Calm The Chaos of Bringing New Products to Market
Part 1: Retail is a Symphony
Bringing new products to market is a complicated orchestra.
Consumer expectations are on the rise. Can your business keep up? It isn’t an easy proposition in the modern retail landscape. On one side of the product lifecycle, you have overwhelmed retailers sourcing thousands of new products, or working to design new products with their teams. They’re juggling tasks like determining product sizes, shapes, colors and variations. At the same time, they’re trying to evaluate existing data on their previous product lines’ performance to make more informed production decisions.
On the other side, you have suppliers and brands trying to get the needed information to their buyers as quickly and efficiently as possible. In the middle is the data stuck in excel, PDF, and emails that remains inaccessible to those who need it. It’s no wonder why managers and teams have little insight into how decisions are made and why changes happen. They’re stuck trying to address issues as they arise, rather than optimizing the chaos for the long haul.
What the retail world needs is a conductor, in the form of a unified product collaboration platform that enables them to communicate with external vendors. Just like a maestro that handles the tempo and timing of a symphony while balancing out the cellos and flutes, a good unified product collaboration platform enables its users to manage the chaos in stride, calm that chaos, and ultimately control the flow of the product lifecycle and sales process. So you can spend more time on the parts of your job you love the most.
The planning phase is critical
The art of retail is understanding your customer. For assortment planning to be customer-centric, it needs to be a combination of data, new trends and a merchant’s gut instinct. Putting out a fire –– such as a delay in production, lost product data, or a team member calling in sick –– without looking at its root cause may fix the short-term emergency, but it does not solve the long-term internal and external problems that caused the fire in the first place. In order to solve both short and long-term problems, it is important to have a plan to act upon in place.
The retail planning process is the heart of the buyer’s role. It's the part of the job that most of us in the retail world would love to spend more time on. It gives buyers and merchandisers a chance to view the organizational process holistically to identify where change is needed.
As a buyer, you need the ability to collect data quickly. Real-time data enables you to hone in on your target market. Once you understand your customer and your product’s key value proposition for them, you’ll be able to predict trends. You can also use quantitative analytics to determine which products to source, quantities to purchase, product details, and more.
Assortment planning is an important step toward calming the chaos of your product lifecycle processes. Having data is one thing. How you apply it towards your buy is something different.
Get ready to execute your vision
Once you’ve taken the time to carefully plan out your next seasonal product line, the next step is working with your vendors and suppliers. You’ll need to review product assortments, request RFQs, place orders, and make changes – and that’s just a smidgen of the collaboration and negotiation that have to take place before you get the product to market. You can’t do this effectively when your product data is siloed in excel, PDF, and emails. Having a unified product collaboration platform in place – with the right import/export tools, external vendor management features, product syndication options, and integrations – is critical to the continued success of your business.
A unified product collaboration platform should incorporate every one of your team members – including your business partners – so that they can bring the information that they are responsible for to the collaboration process. Enabling you to interface with external partners on one platform is the single most vital attribute of a successful retail software solution. It allows you to have reliable information at your fingertips at the moment you need it, without having to work through emails, PDFs and external systems to find it.
What’s more, a unified product collaboration platform's unified PLM, CRM, and PLM functionality can store historical data as a digital asset, so you can easily refer back to the information when planning your next cycle.
The sooner you invest, the sooner you reap the benefits
With hundreds of suppliers inundating buyers and so much displaced data to reel in, buyers often place their researching software needs on the back burner during the planning process. We get it. Even when you know there’s a better way of doing things, it’s easy to get caught up in a decision making gridlock.
Think about the time you spend evaluating retail software solutions as an investment in your future. The time you put into choosing the right unified PLM, PIM, and CRM system today will pay dividends in time and revenue down the line. You will save precious billable hours handling administrative tasks, like PO worksheet generation and digging through Excel spreadsheets to discover the source of errors. This is all time you can invest back into your planning next season. So you have the bandwidth to make more strategic sourcing decisions.
If you’re ready to stock shelves with the hot-ticket items customers are clamoring for, start looking into unified product collaboration platforms. The right platform will ease your tedious daily processes. The result? Better products. More full price sales. Higher ROI. And these are just some of the myriad ways that the right retail software will help your business grow.
Eradicate chaos with a data-based strategy
The retail world is chaotic. It’s not easy to divine what exactly you’re going to buy, when, how, where, and from whom. There is a gamut of constantly shifting factors out of your control that make this vocation harder than advertised. Fortunately, with the right unified product collaboration platform, you can adjust your strategy quickly and stay on track –– with all of your data, external partners, and internal communications in one place.
Calm The Chaos Part 2: A Better Strategy, Not a Bigger Budget
All retailers are not created equally.
The country’s largest retailers have no problem finding products and vendors. Walmart, for example, has a fleet of 18 private jets that buyers can use to travel all over the world to source products and meet with vendors and suppliers. The majority of other retailers don’t have this luxury. Most retailers spend much of their time trying to build crucial relationships with vendors to gain access to high demand products.
You can still compete, even if you aren’t one of the largest retailers around. After all, this is the era of micro-retail. Many a young upstart and seasoned brands are winning without behemoth operating budgets. As Winston Churchill once said, “It is not the size of the dog in the fight, but rather the size of the fight in the dog.”
By achieving a data-informed understanding of your customer, you will be able to respond to their needs faster than the megaliths.
Create an actionable overview
Let’s take a page from Churchill’s book. Just because you can’t outspend the biggest players doesn’t mean you can’t out-strategize them.
Identify the pain points of your business, such as siloed product data, poor vendor/buyer relationships, and/or bottlenecks in your supply chain.
