Tag Archives: analytics

Cash is King and Inventory is Cash

As a retailer, inventory is the most important asset on your balance sheet. Not only is it a major part of the value of your assets, but also the driving force behind generating revenue and profits. And yet, many retailers do not have a basic understanding of balance sheets and inventory, and why merchandise planning matters.

Pen, business items, and business documents with numbers and charts. Concept of workplace of the businessman.


Inventory, or merchandise planning, can seem complex. Ask a handful of retailers what makes a successful merchandise planner, and you’ll be given a handful of different answers. Planning sales and inventory to successfully control your cash and increase profitability is crucial if you want to survive in today’s economy.

Through my experience in working with troubled retail businesses (I was the outside consultant that discovered the inventory problem at Dick Smith), I have always increased the focus on merchandise planning. The person in charge of inventory controls the business. When this function is not controlled, the business can spiral out of control quickly.

Merchandise planners vs. buyers

While both a merchandise planner and buyer work together to keep a business running, their roles are separate. The Buyer decides what to buy and the Merchandise Planner decides how much to buy. These roles need to work closely together, but must not report to the same managers, a mistake some retailers make.

Merchandise planning is the science of Retail (see Science vs Magic). It relies on data analytics and is all about facts. They set and control the OTB. The best Merchandise Planners are highly analytical and often come from accounting or IT backgrounds.

Merchandise Planners:

  • Set and control the OTB (Open to Buy)
  • Forecast future demand (based on history)
  • Develop product hierarchies
  • Should report to the CFO/COO or someone with responsibility over inventory levels and cash flow
  • Manages obsolete stock and end of life markdowns


  • Is the magic and vision
  • Need to push the envelope and think outside the box
  • Identify trends and targeted demographics
  • Understand other markets and how they relate to their market
  • Should report into a Sales and Marketing function

Why are merchandise planners so important?

Ultimately, Merchandise Planners control the purse strings in the business by controlling the inventory. They set the strategy to enable your company to buy the right amount of goods at the right time and at the right price to deliver sales and margin targets.

If buyers control everything you will end up with higher sales, but have bad stock turns and obsolescence issues. If Merchandise Planners control everything, you will end up with perfect inventory, but no sales. The mix has to be right to succeed.

See also:

Science vs Magic

The Buying Pyramid

Merchandise Planning vs Buying

5 Key Features Your Sales Analytics Software Should Have

Quite simply, good sales analytics software should give you sales reports that answer all of your sales questions whenever and wherever you ask them. This blog details the 5 key features of sales analytics software that help fulfil those criteria and generate sales.

1. Anywhere Access

Whether you are in the office, at a meeting or on the road, being able to make accurate and informed decisions wherever you are is essential. The business world moves fast and you need to be agile to meet and exceed the demands it places on you. Postponing decisions until you get back to the office to check your reports will cost you time and business. To find out three ways mobile business intelligence is impacting business click here.

2. Dashboards

Immediately gain valuable insights by seeing it visually represented in graphs, tables and highlighting important figures. A good dashboard will prompt you to look deeper and then provide answers to any questions that arise. With a good dashboard all your sales metrics and scorecards can be managed so that they display the right dashboard for the right user.

Dashboards should also offer you the ability to drill down on any feature of the data you see and then manipulate it as you like. The ability to customise should also help you sort by products, customers or any other desirable feature for your business. This allows you to quickly reveal sales opportunities or even threats to the business which were otherwise unnoticed.

3. Combine Sales History & CRM Activity

Your software should seamlessly merge your team’s sales performance and customer relationship activity. This will ensure that all your key accounts are being appropriately engaged and allows you to match your sales, budgets and orders to your notes.

4. Sales Call Reporting

This feature is key to tracking your sales meetings each month. You can compare sales across months and then drill down to specific meetings and their relevant notes. This will give you unmatched transparency which you can use to coach your sales team.

You can also keep track of customer neglect. Setting a minimum number of sales against most recent meetings might help you find customers who are selling well but you haven’t seen for a while. This will allow you to add value to your relationship with customers as you can easily create priorities based on consistent data from your team.

