4C Associates’ Insights in Retail networking event at Searcy’s @ at the Gherkin brought together a group of senior leaders from across the retail, food service and convenience industries supported by 4C’s own team of retail industry experts. The round table discussion centred on why the use of data and insights is now, not an option, but a necessity in decision making for retailers and why adopting the use of data is paramount to ensuring their survival in an ever-changing retail landscape.
Compering the event was Sean Toal, ex CEO of Wilko and ex COO of the CoOp who challenged the group to consider the role of the buyer and switch from experience led buying to data driven buying reflecting that with “the substantial pressure on margins, retailers need to equip themselves with the right people, with the right data”. A number of attendees were able to recount supplier negotiation situations where suppliers would be equipped with more data and insights than the buyer, allowing them to be better prepared, giving them the upper hand in the negotiation. Buyers are regularly put at a disadvantage when negotiating deals because without good access to data and insights, they don’t have full visibility of the drivers of performance with their suppliers or categories and because of this, “buyers are leaving money on the table”. However, with data comes great responsibility with participants acknowledging retailers need to be careful not to over indulge in obtaining vast amounts of data, as without the right analytics platforms, this may become cumbersome to access and without the means to process it properly will result with “Data, without the correct insight and application is as useful as no data to start with”.
The focus of the conversation moved towards how to use data driven insights effectively in retail. Hilary Leam, Group Trading Director for Holland & Barrett gave her view “It is easy to drown in data”, she explained, recounting the traditional Monday morning sales meeting, with buyers spending hours sifting through reams of data to understand why the category had or had not performed. This was felt to be counterproductive and the most effective insight will give a buyer a summarised view of the “so what?” at their fingertips and always available. The best data needs to provide actionable insights that can be acted upon swiftly and effectively. Hilary also discussed how whilst she sees the benefit of data, she is a strong believer there will always be an element of people making decisions and in summary “a retailer must be agile to maximise the value out of real time insight.”
Our colleagues from the food service industry took it a step further looking at the practical applications of data usage to more effectively manage forecasting and waste in the supply chain. In a sector where achieving like-for-like sales is a primary concern, against a backdrop of rising costs driven by increased food prices and labour costs, the use of data and insights to understand customer behaviour and the supply market was of paramount importance. Peter Marson, 4C Co-Founder predicted machine learning will narrow down the trade-off between availability and waste while at the same time acknowledging more insight driven volume analysis will not only improve forecasting accuracy, but also will enable more focussed and agile trading strategies to ensure the right stock is in the right location at the right price when the optimal customer driven trading conditions present themselves.
With agreement around the table data and insight were fundamentally essential to meeting the needs of both customers and commercial KPI’s, the group moved on to another critical issue facing their industry at the moment – packaging. Everyone agreed there is significant pressure on all organisations to turn the dial on sustainable packaging, and whilst everyone needed to “do better”, “no one was doing it particularly well at present”. Finding a happy medium between price, function, volume and sustainability is an on-going challenge, yet to find an all round workable solution.
Our speakers agreed customers will move into environmentally friendly alternatives when there is:
- No impact on price of the product they are buying.
- No change in quality or experience of the product.
In summing up the discussion, it was felt retailers need to embed “traditional” procurement questions into a buying role to understand all elements of the product, with packaging being one of these. Historically buyers have not needed to know as much detail, now customers are more knowledgeable on the impact of packaging on our environment and are demanding change. Packaging is no longer an area buyers can simply ignore.
We believe that bringing together the leaders of our retail industry helps understand the challenges we face while steering us towards finding sustainable solutions that will exceed customers expectations and ensure continued profitability for years to come. Thank you to all our guests for joining us and contributing your valued opinions to the discussions.
If you would like to find out more about why using data and insights is critical in driving your bottom line sales and profit, please download our white paper “How to harness data to deliver a profitable seasonal range” – https://www.4cassociates.com/retail/retail-insights/
We are planning further events later in the year and if you would like to attend please contact Jeremy.email@example.com
At 4C, we thrive on variety, love a challenge and are passionate about helping our clients fix their problems. Our retail team combine their extensive knowledge and board level experience with the latest process and technology innovations to provide our clients with transformative solutions and sustainable commercial outcomes. Our core focus on consultancy, margin improvement and cost reduction is strongly reinforced by our Insight-As-A-Service capability. This 4C proprietary technology automates data analysis through AI and machine learning tools and generates fresh insights that allows our in-house specialists to deliver increased value more quickly for our clients. We are innovative in our approach and always bring genuinely new insight and thought leadership to every engagement.