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Every convenience store can benefit from sustained planogram compliance. Big chains like 7-Eleven Inc. may stock foot warmers in Alaska and suntan lotion in Florida, but they also maintain a consistent core inventory across all of their stores.
Smaller independents, on the other hand, want to achieve the same efficiencies of the chains. Every convenience store wants to ensure that the right products are available and easily located on the proper shelves. They want to minimize out-of-stocks and drive satisfied customers by ensuring their favorite products are always available.
In the convenience sector, where resources are often light, maintaining inventory gets progressively difficult as items move from the distribution center to the back of the store to the store shelves. Keeping track of what's in stock can be especially challenging when there are frequent promotions, new product introductions or when products are simply moving quickly.
Bar codes, scanners and RFID have all promised to improve convenience store shelf management. Now, with the ability to deliver software applications to store employees on their mobile devices, it's about to get a whole lot easier.
Here are five triggers to help drive mobile shelf management into the store:
Making smart devices a part of shelf management -- People love to use their mobile devices, both for personal enjoyment and work. By bringing shelf management to employees on the device they are most comfortable with -- their own smartphone or tablet -- retailers can make product information available wherever and whenever it's needed. Putting their smart device skills to work, store clerks can access planograms for their own store, then swipe or tap their way through a task list of assigned planograms.
Because a smartphone responds to spread or pinched fingers, the worker can zero in on a single product view or back up to see an entire view of products. As items move out of the storeroom and into the aisle, workers are better able to identify misplaced or missing items and replenish the shelves. With plenty of Chapstick on hand during the coldest days of the winter and ample supplies of diapers all year-round, retailers ensure shoppers have no reason to leave empty-handed.
Embracing the Cloud -- Cloud computing is a key component to mobile shelf management. When each store's core planograms and images are hosted in the cloud, mobile applications (apps) allocate data to a device only as it is needed. Workers access only relevant information for the purposes of implementation or capturing of planograms, and compliance checking and reporting. The devices run faster and workers can quickly complete their task without delays or downtime.
Mobilizing the workforce -- WiFi proliferation within the retail environment provides a ready mobile network on which to host replenishment applications. With data on demand via their smartphones, workers can perform their duties in the store, on the road or at their office or home. Security levels can be defined at the log-in level so that workers see only the data that they need to do their jobs.
When at the shelf, clerks can enter a planogram, view item details/facings, adjacencies, select shelves and stocking status audit. Once he or she has matched a planogram to a shelf, restocking is simple. Whereas before staff may have struggled to comply with planograms for promotions or new product introductions, now their mobile service will help them reset shelves faster in line with agreed planograms. As a result, stores reclaim what would have been lost sales and profits while manufacturers maximize return on investment from their new product introductions and trade promotions.
Data sharing/data analysis -- Mobile shelf management is not just for store clerks. With planograms and inventory data uploaded in real time to the cloud, both consumer products goods manufacturers and retail executives can get immediate visibility into job completion status and any variation from planogram compliance on a companywide or store-by-store level. Executives can quickly review and analyze the data, then share information -- such as business performance metrics, forecasts, trends and "what if" information -- with the rest of the organization.
Instead of waiting three to four weeks for the end-of-month figures to identify problems, management can quickly pinpoint issues and focus on problem stores. Moving forward, this allows executives to manage by exception and spend more time working with those stores with recurring issues and, consequently, improve overall compliance across a chain of stores.
Improving customer service -- Mobile shelf management helps customers find what they want at the right time, in the right quantity and in the right location. At the same time, retailers increase customer retention and boost sales because they have the tools to analyze and drive campaigns based on purchase behavior, such as:
- Centralized intelligence on all cross-channel purchase history, preferences and interests for one view of the customer;
- Tailored multi-channel campaigns that enable communication with customers in the way they've requested; and
- Powerful real-time analytics and reporting to ensure better business decision making.
- The convergence of smart devices and in-store WiFi is changing how retailers interact with their suppliers, their employees and their customers. Mobile shelf management promises to be an important part of increasing in-store efficiencies and increasing profitability.
Matt Robinson is market development director within the Category Optimization business unit at Aldata. His role includes managing Aldata's solution roadmap and development direction by identifying local, regional and global industry and client requirements and shaping Aldata technology to support clients' category management process.
Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News.