No One Left Behind: Why Buyers and Planners Need In-Store Analytics

Lauren Bitar
Lauren Bitar
Director, Retail Consulting

Retail analytics and their abundant insights are often used in store operations, customer experience and marketing functions, but don’t overlook buyers and planners, as data makes for better and more timely decisions in what can be a very subjective art.

With the advent of store analytics, retailers are able to look at stores the same way they once were only able to do with their web site: traffic, conversion, fixture engagement and full shopper path can be determined and actionable insights can be taken to optimize the in-store experience. 

However, most of the people using in-store retail analytics data are part of the customer insights/ customer experience teams or in marketing. Buyers and planners, the ones responsible for filling the store with the items used to merchandise windows, fixtures and basically keep the lights on don’t seem to be privy to the data. Instead the customer insights/customer experience, marketing and -at best- store design teams are the ones with access. As a former buyer and planner, I want to share some reasons buyers and planners should be a part of the data sharing and how it only benefits the other teams. And, as a retailer, you know it’s all about us anyway. 

Men's boutique

Data allows us to understand why that dress we had to buy 10,000 of didn’t sell

It’s easy to blame late deliveries or associates not pushing the merchandise, etc. for poor performing merchandise. It’s difficult, however, to identify the true root cause. For the first time, we can now see if shoppers weren’t walking to the fixture it was on, if the store had low capture rate, if the associates did not staff that part of the store, if it was tried on many times but never bought – indicating a fit issue – or any other variety of causes. Armed with data few weeks into selling, a buyer could recommend re-merchandising on a fixture with higher engagement and measure the difference. If, after several fruitless efforts, the planner could then recommend a transfer to a store that is selling it better, or at worst warn the vendor and upper management about a markdown liability earlier than before. 

Better performance understanding aids in better hindsighting and negotiations

Being able to prove to a vendor that blue lipstick didn’t sell – Pantone Color of the Year or not – with quantifiable tests aids in negotiating returns to vendors (RTVs) and vendor allowances. It also eliminates the blame game that inevitably happens at the end of every season. Understanding performance metrics and the causes allows the retailer and its vendors to more accurately hindsight and create an effective buy plan for the next season. 

It really is all about us

Sorry, it’s an unjust part of retail. Buyers have ruled the roost in all the retail organizations I’ve worked in, both retail and wholesale, and buyers and planners are heavily reviewed against their sales and gross margin targets. Being able to show them how in-store analytics can affect in-season selling (rather than just anxiously awaiting mainframe daily sales updates) and improve business over time helps align them with their cross-functional teams’ initiatives and motivates upper management to add that extra test store CX wanted, or invest in RFID. 

And the list could go on.

All teams looking at the same data and making business decisions on what initiatives to test and executing them in tandem will decrease reaction time and help eliminate silos that are so prevalent in retail. As the world continues to move into omnichannel, it will take all cross-functional groups working together to provide the optimal in-store experience for the customer.

As you go forward with reinventing your retail organization, don’t forget the people who decide what is going in the stores whose shoppers you are so closely monitoring! 

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