremost is optimizing warehouse space to expedite order picking and smoothen overall order processing. Synchronizing incoming orders and inventory, establishing the best possible floor plans, and picking rules, are some of the prime functions of a new-age WMS. 

Maintaining inventory accuracy with unique piece barcoding assigned to each incoming piece in the warehouse is critical. Hand-held devices used for order picking, synchronize with the WMS and display complete product information on scanning the barcodes. The barcodes capture individual product details to help detect their exact location within the warehouse. It increases accountability by recording details of every action performed on the item within the warehouse, and also ensures order picking efficiency, enhances accuracy, and prevents errors. 

Assortment planning, space management, and in-season planning are some aspects of inventory management orchestrated by an automated inventory management solution. These solutions make use of analytics and algorithms to ensure inventory planning is aligned with the long-term strategy of a brand for a given customer segment.

Managing returns and rapid re-commerce

Returns management is a serious concern for growing brands. To keep returns under check and the cost of re-commerce under control, D2C returns management requires an automated solution.

An automated WMS helps brands accept incoming orders, sync with the inventory, and ship them as soon as possible. It helps trace returns, avoids delays, streamlines return management, and reduces the cost of return logistics. Products spending too much time on their way back to the warehouse are at a greater risk of getting damaged. Returns management solution finds the shortest route back, enabling brands to expose the stock for resale as soon as possible. It sorts products into categories such as refurbished, resalable, and unsaleable, based on which it disperses them in the value chain. As D2C brands seek to gain complete control of their supply chain, a comprehensive returns management policy is necessary and must be centered on automated returns management software.

Markdown optimization for D2C brands

Setting the right price could be a daunting task for brands. Going too low could affect their relationship with retailers and confuse customers about the authenticity or quality of the products. Dynamic pricing, based on data-driven algorithms, takes into account a diverse set of factors like competitors’ prices, demand-and-supply dynamics, and levels of inventory. Dynamic pricing in e-commerce helps brands keep their pricing aligned with their channel strategy in a given marketplace.

Demand-based inventory distribution

For brands expanding over larger geographies, distributing inventory to multiple warehouses, so that the products are located closest to the customers, is the best way to reduce costs and ensure quick fulfillment. As brands expand their businesses, it becomes more expensive to ship products from a single warehouse as compared to renting out space at multiple locations. Tools such as Increff Regional Utilization ensures brands and retailers have the right levels of inventory as close to their customers as possible. The tool is completely web-based and performs millions of computations within minutes to find the right level and style of stock for each fulfillment center. 

D2C poses a number of challenges for brands but automation offsets these by providing sharp insights, precise allocation, and efficient handling. This makes brands highly competitive by keeping a check on delays, costs, labor overheads, and space or stock wastage.

Categories
Smart Merchandising

How to make Picking and Packing more Efficient for both B2B and B2C Fulfillment

According to a Statista survey, e-retail sales accounted for 18 percent of all retail sales worldwide in 2020. This figure is expected to reach 21.8 percent by 2024. As this number rises, people’s reliance on e-commerce for fulfilling their shopping needs increases as well. Retailers who are cognizant of this change are already strengthening their infrastructure to meet the steady increase in demand. To keep up with this upsurge in e-commerce, retailers have to build an efficient system within their warehouses that supports a strong supply chain and last-mile delivery network. 

An integral part of ensuring customer satisfaction in e-commerce is error-free, efficient order processing. Two steps that immediately follow order placement are picking and packing at the warehouse, and successful order fulfillment is completely dependent on them. Dispatching a wrong item not only leads to returns but also causes customer dissatisfaction leading to a loss of customer trust. 

Strategies deployed to ensure efficiency and accuracy at the picking stage.  

  • Piece picking – Or single order picking involves handpicking of each product as mentioned in a customer order. Pickers move through the warehouse, collecting the products that are a part of a single order. All the items are collected and packed as one shipment. Only one order is fulfilled at one time. This method works the best in smaller warehouses where order fulfillment is a simple and uncomplicated process.
  • Batch picking – Instead of individual orders, batches of multiple orders are picked at the same time. This can help speed up the order fulfillment process and is best suited at warehouses that receive many orders for the same products repeatedly. WMS can generate a consolidated pick list of multiple orders, and SKUs, as pickers can pick them collectively and segregate them order-wise at the packing station. 
  • Zone picking – Larger warehouses are divided into zones and each zone has a dedicated team of employees servicing it. If the items in an order are distributed across different zones, they are collated by passing a single box from zone to zone manually or on a conveyor belt. The order can also be collated in the packing zone. This method proves efficient as employees stay put in their zones and reduce the time spent moving throughout the warehouse.
  • Wave picking – A combination of batch and zone picking, employees in this picking format, collect items from a single zone but for more than one order at a time. Wave picking works the best for large warehouses that handle high volumes of orders at all times. Consolidated picklists are created based on factors such as sales channels, order type, priorities, delivery dates, customer location, etc. SKUs are picked from various zones at the same time, sent to the sorting and packing station to be consolidated, and shipped to customers. 

Once all the items are picked, they are brought to the packing area where they are sorted as per channels of sale or priority. Consolidation of items of a single order at the packing station can help reduce shipping costs and promote the company’s sustainable goals. 

B2C vs B2B Picking and Packing

While B2C order picking is usually in the wave or batch format, B2B order processing follows an order-wise picking strategy.

In the B2B scenario, products are ordered for commercial use and are often in bulk quantities. These are high stake orders with significant financial implications. Fulfilling these order requests often takes longer lead times, considerable planning, and more documentation. There is often a strict compliance and quality process in place to ensure that order fulfillment is done accurately.

Order-wise picking allows orders to be processed even if a part of the order can be packed and dispatched at a time. Considering the quantity and volume of these orders, processing parts of an order as per availability can increase efficiency and reduce lead times. Orders are processed as per the bandwidth of the warehouse and shipping partners. The rest of the order gets dispatched when it is ready. This is different from B2C picking and packing, where an order can be closed only when all the items in an order are collated and packed in a single shipment. 

Improving the efficiency of B2B and B2C picking and packing

Integrating a new-age warehouse management system enables employees with the right instructions and tech solutions to seamlessly execute and dispatch both B2C and B2B orders. It exponentially improves the productivity levels and efficiency of your warehouse. 

Increff WMS, the new-age WMS, is a web-based cloud-hosted multi-channel warehousing solution that helps retailers improve warehousing efficiency by digitizing processes. 

  • Inventory serialization promotes digitization of warehousing processes that do not involve the use of pens, paper, or keywords
  • It is 100% scan based with UPB integration for 100% inventory tracking
  • It allows B2B and B2C order processing from a single platform 
  • WMS generates smart pick-paths to speed up the picking process for accurate picking and faster order fulfillment.
  • The system displays essential details such as product pictures and details, on a handheld device, during GRN, picking, and packing to avoid errors 
  • It allows multi-system and multi-channel integration to centralize inventory tracking on one platform 

Use a smart WMS, built keeping in mind the modern-day challenges and requirements. Get started in less than 7 days with Increff WMS.