Strategic Advantages by Focusing on Customer-Centricity: Notes from Xcelerate Retail Forum 2017

In June 2017, EIQ Research Solutions conducted a state of category management survey among 100 retailers in the US and Europe. The results of the survey reveal that the top challenge that has hindered a customer-centric focus in the big-box retail, grocery, general merchandise is inconsistent and incomplete customer data. Symphony Retail Solutions (which is the combination of Symphony EYC and Symphony GOLD) organized their global leadership event, Xcelerate Retail Forum which was held on 12-14 September in Las Vegas and 9-11 October in Paris. This event brought together some of the world’s top retailers and manufacturers who got together to discuss the future of customer-centric retail in an era dominated by market disruptions- Amazon’s phenomenal growth, evolutionary changes in customer behavior and unprecedented retail business upheavals.

This forum had a prime focus on the future of customer-centric retailing, and how to meet today’s shopper demands in the face of rapidly changing technology and ever-evolving retail trends. In addition to this theme, the user event also incorporated content regarding newer retail innovations unveiled by Symphony Retail including: customer-centric category management, virtual store and space planning, new retail-consumer goods data collaboration models, artificial intelligence, conversational insights, and other technologies that are fast becoming imperatives for successful customer-centric merchandising, marketing and supply chain planning and execution. Incidentally, Symphony Retail is one among the few retail enterprise technology providers who have introduced an AI (Artificial Intelligence) driven model for category insights and category management called CINDE (an acronym for Conversational Insights Decision Engine). The digital assistant uses Natural Language Processing (NLP) enabling category managers to ask CINDE questions and gain answers towards specific consumer insights and category management related processes including access to data, predictive analytics, reporting, and visualizations.

Several retailers and manufacturers such as Albertsons, Ahold USA, Nestle Purina Petcare, Kellogg’s, Big C Supermarkets, among others, spoke about the need to undo the organizational and cultural challenges for introducing integrated and automated data insights and customer-centric technology innovation for improving customer insights, merchandising execution (pricing, promotions, space management, category management), collaboration and supply chain management.

At Xcelerate Paris, we at EIQ Research Solutions conducted a live poll among the audience and this blog post highlights an interesting perspective of the live poll analysis that shows the comparison of the European audience’s (300+ attendees) choices with the key takeaways of our research as observed by EIQ analysts.

The first question we asked the audience was about the major challenges to a customer-centric approach to category management. The live poll results show that the maximum number people from the audience (29.6%) stated inconsistent data followed by legacy systems and processes (23.5%). Similarly, our research too shows that highest number (44%) of survey respondents say inconsistent or incomplete data is a major challenge for a customer centric approach to category management. This was followed by 38% who say lack of an integrated Omni-channel strategy too hinders customer centricity while 36% opted for legacy processes.

The second question of the live poll at the Xcelerate Retail Forum asked attendees to state what types of data they are employing to drive customer-centric category planning. The poll results were topped by 39% who have stated loyalty card data which is followed by 30% who stated POS data. Our European survey research shows a similar top-down response trend that 66% use market data followed by 54% for loyalty card data and 52% POS data.

The next question of the live poll asked the audience about the deployment models they use for category management within their organization and 44% said on-premise, which was followed by 28% who use SaaS or cloud-based hosting or deployment models. Our research results showed the same pattern in this case, where 70% of respondents stated that they use on premise while 51% use SaaS. ASP and Cloud are also used, standing at 50% and 46% respectively. These models are preferred as retailers see benefits by ways of easier on-boarding and training, easier user access, updates and lower upfront costs.

The final question at the Xcelerate asked the audience about distinct areas where they are currently using shopper and consumer buying data and insights. Poll results show that the highest (19%) use category management which was followed by 17% who use promotions and 16% that say segmentation. In a similar manner, our research shows that 58% of retailers use data to create segmented assortments, while 54% use it for customer-centric promotions and 8% use it to develop localized store marketing programs.

Customer-centricity is all about introducing a deeper layer of consumer insights into forecasting, retail category planning and development, merchandising execution, marketing and embedding these insights into other process areas such as supply chain planning and execution. Symphony Retail has already introduced many of these capabilities for retailers and manufacturers that enable a continuous approach towards achieving customer-centric merchandising, marketing personalization, space-aware assortments and supply chain optimization. The company continues to seek new ways to invest in its product roadmap to add continuous improvements in the retailer and manufacturer customer-centric category management and supply chain processes, and is innovating to incorporate AI and machine learning capabilities across its broad suite of role-based solutions.

For questions or comments regarding this blog and our research, please email [email protected] or follow us on twitter: @sahiranand , @eknresearch, @junebiswas.