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.

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 the 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.

Smart Merchandising

The Cost of Human Error in Merchandise Planning: MS Excel vs New Age Merchandising Planning Software

Every business begins with a plan which, if not executed properly, impacts growth and expansion. Inventory management is a critical part of retail businesses and many businesses use Excel as their initial inventory management tool as it is user-friendly and readily available on all computers. Nearly 46% of Small and Medium businesses don’t track their inventory at all, or use a manual inventory management tool like Excel.  

MS Excel is an inexpensive software easily available and widely known to everyone,  making excel sheets the preferred choice for inventory management. Small businesses manage their inventory, accounts, tracking, orders, etc., as it offers access to all the data on a single spreadsheet and the ability to visualize data using pivot tables. 

Drawbacks of using excel sheets for inventory management 

Once businesses expand, retailers learn that Excel has its own limitations. Tracking stock becomes complicated with the expansion of the product lines to meet the growing customer demands. 

Some challenges of managing inventory on spreadsheets are:

  • Inaccuracy and inability for real-time access – Expanding operations require multiple employees and teams from different departments to access the inventory data. Providing multiple access, while protecting the integrity and accuracy of the data, is near impossible on excel sheets. Additionally, as the data is dynamic, sharing real-time numbers and analysis is not feasible.
  • Limited accessibility and accountability – Excel can only be accessed by one person at a time and at a specific location. Syncing it across multiple locations is challenging. It is also difficult to track changes on a workbook, leading to a lack of accountability. If there’s an inaccurate input, it is not possible to check who made the change. 
  • Constant human intervention – Excel sheets have to be updated manually, which means every single piece of information including serial numbers assigned to products, purchase orders, billing details, shipping information, etc. has to be added by hand. The chances of human errors are high and the probability of inaccurate information being recorded increases exponentially. 
  • Lack of smart analysis and planning – Finding intelligent insights and analyzing data on Excel sheets is complicated as it depends on the user’s knowledge of the task at hand. Important tasks such as demand analysis, assortment planning, buying, and reporting, consume a significant amount of time and effort. Manually analysis could lead to crucial insights and findings getting lost or misread due to errors in human judgment. 
  • Data visibility and interface- Excel sheets fundamentally work in the row and column format. While it is possible to visualize data through pivot tables, it lacks the interface to make quick variations and represent data in an easy-to-understand manner. Slicing and dicing data to match individual requirements is also not possible in Excel. 
  • No real-time data sync – Companies need to keep a physical count of inventory regularly,  they perform audits at fixed intervals – once a week, a month, or after a set period of time. This means the excel is not updated with accurate inventory count at the warehouse in real-time and depends on when the last count was done. 
  • No historical data tracking – Being able to document growth is beneficial in many ways. Having access to historical data can help business owners draw comparisons and find new insights and learnings. It is very difficult to maintain historical data on Excel and tracking all changes is extremely cumbersome.
  • No automation – While it is possible to find inventory management templates that can be used on Excel, there is no way for automating actions and analysis on Excel. Each function and update needs to be done through human intervention. Inventory Management software, on the other hand, can automate everyday tasks thus reducing dependency and avoiding manual errors.

Benefits of moving to smarter, new-age solution 

Moving away from outdated systems is critical now. While it may seem like a significant investment for new businesses, using an automated solution can simplify processes and build efficiencies in management that can lead to huge cost savings in the future. Other benefits include:

Easy accessibility – Multiple employees from across business locations and company hierarchy can easily access data at any time. These individuals can also make changes and update the system simultaneously. A new-age merchandising solution automatically creates dashboards for all stakeholders to give a complete overview of the business at the store, warehouse, or company level. 

Data storage – There has always been a limit to the amount of data that can be stored on Excel sheets. Excess data on a single sheet can prove to be difficult to manage. A single glitch could mean that data gets lost or corrupted. Smart Merchandising solutions work on a Cloud-based system, offering unmatched data storage capabilities with options such as automatic backup and retrieval to ensure that the data stays safe and secure. 

Assortment planning and buying – Creating an optimal inventory mix are possible with smart merchandising solutions as it helps in granular data analysis, analyzing up to 17 levels of product attributes. It helps in catering to the true customer demand and reduces the possibility of deadstock or stockouts.  

