During this year’s peak season, you’ll gather data on your omnichannel sales and operational performance. You can apply that data to improving next year’s peak-season outcomes.
But what about this year? Wouldn’t it be great if you could capture omnichannel data now to course-correct as you navigate peak?
If you have the right business intelligence and analytics tools, you can. Follow these steps to make the most of your omnichannel data – before this year’s peak season is in the history books:
1. Invest in an effective way to capture data.
Before peak season begins, make sure you have a centralized location where you can capture, manipulate, analyze and report on data. If you’re like most retailers, you have a collection of systems for store operations, point-of-sale (POS) transactions, ecommerce sales and omnichannel services like buy online, ship to store (BOPIS). Trouble is, not all those systems gather and report on data in the same way.
So, collaborate with your IT vendors and your IT department to make sure you can actually collect the information you need. Gain consensus with them on the data you’ll capture. Make sure you have enough server memory and data-storage space, and that your software can function under load. Build out analytics and reporting mechanisms. These efforts will require investment in time, focus and resources. But they can pay off in better peak performance.
2. Determine which types of data you want.
Identify the data that’s most useful to your business during peak. Start with channel-specific data like store sales and ecommerce activity. Include function-specific data like service levels for on-time fulfillment and customer care. That will enable you to understand peak demand and performance by channel.
Next, look across your supply chain. Drill down on omnichannel services such as BOPIS, ship to store and ship from store. That will help you determine whether your teams are working together effectively and your customers are receiving a consistent, satisfying experience.
Now get even more granular. How is customer demand changing as you move through peak? Is demand rising in stores or on your ecommerce website? Are overnight orders increasing as you get closer to the holidays? Are customers opting for BOPIS during the last days of peak?
Likewise, how’s your transaction performance? Is on-time fulfillment meeting goals? Are orders accurate? Do you know why orders are being canceled? Confirm that you’re meeting customer expectations from the time they place an order till the merchandise is in their hands.
3. Analyze data to apply now.
There are two aspects of data analysis. First, you need a mechanism to capture data at appropriate time periods. You might pull data weekly during slower periods but daily at busy times like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Then you can compare peak forecasts to actual demand trends, and respond accordingly.
The closer your data is to real time, the more quickly you can course-correct. If a warehouse is over capacity, say, maybe you can shift demand to store fulfillment.
Second, you need the tools and processes to transform data into insights. Data points alone don’t always tell you much. You need a business intelligence capability to combine and visualize data so that stakeholders can understand and act on it.
You should be able to see not only whether you’re missing or exceeding sales targets, but also why that’s happening. The goal is to quickly adjust inventory, item placement, staffing, fulfillment and more to stay ahead of changing conditions.
4. Target store and online promotions.
Now that you have an up-to-date picture of performance, you can use promotions to respond as you move through peak. Are you below forecasted demand in a particular channel? Then leverage promotions to influence customer actions. Are your fulfillment centers overwhelmed? Offer a BOPIS discount to drive traffic to store inventory. Are your stores at capacity with in-store pickup? Promote expedited shipping.
5. Respond to trends and performance on the fly.
Measure promotion performance so you can manage channel operations accordingly. You should be able to see demand growth by channel, department, category, and store or fulfillment center location. Do you have too much inventory in a given channel? Do you have too few store associates to handle walk-in customers? Do you have enough packing and shipping supplies for spikes in ship-from-store demand? Make sure you have processes in place to respond to what your data shows you.
6. Optimize carrier performance.
Your data doesn’t just apply to your own operations. You should also be able to evaluate the performance of your shipping partners – and work with them to adapt to changes during peak.
Don’t just look at the total merchandise you ship every day. Understand how demand is changing at every store location. Then communicate with shipping partners so they can plan capacity. During spikes, for example, you might need to pick, pack and ship on Saturdays – and arrange for Saturday shipping. Make sure your shippers are never a bottleneck for your sales and service levels.
Ultimately, you need to embrace the idea that data isn’t something you look at during downtime. With the right tools and processes, you can measure omnichannel performance fast enough to benefit when it’s most important: during peak season.
Anthony Hockaday is director of client services for Radial.