5. Simplicity & Flexibility

This is the most important feature because it is the one that moderates your ability to use the software. It should be easy enough to use that you don’t have to be an IT expert, but also gives you the flexibility to offer great ad-hoc analysis and answer questions immediately. Below is a list of things that should be simple and flexible on all good sales analytics software

  • Compare sales over time – no matter the length of time, this year, last year, yesterday, last month, these should all be easily comparable.
  • Sales vs No Sales – See all your customers and what products they are and aren’t buying. Or more importantly products they should be buying but aren’t.
  • Gap Analysis – Find which customers are supporting you for certain product ranges and which ones aren’t
  • Sales Performance Comparison: Easily see who is performing well and why. Then compare them to underperforming reps, identify differences and work to get everyone on the same high selling level.
  • Trend Analysis – Analyse your customers to find increases or decreases in product sales month on month. Track Product growth or even tackle shrinking margins.

All these above features are an essential component of any good sales analytics software. Without them sales analytics can be complicated, frustrating and difficult to harness when trying to generate sales.

Mobile Business Intelligence Trends

Written by Phocas

The increasing use of mobile devices amongst consumers everywhere has impacted how all industries operate – including those in Business Intelligence.

According to Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner, the mobile trend is so popular because “[c]onsumers want anytime-anywhere computing that allows them to consume and create content with ease, but also share and access that content from a different portfolio of products. Mobility is paramount in both mature and emerging markets.”

What do mobile BI users want?

ComputerWeekly reported that mobile BI is developing like mobile email because it’s also a cross-functional business application. In fact, Joao Tapadinhas, a research director at Gartner stated that “after email, mobile BI is the most popular application.”

However, large scale BI apps (such as SAS, Kalido, and Cognos) are frequently static, looking mostly at historical data and relying on trained analysts to use them to the greatest effect. As a result, organisations are seeking a simpler, more flexible form of BI.

Mobile BI users want more interactivity from the app, so that they will be able to navigate through the analytics at a deeper level. After all, if it’s limited to sending email and text alerts, it’s not much more sophisticated than a well-written email or text message.

Who’s using mobile BI?

Tapadinhas says that Gartner is seeing more CEOs and CFOs being direct users of BI, although “more employees can benefit from it on a day to day basis. It is shifting away from an elite group of users where actions take hours/weeks. If you have mobile access, it’s easier to be right when it comes to making a decision, then and there.”

The appeal for executives, line managers and operations managers is access; that is, they want to be able to instantly self-serve instead of waiting days or even weeks for a custom algorithm to be written for a report to be produced.

Mobile BI lets managers look at up-to-date data and then make decisions quickly – such as allocating personnel and other resources to different workloads. This is especially useful for task-based mobile workforces, such as field service, sales, and distribution.

One interesting use of mobile BI is how the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary are using it to discover crime hotspots, and allocate officers accordingly. Officers can capture data on their device then send it back to HQ – providing a much more accurate picture than radios and written reports.

What are the barriers to mobile BI adoption?

According to Howard Dresner, chief research officer at Dresner Advisory Services LLC, the major obstacles to launching mobile BI are:

  • Cost. Organisations think that they have to buy everyone a new tablet, when in fact they can use the devices already in place.
  • Security. Organisations fear that their data will walk away or be stolen. However, there are ways to deal with it. Loss control programs can be put in place, using mobile device management technologies, or even enforcing a policy such as not allowing applications or data to be downloaded onto the device.
  • Infrastructure. Organisations think that it will take plenty of planning to design an infrastructure, and that implementing it will be costly. However, in the long run, the benefits far outweigh the costs.

Dresner says it’s unnecessary for organisations’ IT departments to design their own mobile applications, because most vendors will have a mobile offering. To those who are considering mobile BI adoption, he advises that you speak to your existing vendor and see if what they have matches your needs.

Make sure that the app is very responsive because you need immediacy – it should only give you the information needed instead of the entire dashboard, because there’s no time to explore the design.