Today, we have an explosion of data. It is estimated that 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every day with 90% of the world’s data created in the past 2 years!

The key question becomes what do we do with all this data? In the past, companies have always struggled with managing and analyzing large sets of data and could seldom generate any insights.

However, what’s different today vis-à-vis five years ago, is that we now have the ability to cleanse, transform and analyze this data to generate actionable insights. Moreover, today’s retail consumers are extremely demanding and want choices on “When”, “Where” and “How” to purchase product. Whether it is a traditional stand-alone retail store, shop-in-shop, website or mobile app; consumers want the flexibility to research, purchase and return product across multiple channels.

Today, many retailers and wholesalers have a vast amount of POS data available. However, many of them still don’t use the data at the lowest level of detail in their demand planning cycle. The result is significant out of stocks and inability of consumer to find product at the stores.

For a company to be successful in today’s Omni-channel environment, three key steps are needed:

1) Use Point-of-Sale (POS) data as a key input into demand plans: POS is the data that is closest to the consumer and is the purest form of demand- it is critical to leverage this data at the right level of detail into a product’s demand plans. Information available at stock-keeping-unit (SKU) level- should be aggregated and disaggregated to ensure that all attributes of a product are factored into the planned forecast.
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2) Link Point-of-Sale (POS) data to your Allocation & Inventory Management Systems: Today’s allocation systems have the ability to read sell-thru at POS and react and replenish based on what product is selling and what is not. It is critical to make sure that these systems are linked together so that the process is automated and seamless. Linking these systems will allow retailers to send the right product to the right store at the right time- thereby maximizing the chances of making a sale. This will not only contribute to top-line, but will also make our inventory investments more productive.

3) Collaboration with Value Chain Partners to share Point-of-Sale (POS) data: Today’s retail world is complex, many companies have multi-channel operations and work with a number of channel partners to distribute their products. In such a scenario, it is not always easy to gain access to POS data. However, it is important for companies to invest in a CPFR program (Collaborative Planning, Forecasting and Replenishment) that can give them access to downstream POS data which can be used to build better forecasts. It is critical to emphasize a “Win-Win” relationship for both companies and channel partners to bring everyone along on the collaboration journey

Along with Rene Saroukhanoff, CPF, Senior Director at Levi’s Strauss & Co, we’ll be talking about the above, as well as how to use size forecasting, optimized allocation, and visual analytics at IBF’s Business Planning & Forecasting: Best Practices Conference in Orlando USA, October 18-21, 2015.  I look forward to hopefully meeting you at the conference!  Your comments and questions are welcomed.