By Susan Viamari and Michael Letourneau, IRI
Even in the best of times, keeping grocery store shelves stocked is a monumental and incredibly complex task. No doubt, 2020 was not the best of times, and even now that we are into 2021, COVID-19 continues to spiral across the country. Hot spots flare up, and then they die down … only to flare up in another area.
Meanwhile, retailers are working to keep hundreds, even thousands, of stores properly stocked to meet fluctuating demand. Suppliers are managing thousands, even tens of thousands, of SKUs across these locations. Even without production line disruptions, it seems virtually impossible to keep all the balls in the air and the products moving in the right direction as supply and demand change. Of course, products must also be on the right shelves when the shopper is looking to buy.
While you may not be able to watch every line item across every store location, technology can! And to stay on top of the changes, why not tap into automation that can watch for out-of-stocks — and then get the info automatically delivered directly to you?
At IRI, we’ve tackled this challenge with Unify Alerts, a feature in IRI Unify® visualization. It tracks and delivers timely notifications about out-of-stocks directly to your smartphone, inbox or Unify homepage — it’s up to you. By automating watchdog work, you can turn your attention to more strategic analyses without worrying about surprise out-of-stock situations. The tool's user-defined nature gives its users the ability to create customized, personalized and automated alerts relating to a wide variety of key performance indicators specific to your business needs, and to easily access them through multiple platforms. These alerts can monitor such issues as:
- A drop in your product’s market share
- Any change in sales of your product versus a competitor’s
- Other met criteria, such as when a new item hits a certain distribution level.
It seems like such a simple concept, yet the results can be astounding.
In the weeks leading up to the holidays, a national retailer needed help with remedying chronically late purchase orders for one of its key health and beauty care suppliers. This lateness was negatively impacting the category planner’s ability to maintain proper inventory levels, and out-of-stocks were soaring. The retailer was very eager to repair this situation and improve its in-stock rates, so it asked IRI to find a solution.
We worked with the retailer and supplier to develop a quick and simple action plan that was completely customized to the retailer’s objectives. Together, we determined a ship date that would allow some buffer but not impact the retailer’s ability to keep products on the shelf. Then we set up an alert to notify both parties when the ship date passed the agreed-upon marker. Nested in the alert, a report provided various details — including SKUs impacted, case-pack size, warehouse location, and more. With a link feature, users were just two clicks away from seeing the underlying (source) report. This detail allowed the vendor to more easily prioritize late purchase orders so that the highest-impact orders could be addressed first.
In just a few weeks, the suppliers’ late purchase order count fell by more than 40%, bringing lower out-of-stock rates and higher sales for both partners.
The retailer continued using the alert in Unify and is now looking to expand it across other supplier partners.
The best part is that users can set personalized goals and criteria based on their specific business needs and quickly know about any changes in the market. Alerts create reports and notifications that both improve convenience for users and power data-driven and timely decision-making.
In these hyper-competitive and uncertain times, it is crucial to know immediately what’s happening in the market and with your supply chain, so that you can act quickly to meet volatile demand and drive continuous improvement. It’s one more way to give your business an edge.
To learn more about Unify Alerts, reach out to your IRI representative, or contact us at CollaborativeGatewaySolutions@IRIworldwide.com.