Apr 03 2020

The coming smart(er) local supply chain.

Enabling in-season replenishment through shared business intelligence.

By Mike Massey   Founder / President

One of the biggest problems perpetually facing retailers of all sizes is discovering emerging local trends, stocking their stores with the most popular local products and best selling brands, and then conveying in-stock information to nearby shoppers.

At a basic level, retailers can count on insights gained by working with data sharing services like NPD, but it’s really hard to glean emerging local trends from national sell-through data. In many ways, this data is better used to discover problems in margins or inventory glut rather than what to buy right now. Plus, the lack of context geographically or demographically makes it far harder to wade through data to find store-specific retail success.

On the other hand, more sophisticated retailers have built proprietary systems that are able to detect consumer affinity or inventory movements. Take as an example, a large online marketplace that has access to the current inventories of thousands of stores and can calculate the day to day changes in those inventories. They can easily create conclusions about what is selling, at what velocity, to who, and where. It’s not surprising to see ads running in your community for trending items - if you are actually the one providing them with these insights.

Overall, the lack of these types of deep insights put most retailers at a tactical disadvantage in both gaining access to the most popular products in their area and subsequently marketing them.

What are some of the possible solutions to this problem?

One clear and positive trend I’ve started to see is reps sharing direct-to-consumer sales data from brand ecommerce websites. Simple reports showing the number of units of each specific product sold in that store’s state, city or DMA are helpful. Also, most brands certainly have their own internal analytics for product views by region which would be an early indicator for emerging trends. Stores surely will be more successful at digging through this type of data than nationally aggregated information because it’s inherently local.

Still, a once-a-season report doesn’t quite provide the at-once information that could help a store find a key, missing product and quickly add it to their inventory offerings. A post-season sales debrief is much more likely to influence next year’s product mix.

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And, that’s too bad for both the retailer and brand in the near term because all channels need to be firing for a trend to achieve escape velocity. Online and offline sales channels tend to reinforce one another much more than they conflict with each other. Shoppers are much more excited about new products when they encounter them multiple times across multiple shopping venues.

The last major issue with looking at sell-through across channels is aligning it with availability. If a retailer identifies a local trend, but only in a timeframe that allows for them to place an order for next season, it’s not especially useful in the near term.

Developing a solution

So, how do brands and retailers work together to get timely, locally-relevant merchandise into all sales channels in a simple but powerful way?

Let’s go through a list of what would be required for this to work:

  • We need to collect consumer shopping insights that are both local and timely. Ideally, we want to see data from yesterday, not two months ago, and only data that is geographically segmented.
  • We need information about what is available-to-sell. Who cares what is trending if there is nothing that can be done with the insight?
  • We need to present the information to buyers in an actionable way, knowing that most buyers don’t have time to mash up data from one system to another.

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When I co-founded Locally 5 years ago, this was one of the issues that I understood that we could one day solve (or at least contribute to solving).

In order for Locally to do what it does, show online shoppers where they can buy something nearby, we need to know what the shopper is looking for and where they are physically located. And, in December alone, we had 1.9 billion shopper engagements with products and dealers across hundreds of sites. Because nearly all (approaching 100% of) shoppers are doing some to all of their product research online before they buy online or go to a nearby store, this is a tremendous resource to meet criteria number one; What are shoppers shopping for near my store?

With local insights in hand, we hoped to combine the brand’s Available-to-Sell with shopper behavior, but still recognized that without step 3, a way to place an order, we were still just pumping out static data.

But, fortuitously, we came into contact with Jon and his team at Envoy B2B and started comparing notes. We quickly realized that they actually specialized in number two and three. To provide their retailer clients with information about what’s available to order, they need to keep track of the supplier’s inventory in real-time and give those buyers a way to place orders… normal b2b stuff.

If we couple what’s available with what’s popular nearby with a way to place an order, any size retailer now has a new sophisticated tool for freshening their stock with the products nearby shoppers are looking at online right now. Plus, because Locally is able to share what’s in stock with Envoy, buyers don’t have to go back and forth with the b2b platform and their inventory system. What they have in stock appears right in the ordering console… vs. what’s popular vs what’s available.

Win-Win-Win

In this model, obviously retailers gain from being quicker to stock trendy items. Shoppers benefit from having a nearby place where they can see an item that they aren’t sure about and might want to try on - or get today. And, brands gain faster wholesale placement for items that they are perhaps pushing hard through marketing. This can also help inform their supply chain and get products to market faster.

Lastly, exactly how Locally was designed to work, once the retailer has the item in stock, that local inventory information is placed right into the places where consumers are shopping; the brand site, product pages, ads, social media, and the retailer’s site.

So, let’s look at how this is going to work….

With Envoy B2B + Locally brands have the tools to:

A | Identify the products a store should carry based on consumer demand in the market around their store and then recommend an order which will bring the store more “on-trend.”a-products Easily recommend products which a retailer doesn’t currently carry, but are in high demand with consumers in the market around their store.

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B | See retailers on-hand inventory in Envoy B2B allowing them to recommend intelligent replenishment orders.

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See a store's on-hand inventory and your ATS, side-by-side for quick, intelligent replenishment.

When retailers that participate in Locally carry more "on-trend" products, they gain greater visibility on a brand's direct-to-consumer website via Locally's integrated check out experience. This leads to more curbside pick up or same day delivery fulfillment opportunities.

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Quickly understand your bookings vs actual sell-thru for locally retailers. Also see which accounts are low on stock and what % “On-Trend” each are with local consumer demand.

With this, brands are supporting local retailers which desperately need a method to continue commerce and serve their local consumers.

You can see the entire Envoy B2B + Locally feature set here.

Finally, with the product in-stock at the store, the availability is piped to the online shopper where they can reserve the item for curbside or in-store pickup or request a same-day delivery, and the virtuous cycle begins again. Brand ⇆ Shopper ⇄ Store

About Mike Massey

Mike is a third-generation specialty retailer and owner of Massey's Outfitters in New Orleans. The idea of Locally grew out of a need to market in-stock products to nearby online shoppers and accept transactions for in-store sales. At Locally, Mike is the head of strategy, operations, and partnerships.  View all posts by Mike

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