Better stock management – Evaluating the performance of products, merchandise planning software can determine which products are best sellers and which need to be discounted to avoid deadstock. It can also suggest styles that are out-performers in stores so they can be redistributed, through inter-store transfer, for higher sales and better margins. Low-performing styles can be discounted appropriately to sell at a decent price without incurring losses. 

Automation capabilities – New-age merchandising solution reduces manual efforts in stock counting, recording product details, updating inventory records, etc. It helps automate decision-making for pre-season and in-season planning, buying, and allocation of the right quantity of stock to the right location for maximizing sales and boosting business growth. 

Auto replenishment – NOOS and outperformers can be identified and reordered on time to avoid stockouts, especially during peak season sales. They can also be promoted to increase sales and guarantee a steady cash flow, all year long.

Business Insights and Reporting – Creating periodic reports and evaluating strategic performances becomes simpler with a Smart Merchandising Solution. It can churn out customized reports to match the preferences of stakeholders at different levels of the company. All of this can be achieved in a few quick clicks without formulas or pivot tables. 

Increff Smart Merchandising solution offers all this and much more. It is an easily deployable solution and can be implemented without disrupting ongoing operations. It is a cost-effective automated solution to boost sales and build efficiencies in merchandising. 

Smart Merchandising Technology

How retail stores can plan their merchandise accurately during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday Sale

Merchandise planning is an intensive process that gets more complicated around the holiday and discount season. Black Friday discount, which started as a one-day event spread to Cyber Monday, its digital version. In 2020, U.S. shoppers spent a record $34.36 billion on retail websites over the five days from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, up from $28.49 billion last year. 

A crucial change that was established over the years is that these discount days evolved from being one-day events to longer durations as their popularity increased. Retailers were finding it extremely difficult to manage the serpentine queues, hordes of people, chaos on the store floors, and high volume of sales on these two days. Now, discounts and deals are starting earlier than ever to meet the increase in demand while also easing the supply chain and shipping worries of the retailers. This change has enabled the retailers to sell more products in a shorter duration without experiencing pandemonium at the stores.

Merchandise Planning for Black Friday and Cyber Monday

To make the most of this sales event, retailers have to plan meticulously to ensure that the customer demands are met and their infrastructure doesn’t succumb to pressure. Efficient merchandise planning is done so customers can find what they want and purchase it without experiencing stockouts. Mismanagement can be catastrophic during the actual sales period especially because bargain hunters are quick to switch to competition and spread the negative word if they are dissatisfied with the experience.      

Avoiding chaos during discount season 

So how does a retailer avoid chaos on Black Friday and Cyber Monday? By planning each aspect to the finest detail, using smart merchandising and inventory management solutions such as Increff Merchandising Solution. It provides granular insights and in-depth store-style level analysis based on individual store performance and supports decision-making with concrete data. 

For existing stores, the focus needs to be on planning the display and distribution of the products to utilize available store space effectively. This can be done using planograms, a visual merchandising tool that formulates the store layout to maximize visual appeal and facilitate maximum sales. Increff Smart Merchandising Solution provides in-depth details of the products that are in demand to make these planograms more effective in encouraging sales. When the knowledge of current demand patterns is combined with scientific methods used in the creation of planograms, the stores can make maximum use of their resources such as display areas and shelves.

As many stores have had to relocate due to the pandemic and many new stores have had the opportunity to launch during this time, planning the right merchandise for each store is of extreme importance to ensure success. 

Here are some ways in which Increff Merchandising Solution can help during Black Friday sales. 

Analyze existing sales for pre-season and in-season merchandise planning

Traditionally, discount days were designed to get rid of overstock inventory to avoid deadstock but the magnitude of Black Friday sales demands analysis and anticipation. Evaluating existing sales is step one for all retailers as it provides a proper indication of products that are in demand. A new-age merchandising solution can identify top sellers or core styles, and low performing styles through trend analysis. It provides a base and direction to the inventory planning process as it helps determine what goods to stock, in what quantity, and which styles to markdown. It also helps determine which styles are suited for which stores so retailers can re-distribute existing inventory to maximize sales. 

