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Black Friday and Cyber Monday are only the beginning: How to jumpstart the holiday season

By ShiSh Shridhar, Global Industry Director, Retail Solutions, Microsoft on November 21, 2016

Filed under Retail & Consumer Goods

retail holiday shopping season

The lights are off and the door is locked, but the scene in the store is still chaotic. The back stockroom is in disarray. Displays are a disaster zone. Items are scattered about the store and employees are trying their best to put things back together. What caused such devastation? Another Black Friday has come and gone.

It’s no secret: recovering from Black Friday can be just as difficult as preparing for it. And as every consumer goods company knows, a smooth recovery is essential to holiday success. The weeks after Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the most shopped of the year—30 percent of annual retail sales occur between the Friday after Thanksgiving and Christmas[i]. Though retail execution teams work hard to prevent any lull, the sheer volume of traffic and consumer frenzy makes it difficult to bounce back quickly.

The chaos and disorganization left behind by Black Friday can lead to product displays that are incorrect or even empty. Empty displays and stockouts cause lost profits and frustrated customers—especially around the holiday season. Beyond just trying to recover and resupply from Black Friday before Cyber Monday rolls around, retail teams must also analyze mountains of sales data to quickly zero in on holiday trends and stay competitive in an increasingly difficult market. For example, Wal-Mart found that shoppers were disappointed by limited numbers of doorbuster products on Black Friday. To avoid stockouts on hot-ticket items in the future, they carefully mined sales data and stocked extra inventory to ensure their customers wouldn’t leave empty-handed[ii].

Anything that can be done to minimize manual decision-making and maximize insight-gathering and analysis saves time and money. Just as importantly, automation and insight can prevent missed opportunities, which is especially important during the Black Friday season. Luckily, new tracking and analytics can help retail execution teams more quickly and effectively get back on track and pull ahead of competitors this holiday season. These technologies, such as the cloud, IoT, advanced analytics, and digital image recognition, help streamline everything about Black Friday—from the lead-up to the clean-up.

Before & during Black Friday

A successful Black Friday recovery requires advance preparation. With advanced analytics tools, retail execution teams can combine historical data with current projections, social media sentiment, weather forecasts, and other data sources to optimize their pre-sale planning. Once the items are on the shelf and the shopping flurry begins, brands can make use of sensor-enabled racks and shelves to help monitor stock without a rep setting foot in a store. Smart shelves detect when products are depleting and notify sales personnel to replenish the shelf, or automatically send a rush order to make sure the store is restocked as soon as possible. By automating the process, brands reduce the risk of stockouts during the critical early holiday period. And with IoT-enabled inventory tracking, orders can be monitored in real-time so that reps know exactly where products are in transit. This means they have the power to quickly implement new solutions if items won’t arrive in time to restock right away.

Right after

When the chaos of Black Friday has subsided and stock replenishment arrives, reps need to be able to efficiently visit stores and ensure everything is back in order. New retail execution solutions include intuitive dashboards that summarize Black Friday data from smart shelves, racks, and POS systems and break down performance. Retail execution team members can plan their routes based upon which stores suffered the most during the Black Friday frenzy—with automated route maps designed to tackle stores where there were low sales or excessive stockouts. Data collected from in-store beacons during Black Friday reveals where displays and promotions were the least successful, ensuring reps can factor into their routes to spend more time in stores where they need to make the biggest adjustments.

After arriving in a store, reps can utilize digital image recognition software to validate if products are displayed properly on the shelf. Audit data is compiled immediately and analyzed automatically so reps know right away if stores are not compliant. Stores that have had non-compliance issues can be carefully monitored throughout the holiday season to make sure they are on track. Using modern software, reps can dramatically boost the efficiency of what was once a time-consuming, manual task and take the guesswork out of compliance efforts. Less time spent inputting and sorting through data means more time on the floor to ensure the next round of holiday shopping goes smoothly.

The next week and beyond

With modern retail execution tools, efficiency improvements continue in the weeks following Black Friday, as stock and sales data is seamlessly shared via the cloud between teams and up to management. Headquarters can weigh in with real-time guidance on ordering and how to optimize promotions. As historical data is aggregated and analyzed over time, Black Friday and Cyber Monday prep and recovery can become even more streamlined, efficient, and automated. While Black Friday weekend will always involve some level of chaos, new technology can make preparation and recovery a much less painful ordeal. But the benefits don’t end on New Year’s Day. Brands can use new retail execution technology throughout the year to efficiently manage their day-to-day operations.

AFS solution

Microsoft partner AFS offers a new breed of solution for retail execution teams looking to get ahead. With AFS POP Retail Execution, retail teams now have access to fact-based, up-to-date alerts and action items targeted at resolving issues faster. AFS POP Retail Execution is a mobile, flexible, and powerful SaaS solution built on Microsoft cloud technology. The solution is designed to help field teams manage daily tasks more efficiently, freeing up time for strategic activities. Data collection, reporting, and follow-up are more accessible, automated, and cost-effective for CPGs than ever before, thanks to robust Microsoft cloud technology and proprietary AFS technology. CPGs are using AFS to enhance their service and realize revenue potential through features such as digital image recognition, ideal planogram capabilities, and automatic notification of field responders.

Try it yourself

Try AFS Retail Execution today at www.AppSource.com. Explore AFS’ vision for the future of retail execution and discover how IoT will be integrated into their solution.

To learn more about how Microsoft is turning business process into business advantage for organizations everywhere, click here.

LinkedIn: ShiSh Shridhar

Twitter: @5h15h


[i] https://www.thebalance.com/what-is-black-friday-3305710

[ii] http://www.forbes.com/sites/clareoconnor/2015/11/12/walmart-promises-not-to-run-out-of-top-items-like-tvs-this-black-friday/#1df863741f7a

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