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Retail strategy Q&A: Assortment planning–Behind the scenes impact to retailers

Kristin Demel, retail strategy director at Callahan, explained assortment planning basics  and how assortment planning impacts brands in the first two blogs of this series. In her final Q&A blog of this series, she answers:

  • how assortment planning impacts the buyer’s current role
  • is there more data to analyze?
  • what tools are used to analyze the data?

How does assortment planning impact the buyer’s current role?

It’s a change for brands, but it’s also a change that retailers are navigating. Keep in mind, that it’s not just new and hard for brands. It’s new and hard for retailers. Assortment planning evolves retail decision making. The expectations of the buyers will change. There are also new team members that are now part of the decision-making process and even the expectations on existing team members are changing as well.

While the day-to-day responsibilities will be somewhat impacted, the largest impact will be around line or product review time. Buyers will now have “more cooks in the kitchen,” increased or shifted KPI’s, and the potentially shifted cadence of meetings.

It seems like a lot more data to analyze. Are there internal analytics teams?

Most large-scale retailers have a consumer insight organization or data analytics function. However, the level of involvement varies by retailer as does whether the team reports into marketing, strategy, finance or planning. The thing to remember is that bandwidth is typically constrained, especially when the retailer is implementing assortment planning initiatives. This leaves a lot of the heavy data lifting to the team.

So, if buyers and their teams are having to take on analyzing data, what tools are they using?

From what I’ve seen personally working at retailers and what I’ve experienced now in my new role helping brands and retailers, there’s various levels of system sophistication, teams and processes.

Typically, all retailers access their data from a data warehouse that returns the data in a combination of dashboards, reports, or as raw data. The difference is the tools the teams have to summarize and analyze the information. These tools range from the basics like Excel and PowerPoint applications to Alteryx and Tableau.

It’s a good question that you bring up because those are all data visualization tools or ways to summarize and report the data. What they don’t always help with is interpreting, finding the insights, and combining multiple data sources. Interpreting, predicting impact, and actioning data require different skill sets and tools.

If you have more questions on retail strategy and assortment planning, contact Kristin.