Variable discounting as per store-level demand

As a retailer, this is an opportunity to earn higher profits and margins considering the volume of sales that takes place during this period. When customers are expecting heavily discounted products, it is unwise to use the same discounting strategy across all products as each has its own sales history based on customer preferences. Additionally, discounts often fluctuate depending on the demand at a particular location. A blanket discounting strategy could lead to losses. Merchandising planning software uses smart algorithms to determine appropriate discounts considering factors such as ageing of the style, past performance, True ROS, and cost margins. These analytics can help you avoid excess liquidation and losses. 

Optimize inventory distribution      

For a retailer to effectively plan for the sales season, it is important to consider complete inventory across stores and various channels of sale. To present the maximum amount of stock for sale, it is crucial to have a holistic strategy.  An automated merchandising solution can generate a dynamic store-style ranking to optimize inventory distribution. Event-based allocation of inventory can help ensure the right styles and products are present as per demand trends. This analysis can enable inter-store transfers and stock cover can be optimized across all stores, reducing chances of stockouts. 

Auto-replenishment and replacement 

Discount days such as Black Friday are the days when stocks fly off the shelves. An immediate need is to reorder and restock in time to ensure that stockouts don’t affect profitability. As this is also the time when retailers are getting rid of deadstock, it is important to ensure that the right products and SKUs are reordered. A smart merchandise planning software can automate reordering while maintaining checks and balances to ensure lead time is considered for every style at the time of reordering. Based on the auto-replenishment feature, stores can continue functioning seamlessly even during the peak sales period. 

Due to the pandemic, stores have to manage operations with less staff, and supply chains are stretched too thin trying to meet the unprecedented increase in demand. Irrespective of this, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are events that customers look forward to, which means they are offering an opportunity for retailers to maximize their earnings and profits in a short duration. Make the most of this receptive and favourable time by providing your customers with the best shopping experience.

Smart Merchandising Warehouse Management

The Next Big Thing in Retail: Automation in Inventory Management

As more and more people turn to omnichannel shopping, something as simple as maintaining inventory has become more difficult for companies. The silver lining is that along with consumer purchasing preferences, the technology required to conduct an efficient business has also evolved leading to digitization and automation of processes including inventory management.

Manual vs Automated Inventory Management 

A labor-intensive process, manual inventory management heavily relied on people’s ability to consistently perform at their best. This was also a time-consuming job that rarely offered a comprehensive picture of a company’s inventory in real-time. It involved counting, aggregating, and calculating data at every step. Even the smallest errors could have a grave impact in the long run. 

An automated system makes these processes simpler, reducing the amount of human intervention and involvement by providing each SKU with a serial number or a barcode. It presents various insights and access to warehouse/operation-wide data easily. This means all information becomes readily available, movement of the product can be followed, and there are fewer discrepancies. 

Considering an increasing number of companies are opting for an omnichannel approach, the lack of a cohesive selling and stocking strategy can translate to significant losses. If you are considering moving your business operations to an automated inventory management system, here are some benefits – 

  • Stock visibility –There is 100% inventory exposure, across all sale channels at the same time. Real-time inventory-order sync increases the chances of sales and minimizes order cancellation due to overbooking.
  • No “lost” stock – Once a product is assigned a serial number and scanned into the automated inventory management system, the chances of getting misplaced or lost are close to zero. 
  • Minimizing manual errors – An automated system reduces the number of human errors.  
  • Analytics & Insights – Stocks can be redirected where there is higher demand, and prices can be changed depending on the trends which are showcased by the automated inventory management system. 
  • Scalability – The biggest benefit of implementing an automated inventory management system is the ability to grow and expand faster and quicker. 

Automation in Inventory Management at Stores 

An automated system such as Increff Merchandising Solution can efficiently manage the following functions increasing sales, productivity, and overall performance of a store. 

