Everyday retailers are faced with what seem to be a wealth of daunting issues.

It is as if they are in a constant “hot seat” trying to manage the sales process, inventory process and customer experience. The goal is always to grow, streamline, move quicker and improve retail execution, but how?

Major retailers have spent years putting metrics into place to measure execution. It started with supply and demand, and evolved into a complex cycle of inventory management, demand, projections, and hopeful execution. Most retailers have learned by taking chances… or by failing.

As the market continues to morph into uncharted territories of web sales, shopper awareness, price comparison, smart phones, and analytics software, it has become evident that retailers are still making the same common mistakes.  Here are the mistakes we see most often:

1) Inventory Management: Problems with inaccurate inventories can be catastrophic. It seems fairly basic, but it would be surprising to know how many physical locations are not sure of what is currently in stock. You may have heard this common store banter before, “We may have one in the back, let me go check stock.” How can a retailer grow sales if they can’t determine whether they have enough stock or if they don’t know what is on the shelves? This is why accurate inventory management is essential to retail execution.

2) Time Lapse in Data: Retailers are gathering in-store intelligence all the time through a variety of methods. Spreadsheets, emails with notes and photo attachments, and other forms of unstructured data are intended to highlight a call to action, i.e. some change or fix.  Unfortunately, by the time the data arrives, it is usually out of season, past a promotion, or no longer applicable. With the mobile and online technology that has been developed, retailers can now see more in real time. Real time insights lead to actionable decisions.

3) Human Error: In a warehouse full of robots, where every movement is calculated and accounted for, there is little room for error. However, out in the retail space, where people still manage the majority of the data, human error can still cause significant problems. The more a company relies on hand written surveys and audits, human compiled spreadsheets, and summarized subjectivity, the more chance there is for human error. Implementing a standardized and mechanical way to capture the same information, accurately, scientifically and without bias would help solve this issue.

4) Gathering the Wrong Data: It takes a retailer years of collecting data before they can pinpoint the most valuable data points for their business. Often times, countless hours and processes are wasted trying to capture information that seems helpful, but in the end becomes just noise. It is essential that retailers understand exactly what makes them tick, and what will enable their growth. Reporting for reporting’s sake is not useful. Focusing on the correct metrics is key.

5) Unstructured Data: Spreadsheets all over the place, and yes, even clipboards! There are paper surveys with carbon copies, post-it notes, piecemeal email… and all this before the long meetings for discussion and re-grouping and planning. Making sure that data is structured and gets to retail insights fast is paramount. Much of this data gets lost in translation during the period in which these disparate sources are aggregated and standardized.

With the use of mobile technology, scanning and inventory systems, cloud computing and auto generated notifications, retailers can become smarter, more efficient and effective in the ways in which they measure their execution; An evolution must take place in order for retailers to survive the ever-changing market.

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