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Seasonal retail cycles call for business intel

Nothing stands still in the retail sector. Things are continually on the move. Reacting to trends and adapting quickly to changes in customer demand is a way of life. The whole world for many retailers revolves around the seasons and having the right stock in the right place at the right time. Ever tried buying beachwear in December?

Data makes the wheels go round

Most businesses rely on data from their ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems to tell them what’s happening. This is especially true when it comes to meeting seasonal retail trends. Understanding sales patterns at different times of year means that retailers can plan ahead and manage inventory and supply based on data.

Sometimes it can be tricky to easily access the right data from your ERP systems – point of sale data, revenue, profit, by month, by location, etc. – and map it to your marketing and supply chain activity. Often these pockets of data are stored in well-guarded ‘siloes’, to which data owners are reluctant to provide access for fear that their data will be corrupted in some way. However, as we’ve found, sharing is caring and making data available to the wider business benefits everyone. After all, if you’ve got all this data, it makes sense to put it to use, right?

The problem is that, as we’ve already established, nothing stays the same for long. That goes for technology too. Most retailers, like the rest of the business world, have embarked on some level of digital transformation. Some will have replaced existing systems with cloud-based ones. Some will have upgraded bespoke in-house systems to Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions. Businesses that have been acquired will have had to integrate their ERP systems into the parent. Things just change.

Change the route

But, when things change, the routes to the data change too. Previous mapping of ERP data into business intelligence (BI) tools gets disrupted. When that happens, how can you rely on the data to make sound business decisions and meet customer demand in a timely way?

One of our customers, a cycle retailer has faced this challenge just recently. Cycling is hugely seasonal. A lot of bikes are sold at Christmas, of course, and also, in Spring and Summer, when the lure of fresh air, the open road and lycra is hard to resist.

Our customer first needed to make sure that they knew where stock was, and whether it was available to meet demand from cyclists keen to get out on their wheels when the weather picks up.  

Its existing ERP and reporting tools were replaced by new Microsoft Azure-based offerings and the reporting suite needed to be updated. Otherwise, there was potential to miss out on key customer buying events, lost sales and redundant stock sitting in warehouses. All of these missed opportunities become lost revenue.

We’re working with them to update it, of course, it’s what we do at change++. Soon they will be better prepared to meet seasonal changes by managing stock and tracking availability.

Meeting retail’s seasonality challenge

It got us thinking about other retailers who face similar cyclical challenges. Seasonality drives the retail year for a surprising number of goods. There’s the traditional Christmas shopping and hospitality, of course. Outdoor goods for leisure and sporting activities – camping equipment, bikes, etc. Gardening machinery and tools. Even cosmetics and beauty products are subject to seasonal changes.  

Data analytics helps retailers identify and analyse historical trends and seasonal behaviour so they can plan inventory, manage stock and track availability. Tools like Power BI brings data from disparate sources (ERP, EPoS, promotion data, websites, etc.) together into a shared platform that makes it easy to build and update reports and dashboards.

BI adds value that enables retailers to:

  • plan for seasonality
  • understand customers better 
  • make data-driven decisions faster
  • see at-a-glance reviews
  • make best use of available data, even for non-techy people

The key to accurate, meaningful decision-making is always in the data, but we know that accessing it can be hard, especially when things change. Does this sound familiar? Get in touch and to see how you can bring your data together into an intelligent decision-making solution that you can trust.