  • Assortment planning and buying – Using algorithm-driven data, an automated inventory management system can analyze the demand and help in product planning for the store. This tool takes into consideration real-time data regarding sales, revenue, discounts, size cuts, stock-outs, etc. These factors can determine buying and assortment planning tool as the tool analyses 17 levels of product attributes, providing accurate insights for informed decision making. 
  • Restocking – As this merchandising solution keeps track of stock, there are automated alerts to ensure that the store has enough stock to match demand at all times. It becomes possible to automate the re-ordering process with proper checks and balances to keep your stores running smoothly. 
  • Replacements and replenishment – Once any of the bestseller stock gets sold out, it is prudent to have them restocked as soon as possible as it can affect the cash flow. Increff Merchandising solution identifies bestsellers as well as low-selling stocks. Having this information means that a store can always have its bestsellers in stock while moving its low-selling items through various promotions to avoid deadstock at the end of the season.  
  • Inter-store transfers – A unique feature of Increff Merchandising solution is showcasing trends in purchase which can help retailers to move stock between stores if there is a demand mismatch. This helps in utilizing the stock while avoiding losses. 

Automation in Inventory Management at Warehouses 

Automation in inventory management at the warehouses can be beneficial in preventing human errors. An automated system can also increase efficiency and reduce losses due to such errors and oversight. 

Increff’s WMS solution automates processes in the warehouse by using inventory serialization which can properly track SKUs and facilitate better space utilization. This enables faster picking and packing at warehouses, reducing the turnaround time for completing orders. Each time a product barcode is scanned, all of its details including a picture are displayed to ensure zero errors while packing a product. This WMS has a simple and friendly user interface to make sure that all warehouse workers can be quickly and easily trained to use this software. 

The overall benefits of using automation in inventory management increase as your business grows and expands. The transformative powers of automation are many and the need to integrate automation into your business is more evident than ever as the world itself goes through a transformative time.  Based on your business needs and goals, choose an automation solution that works the best for you.

Smart Merchandising

Assortment Planning For Profitable Retailing

There are hundreds of people who walk into your store every day.  This provides an opportunity to convert them into loyal customers. How do you impress them? A straightforward and data-driven way to ensure that you always meet your customers’ expectations is by investing in assortment planning. 

What is assortment planning in retail? 

Simply put, assortment planning is the process of deciding which products and varieties are sold at your store during a particular duration. This includes the number of products, variants for each product, and the correct amount of stock that your store should hold. This process can happen weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc. It highly depends on what your store offers to the customers. 

Why is assortment planning important in retail? 

Striking the right balance between having enough to satisfy customer needs and making sure that you are not left with dead stock is of utmost importance to maintain profitability. 

Keeping in mind the market demand and customer expectations, while maintaining higher margins, is tough and it gets tougher especially in the retail sector. Heavily dependent on trends and seasons, fashion retail stores have to be meticulous during the assortment planning process. These changing trends add an additional layer of complexity over usual factors such as weather, festive seasons, holiday period, etc. 

Considering the high stakes and significance of assortment planning, it is important to follow a process to get the balance right every time.  

Is there a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to assortment planning?

As most retailers who are a part of a chain of stores will tell you, the answer is no. It is important to take into account each store’s location, geography, store size, historic data and trends, customer demographics, local needs, etc. Though it is not feasible to have a global, national, or even state-wide strategy when it comes to assortment planning, it is possible to group similar stores into clusters based on certain common parameters. This can make assortment planning easier while presenting a chance to offer local products, offers, discounts, and promotions. 

How to do assortment planning for retail stores? 

As assortment planning takes into consideration numerous factors, it is important to create a methodical plan to help you navigate through this elaborate process.  Here are some pointers to get you started – 

Set goals – A smart assortment plan reflects the business objective of the company/store. This could mean expanding the category, ensuring growth, launching a product line, meeting certain sales benchmarks, etc. 

Analyze – Evaluate historic store data from your last season and factors such as past sales, category trends, size preferences, fast-selling items, etc. This can help you understand customer demands and preferences. 

Calculate – As it is important to have a balance between breadth and depth of product category, use data to ascertain the right balance to satisfy customer demand. 

Cross merchandise – While deciding on the product selections, be sure to have products that can be promoted and placed together. An effective and creative display can prompt the customer to buy multiple products. 

In-style and classics – Offerings at your store should be varied and vast. It is crucial to have products across categories in various colours, types, price points, and even trendiness. Some products are considered “classics” or “staples,” these are always in demand. Ensure these are always available along with current trends. 

Visual merchandising – Take time to create an appealing storefront and interiors using visual merchandising. Placing the products at the right place at the right time can help you drive sales and loyalty. 