Find a unified PLM, PIM, and CRM solution provider that’s hyper-focused on those areas of opportunity.
Put a unified product collaboration platform in place that allows your team to stay nimble.
Constantly leverage accurate data to make the best decisions possible.
Integrate systems that engage your whole team, including external vendors!
Easily import/export data for a highly refined buying and selling experience.
Knowledge is power. But your process to attain that knowledge should not involve printouts, rulers, or digging through stacks of paper. A winning strategy combines planning and development BEFORE the SKU in order to most effectively arrive at your purchasing decisions. Effective planning requires historical data that exists in one place for a single point of reference for everyone involved. Effective product lifecycle management requires seamless collaboration and communication by all team members, internal or external, within a single platform. Once both of these systems are in place, you can get ready to start running a more efficient, profitable retail operation.
A quick side note: We mentioned everything that happens before the SKU. Don’t forget to incorporate the way you treat your brands into your strategy as well. Take care of the brands that you sell. Put concerted effort into displaying products, instead of throwing them on a shelf with no thought or strategy. Brand storytelling and product use cases definite your brand to potential customers, inspiring them to convert by laying a firm foundation of trust through transparency.
When making it rain doesn’t work
Most retail budgets don’t allow you to simply throw money at a problem to make it go away. Instead, you need high quality data at your fingertips to conduct a proper analysis of past sales for future decision making. You need to be able to find answers quickly to stay ahead of the game. This means that you can’t afford to have data spread everywhere and locked in PDFs and emails. The old way of doing things is simply too puttering for retailers to utilize it on a tight timeline.
A retailer’s reputation is built by the efficacy of your products. In this day and age, how your products are presented online are your customers’ first and last impression of your brand. Your reputation depends on your online and in-store experience. And modern consumers gauge that experience by your level of product transparency.
To provide product transparency, you need a unified product collaboration tool that allows for fast access to data by all team members within the system. You want a tool that shows actual products on screens with custom, adjustable formatting, so the product display process is efficient and effective. And, when it comes time to produce a product order, confirm quotes, or list products, you'll want a tool that easily exports data from your PLM to your CRM and PIM tools. With the right unified collaboration management platform, you’ll actually know what you’re looking at and analyzing at first glance. For a faster, more enjoyable, more profitable retail business.
Calm The Chaos Part 3: Data Will Get You Everywhere
Look to past data for future successes.
Retail is a fast-moving, ever-changing business. There are a lot of unknowns, and unknowns are a cause of chaos when it comes to the product lifecycle management, customer relationship management, and product information management processes. Knowing what drove past success is the best way to estimate what will drive future profit, so get started by looking to the past. Pull out data from the products and orders, quantities, and price points from the last year or season, then answer the following questions:
What industry trends did you implement?
What supplier or vendor did you work with best?
Which ones did you have trouble working with?
- How can you refine your operation to remedy these challenges?
Once you have the micro-details of the past logged and recorded, start strategizing with your team. How do we hit the bullseye next year and stay on target? Is the bullseye moving? Where is it moving? What are the variables? Highlight your projected pain points, delivery dates, and goals you need to hit for optimal ROI.
The concept of inventory planning may not be quite as sexy, but it’s critical to the success of your business. You don’t want a small error to find its way onto your store shelves, and suddenly you have space dedicated to a product you can’t sell. Planning properly now will help you make the right sourcing decisions to ensure your business profits for years to come.
Data from vendors
Vendors care about one thing – their own products standing out amidst a sea of competition. They don’t have a lot of time to worry about anything else. If they don’t lay out their product info cleanly and quickly for their retail buyers, those buyers will not review the assortment, request quotes, or place orders. But when each retailer requires product information to be presented to them in a specific way, it can take a lot of time for vendors to showcase their offerings, unless the retailer is using a unified product collaboration platform that allows for a product assortment to quickly and easily be uploaded by their vendors according to their specifications.
When retailers and vendors do not use the right retail software to manage the product lifecycle, sales, and listing process, product information from vendors is often only viewable by merchandisers in silos. It takes extraordinary brainpower for the buyers to compare product details –– like fit, pricing, sizing, and timing –– across multiple vendors.
A healthy path forward
A good integrated PLM and PIM tool can lay out product information more like a set table, making it easier to read. With data in one easy-to-use place, communicating across borders, time, cultures, platforms, and versions becomes infinitely easier. Retailers can efficiently manage overlap between brands, partners, teams and categories. It’s a win-win for retail buyers and their vendors. The vendors get to show their products more quickly, while merchandisers get to evaluate product assortments in a logical and easy way.
Most importantly though, once you can evaluate product information from various vendors accurately, you know what to order. A unified product collaboration platform will make it easy to decide the quantities and costs of your order upfront. This has a positive impact on your time to market, which gives you the ability to manage receivables and inventory more thoroughly. So you’re able to get the customer what they want, when they want it… and that’s what it’s really all about.
You don’t want your data to be siloed. Your company’s CRM, PIM and PLM solutions shouldn’t operate in a vacuum, either. Surefront is a Unified Product Collaboration Platform to power growth and ROI. Our patented PIM, CRM, and PLM solutions streamline the omni channel sales, merchandising and product development processes. By combining these essential functionalities, Surefront creates a single source of truth throughout your product lifecycle, sales and listing processes.
The results? Up to 150% more revenue per employee and a 40% shorter product development cycle is just the beginning. Try our 10x ROI calculator to see your company’s potential profits. Or, skip the noise and book a custom demo with one of our unified product collaboration management experts today. The retail industry evolves quickly and has a lot of moving parts. We do all of the research, so you don’t have to. Stay ahead of market fluctuations, trends and new features by subscribing to our Unified Product Collaboration Management Blog.
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