An Integrated Approach to Multi-Channel Planning

Tips to help retailers meet customer demand, increase profits and build brand awareness


  • Analyze demand within each channel. Retailers must be able to keep up with the latest needs and desires of their customers, regardless of the channels they shop. Being able to accurately evaluate demand across all selling channels will give retailers insight into which products are the most and least successful – whether its through their social media presence, e-commerce site or in their brick-and-mortar stores. As a result, retailers can put together a cohesive, cross-channel planning strategy that will impact all aspects of the business—from merchandising to operations and finance. And, understanding buying patterns at the channel level can even help retailers move from reacting to changes to proactively offering what they believe their customers will want.
  •       Don’t forget the importance of effective assortment planning. Some experts think assortments apply only to more traditional channels, like brick-and-mortar stores and catalogues. But assortments are now defined as getting the merchandise mix correct – regardless of the channel in question. Taking a holistic approach to assortment planning is imperative. Understanding the nuances between online shoppers, those who rely on social media to make decisions and consumers who prefer to shop in the store – or any combination of these – is crucial to creating assortments that will appeal to the retailer’s mass customer base. An effective, integrated multi-channel assortment plan will take individual demand at the channel level into consideration and provide the correct allocation to each selling outlet.
  • Take a centralized approach to inventory management. It’s necessary to understand demand across every selling channel; however, retailers should lift any channel-specific allocation restrictions they may have for that inventory. Taking a more centralized approach to inventory frees retailers up from having to segment stock by channel. Holding the inventory together in the warehouse enables retailers to meet demand across any channel – gaining the confidence of their consumers and maximizing sales. And, having the flexibility to send stock where demand dictates lowers excess inventory at the end of the season, decreases inter-channel stock transfers, as well as the need to reduce prices to offload it.
  • Leverage pricing and promotional opportunities. Multi-channel pricing and promotional strategies can be a hot button for many retailers. Some research indicates that pricing and promotional inconsistencies between a company’s mobile and online channels and their brick-and-mortar stores can peeve shoppers. But, is it possible that pricing and promotions could have different impacts depending on the channel? Could discrepancies in price adjustments across channels actually drive foot/click traffic and help the retailer offload unwanted inventory for the highest possible prices? It’s a scenario worth exploring in today’s multi-channel retail environment. Effective cross-channel pricing and promotional strategies can also help retailers shape demand, build brand awareness and ensure customers return to spend more money with them in the future.

Technology can make it easier

Savvy retailers know that technology is their ally when it comes to presenting their customers with a seamless, consistent and enjoyable shopping experience, regardless of the channels they shop. Trying to accomplish this manually with the use of spreadsheets is a time-consuming and resource-heavy task. Rather, retailers should look for planning systems that can help them analyze demand by channel, and then capitalize on it by providing assortments based on accurate forecasts. Also, advanced planning systems will ensure that inventory is delivered to the right channel at the right time to meet the needs of their consumers. Ultimately, this helps retailers present a single brand image across all channels, building customer loyalty and maximizing profitability.

JustEnough Software provides a flexible, top-down/bottom-up planning solution that gives retailers the power to create an integrated multi-channel planning strategy. To learn more, visit www.justenough.com.

  1. Retail Systems Research, “Enabling Buy Anywhere/Get Anywhere: The Future of Cross-Channel,” July 2011
  2. Internet Retailer, “Holiday Shoppers With Smartphones Search, and Research – and Buy,” February 2011

About the Author: Peter Leith is JustEnough’s director of product strategy. Leith joined the company in 2005 and has supported a number of successful implementations at leading retailers, including Blain’s Farm and Fleet, Levi Strauss USA, Strandbags and GO Outdoors.

 

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