Assortment planning doesn’t end here. Considering how quickly trends and demands change, it is imperative to stay engaged and aware of what is happening at your store. Having a smart merchandise planning, buying and demand sensing solution, can prove to be a vital tool during pre-season assortment planning and in-season retail challenges. 

Increff’s smart merchandising solution provides support during assortment planning by analysing and forecasting across stores based on past sales, revenue, discounts, size cuts, stock-outs, and exposure. It aids in determining actual procurement orders as well. Built-in analytics are designed to reduce deadstock and utilize inventory by optimizing stock across stores and providing dynamic markdown suggestions. Moreover, Iris X can simplify assortment planning by suggesting replenishment and replacement through automation. 

Assortment planning is no longer a one-time, pre-season activity. It is a continuous process till each SKU leaves the store with a happy customer. The only way to navigate this increasingly complex process is to invest in an automated merchandising tool that lets you customize it to your preferences while setting benchmarks and providing smart analytics for the betterment of your business.

Smart Merchandising Technology

Intelligent inventory management of Apparel, Seasonal, & Short Life Cycle Products with Increff Iris X

Increff named as a Representative Vendor in the 2021 Gartner Market Guide for Retail Assortment Management Applications (RAMA): Short Life Cycle Products

Covid 19 exposed inefficiencies in processes and systems, highlighting the need for preparedness and resilience through digitization. In the report, Gartner predicted that “by 2024, Tier 1 retailers in North America and Europe will reduce inventory carrying costs by 30%, dramatically improving free cash flow for digital investment, while revamping balance sheets. Much of this reduction will be effected in seasonal, short life and apparel categories where manual processes and gut feel are no longer enough”. The report further states, “Customer’s expectations of a unified retail commerce experience continue to challenge multichannel retailers to pursue digital business transformation”. 

Accurate merchandising requires complex orchestration across all processes such as assortment planning, in-season analysis, space management, allocation, pricing, replenishment, and supply chain. Modern cloud-based solutions, like Iris X, incorporate advanced algorithms to create location-specific assortment to drive transformation through better customer understanding and alignment to limit excess inventory. Shortened product life cycles are due to fast-changing customer preferences e.g. in fashion, or rapid technology innovation e.g. consumer electronics. For such products, production and procurement decisions need to be made fairly in advance, or JIT (Just-In-Time) so production can start as soon as an order is received so no finished goods are stocked. 

Task automation enhances speed and shifting from excel to purpose-built applications augments human activity. Retail Assortment Management Applications (RAMA) for omnichannel brands are foundational for modernizing merchandising processes and form an integral part of the core merchandising application suite. Using big data, both historical and near real-time, with advanced analytics and algorithms helps create store-specific assortments aligned to specific customer behaviour segments. 

Increff Iris X considers the uniqueness of each store up to ‘segment of 1’ for managing merchandising processes accurately.  

  • Assortment & PlanningRight assortment planning is critical to achieving a competitive edge in the industry by reducing carbon footprint and wastage of resources. Iris X helps determine and allocate the right set of inventory to the right sales channels. It closes the gap between financial planning and store planning by determining the optimal mix that makes stores more attractive for local shoppers thus improving profitability and sales efficiency. It provides the ability to plan complexities in a user-friendly, cost-effective manner that maintains in-season and new-season inventory freshness, event-based allocation, and proper markdowns during liquidation scenarios for maximizing sales
  • Automation – Increff Iris X is an algorithm-driven SaaS platform that leverages scientific decision-making to determine the right store-wise allocation, based on real-time data analysis of 17 layers of attributes. It considered factors like style attributes, True ROS™, in-store style health, etc, to increase gross margin and maximize return on investment through item-level visibility and granular data analysis. It facilitates the automation of buying cycle by setting benchmark indicators to signal when a style’s quantity is depleting and requires reordering considering the lead-time. It allows auto-replenishment and replacement by identifying non-moving dead styles to suggest pullback to the warehouse. 
  • Inventory ManagementRegional Utilization and inter-store transfers bring brands closer to customers by intelligently distributing, and re-distributing, inventory according to the local demand. It improves stock health, optimizes inventory, helps in efficient order fulfillment, and prevents extra buying by utilizing the existing inventory to the fullest. Fulfilling orders from the nearest store or warehouse helps brands experience significant savings in logistics costs and manage faster deliveries efficiently. Timely order fulfillment reduces the rate of returns and increases customer loyalty. 
  • Reporting and Analytics – Increff Iris X’s customizable BI dashboards are capable of generating 50+ analytical reports that provide a highly visual, end-to-end workflow and detailed review of business performance to take focused action on improving traffic conversion and increasing demand fulfillment. Brands can analyze Target vs Achievement, month-on-month store performance for managing operations efficiently, and customize viewability of dashboards based on stakeholders for Category performance reports by calculating sell-through-rate, Planogram adherence, Top seller, and Deadstock. 

Know more about our smart merchandising tool Increff Iris. Contact us to get started. 

Gartner, “Market Guide for Retail Assortment Management Applications (RAMA): Short Life Cycle Products”, Robert Hetu, May 28, 2021.

“GARTNER is registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally and are used herein with permission. All rights reserved.”

Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s Research & Advisory organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

Smart Merchandising

What is Retail Inventory Management? How to Master it?

As a brand owner, do you often find the merchandise your customers are searching for is either out of stock or misplaced? Systematic inventory management ensures a smooth customer experience and a coordinated flow of stock across the supply chain to avoid errors like inaccurate order picking, delayed order fulfillment, missed shipments, etc. 

COVID-19 highlighted loopholes in the legacy solutions and the lack of agility and flexibility in supply chains. Fulfilling the increasing demand for omnichannel commerce requires new-age inventory management solutions that help in:

  • Optimizing storage space
  • Preventing the accumulation of deadstock
  • Fulfilling orders accurately and on time
  • Avoiding spoilage of perishable consumable items
  • Increasing sales by enhancing customer experience.

4 Efficient Inventory Management Techniques

  1. JIT (Just-in-time) Inventory Management

The process of procuring raw materials from suppliers, as soon as an order is placed and managing on-time production schedules is called the JIT method. It prevents overstocking or deadstock and is an excellent way of eliminating high inventory costs. 

Increff Merchandising solution is enabling one of the leading eyewear brands to fulfill both JIT and OTC (over-the-counter) merchandise simultaneously in an automated fashion. 

  1. ABC Analysis Technique

ABC Analysis is a way of categorizing goods based on their value and the company’s profit.

For example, marketplaces like Amazon categorizes item listings on their portal based on this technique:

  • Category A: Most valuable items that offer the highest profit and exceed target margins are listed first.
  • Category B: The wide range of goods that fall in between categories A and C.
  • Category C:  Items that make profits to meet targets but don’t make much difference individually.

This helps marketplaces maximize profits by understanding which items to prioritize on their portal. 

Increff WMS, our efficient Warehouse management and order fulfillment solution has reports that can help brands analyze sales across all B2B and B2C channels and improve delivery efficiency. Inventory serialization helps to track individual pieces accurately. It improves picking accuracy and facilitates faster order fulfillment which helps brands gain a higher customer satisfaction score and greater visibility on marketplaces. 

  1. FEFO for limited shelf-life products

FEFO is a stock rotation technique to prevent stock loss due to expiration or obsolescence. Assigning expiry dates to batches, allow brands to track each batch accurately so retailers know when to push which stock from the warehouse to the store. It is used in industries like e.g. beauty, pharma, and consumable goods dealing with limited shelf-life products for inventory optimization and minimizing waste.

The new expiry feature in Increff WMS allows brands to set quality benchmarks at the batch level by triggering notifications when a batch is going to expire. It enables retailers to channelize sales to various points of sales accordingly, and ensure a majority of the stock is sold within the desired timeframe.

  1. EOQ Technique 

The EOQ (Economic Order Quantity) technique considers factors like customer demand, ordering cost, and holding cost to calculate the proper levels of inventory. Customer demand is based on factors like trends, seasons, and internal factors like marketing strategies, offers, etc. Ordering costs are usually stable and decrease if you order the inventory in bulk. Holding/carrying costs generally depend on the amount of inventory in hand. This allows brands to stock optimal quantities at minimal costs while ensuring a smooth flow of business. 

Increff Merchandising solution smart assortment planning capability involves tracking and measuring individual style performance, at the granular level, to define the ideal store-wise assortment plan that caters to the local customer demands. It helps prevent loss in sales opportunities and increases inventory turnover by identifying NOOS styles and highlighting non-moving dead styles to improve overall inventory health

Now is the time for omnichannel retailers to gear up and adapt to efficient inventory management techniques to increase agility in their supply chain and improve inventory accuracy. It presents a huge opportunity for them to offer their best merchandise across all sales channels, at a competitive price and clear their stuck inventory making room for new launches. 

Learn more about Increff Merchandising Solution and Increff WMS

Business Smart Merchandising Technology

How Dynamic Pricing Strategy Can Help Retailers

As consumers started shopping online and omnichannel, price is playing an important role. The internet gives consumers the ability to compare prices instantly. A slight change increase or decrease can mean a customer lost or gained. Hence, the concept of dynamic pricing, or high-low pricing is quickly gaining attention. 

What is dynamic pricing? 

Dynamic pricing is a compelling retail price optimization strategy that can help retailers run their business profitably while keeping up with the competition across channels. To put it in simple words, dynamic pricing is changing the discounts, or markdowns, on the price of products based on their KPIs. It is also called demand pricing, dynamic markdown, time-based pricing, or surge pricing based on its application in different markets.

One of the most common examples of this pricing strategy is the end-of-season sales. While off-season merchandise is sold at discounted prices, goods that are not affected by changing styles or weather can be sold at a constant price or minimal discounts. 

Dynamic pricing strategy automates price adjustments based on data-driven algorithms fuelled by personalized information provided by each retailer. Factors like demand changes, inventory, and competitive data are also considered. To be successful, dynamic pricing needs to combine the age-old wisdom of the retailer with machine learning and adaptable software. 

How does it help retailers? 

Though the first advantage that may come to mind is increasing profit margins, there are many benefits of implementing dynamic pricing. 

  1. Create demand to keep the stock health and age in check

A rightly priced SKU, at the right time, can help boost sales. This helps in keeping in the freshness of stock and the availability of sizes/variants of a product. Products that are either discontinued, near expiry, or meant to last only for a specific period, need to revise selling price as per their planned lifecycle. If a retailer is handling this manually across categories and points of sales, it can become near impossible to track and monitor. With the right dynamic markdown algorithm, prices can be tweaked to control the sales of a product. 

  1. Understand your customers 

Collecting data is a key part of implementing automated dynamic pricing. This lets retailers gain insights into the consumer’s behaviour, patterns, and preferences. It can translate to more actionable data which can feed your algorithms to perform better, leading to an efficient pricing strategy. 

  1. Make informed decisions

Implementing dynamic pricing allows brands to access real-time pricing and demand trends. This can help make informed decisions on the price change of a particular product or category. Knowing the competition’s price trends ensures products are priced just right which aids in increasing sales and profitability. 

  1. Reflecting demand 

The digitally savvy consumer is often aware of changes in price as the demand for a product changes. Many a time, they are also willing to pay a premium to get exclusive access to a product. Similarly, it is known to them the prices of seasonal goods will change as the weather changes. Dynamic pricing lets you reflect the demand of a product at its price without compromising on the brand image. 

  1. Increase revenue and profits with a healthier working capital

One of the most significant outcomes of using dynamic pricing software is to take into consideration demand and supply, competitor strategies, and price fluctuation in the market. All of this data is crunched in real-time to deliver an optimum price for staying profitable. Dynamic pricing can be used to lower prices to increase sales, meet sales targets and avoid the accumulation of deadstock, thereby freeing up choked cash for the retailer. 
Try Increff Dynamic Markdown tool to gain deep insights on simple targeted solutions, to complex pricing problems without compromising on your brand value. Its smart algorithm recommends ideal markdowns along with the restocking strategy to ensure profitability and higher revenues, in the fastest time. Learn more about the Dynamic Markdown tool here.

Smart Merchandising Technology Warehouse Management

If you are going D2C with Shopify, Scale Faster with Increff

Retail started from local stores and expanded nationwide, cross borders, with e-commerce. E-commerce provided a uniform platform business for brands to compete on. The traditional legacy brands, having huge landmark stores and a dedicated customer base, had to wrestle with hip startups that were born in the digital era. As fast-paced technology started transforming the future of retail, it completely changed the way we shop. 

What was memorable about brand stores was the unique environment they created by capturing its essence within the four walls and adding a peculiarity in interactions. This uniqueness and brand memorability get lost in multi-brand marketplaces. Marketplaces are standard platforms having their own purpose, that masks a brand’s individuality. E.g. you become a Macy’s customer or an Amazon shopper but the brand you shop for becomes secondary. Hence, D2C seems an attractive channel to directly communicate with customers and own the relationship. 

Brands selling directly to customers own their most important asset; their customer’s lifetime value. 

D2C is an emerging strategy to disrupt the market. It allows brands to grow at their own pace by eliminating the middleman and earning higher margins. It helps brands:

  1. Directly connect with customers: Having direct access to customer data gives brands the ability to customize every touchpoint. Connect with shoppers whenever they want, through emailers, push notifications, etc. 
  2. Innovate: Data enables brands to understand customers better and improvise basis demand. Manufacturers can optimize existing products or create new offerings by capturing the trend early. 
  3. Build stronger brand loyalty: Using upselling and cross-selling options, retailers can create more opportunities for sale and build brand loyalty. 
  4. Increase flexibility and agility: Having full control over product supply and demand allows brands to become more agile. Gain the ability to read and react to change fast. 

Going D2C is not easy. It’s important to have a D2C-specific strategy, which addresses:

  1. Initial set-up – 
    • Building your website – Using the right e-commerce solution, that is affordable, scalable, secure and low maintenance is important. Specialized platforms like Magento and Shopify, serve as all-in-one website builders that are easy to work with. They provide multiple payment options and allow omnichannel delivery. Our web-based WMS solution, Increff WMS, has preintegration with both these platforms and we can be your technology partner. Assure is a multi-channel order fulfillment platform built specifically for fashion and lifestyle brands to improve topline and reduce operational costs. It manages inventory by tracking every piece using Unique Piece Barcode, ensuring 100% order accuracy and improving operational efficiency. Through fast and easy channel integrations Increff WMS can manage inventory across multiple sales channels, online and offline, and display 100% inventory across all channels simultaneously ensuring higher sales and better visibility.
    • Deciding CapEx vs OpEx model of operations – Understanding whether you can support direct orders to your warehouse or do you need a warehousing partner is the next step. Increff Assure can help you manage inventory in your warehouse. Our Warehousing as a Service (WaaS) helps retailers switch from the CapEx to Opex model of operation as we manage anywhere, anytime warehousing through our trusted 3PL partners. Having the right tech foundation at each warehouse helps brands scale efficiently as their business grows with the increasing demand.
  1. Supply chain challenges – 

Inventory management tech-solution like Increff WMS helps optimize inventory across all sales channels to prevent understocking or overstocking at any point in time. Our Regional Utilization model helps distribute inventory intelligently across a network of managed warehouses, based on true regional demand. It helps minimize air shipments, promote surface shipments and reduce logistics costs significantly to facilitate faster deliveries. Our pre-integrations on Shopify with reliable 3PL partners, Shiprocket, Clickpost, Shipway, etc. ensure complete order traceability and timely delivery. Increff WMS has inbuilt returns management solutions that very few WMS solutions provide. It helps in rapid returns processing and makes good inventory immediately available for resale to prevent loss in sales opportunities. 

  1. Usage of data and insights – 

Increff WMS’s 50+ insightful, actionable reports help brands make calculated decisions on inventory and resource management. They help in inventory reconciliation, identifying channels of higher sales for better order management, tracking manpower productivity, and improving efficiency by highlighting, and correcting, loopholes in operations. 

Channel diversification is an opportunity to build a new relationship with customers. It is about giving a reason to customers to buy directly while ensuring the sales on partner channels do not get impacted. Offering unique services, loyalty programs, or subscription services plays a major role. Omnichannel brands can also decide on differentiating inventory across different channels e.g. D2C channel can be used for launching new products, selling premium versions of existing products, or a limited product line. Gaining better control over consumer data empowers brands to cater to changing needs by providing personalized, authentic service, and making it memorable.