Being in the retail business means you are constantly dealing with the ever changing shopper who is increasingly difficult to satisfy. Now that you are shopping for space planning software it’s your turn to demand more from your experiences with providers.
Space planning as efficiently as possible is the bliss which we all aspire to. In an age where agility and deep insight into performance are vital, space management software weaves together many of the different strands of strategic and operational planning which are common in category management today. Disconnected spreadsheets and separate applications won’t cut it anymore.
If the idea of having to go through the software selection process causes you anxiety or keeps you up at night, then this blog is for you. Yes, there’s plenty of software to choose from and many aspects to consider.
A fundamental to keep in mind when you’re choosing the right space planning software is that you should look for a space planning partner rather than a provider. A good space planning partner will provide the right mix of software, support services and expert advice which will enable your success. Picking the right partner for you and your business can ultimately be a deciding factor in the success or failure of your category management aspirations. A great partner will make sure that your space management processes are reviewed and analysed correctly, that you’ve got the right software and that your team has full training and ongoing support.
But how do you choose the right category management partner? We’ve got some advice. To help you get started, we’ve put together a list of tips to guide you through this process.
1. The data platform is your starting point
Data has completely changed the way we do business. From checking email to checking your bank balance, most of our daily tasks involve management of large amounts of data. Retailers and suppliers, like all organisations, have the opportunity to successfully harness the power of their data and end up with a significant competitive advantage. For example, a core feature of the software is the ability to import relevant point of sale data. Inability to integrate data such as POS would negate the purpose of the software: data-driven shelf and floor planning which is accurate and efficient resulting in maximum ROI. In this case, the POS data which you would require includes:
- SKU information
- Product Description
- Sales (Value) Units (Volume)
- Sales at Cost
Space planning software with the ability to integrate POS is not enough. One of the other areas of the business which also needs to be integrated is inventory management, and if you have multiple users who are going to share a single space planning platform, then your data platform becomes that much more important.
2. No planograms can start without an assortment
The main issue with assortment planning is that because it is the process of selecting the selection of products which will be on offer in particular areas (localisation) and during specified periods of time (seasonality) according to customer demand, a planogram can’t be created without an assortment. Therefore, assortment planning and space planning cannot be unlinked - they are completely interdependent, and your software needs to cater for this.
Most retailers and suppliers understand the primary benefits of having optimised assortments, yet when they think of the implementation of assortment optimisation, they see an overwhelming task. While organisations can incrementally work towards optimisation the traditional way, either by hand or spreadsheet, this will still prove difficult because it is outdated. Instead of being overwhelmed or going old school rather choose a provider who offers you and your team all of the necessary assortment selection features, training and implementation support at a reasonable price.
3. Macro space planning (floor space planning) should be included
Your aim is not only to meet your customer’s needs but also to maximise profit from every inch of retail space. This requires macro space planning, the planning of the layout of your store at the category level. Macro space planning improves not only store plans for optimal sales performance, but it also improves customers’ in-store experiences.
Like assortment planning, floor planning is completely linked to planogram generation. A robust floor planning solution would include seamless integrations with tools like AutoCAD, and it would allow you to visualise data on a macro level and make changes to the floor plan on the fly. See the floor plan below which uses a custom highlight spectrum tool to visualise data on a macro level:
Without the right software, macro space planning can become very cumbersome – especially if you have multiple stores. Lack of a macro space planning function in your software could mean prototypical store layouts and one-size-fits-all planograms - making it difficult to ensure that each store is optimised. Be sure that your space planning software provides you with a tool to implement store specific floor-plans and manage your floor-plans and planograms in one easy process.
4. Robust micro space planning features are a must
At the core of maximising product assortments and shelf space efficiency, lies planograms. Planograms are visual representations of your fixture layouts that aid communication, planning, and replenishment of products in-store. Plano's show the position of every product within a fixture, shelf heights, the length of fixtures and fixture adjacencies. The integration of POS data allows retailers and suppliers to analyse shelf space efficiency or deficiency – taking into account data points such as uneven days of supply, sub-optimal product placement and misalignment with consumer decision trees. Despite fulfilling the above, planograms are still often misused and therefore misinterpreted as nothing more than pretty pictures. If you are looking for space management software, these planogram functions are a must.
5. Reporting - what gets measured gets managed
There is a well-known saying by Peter F. Drucker, a renowned management consultant, which says, “What gets measured, gets managed.” This could not be more relevant and vital than today. Other than managing data and creating optimised planograms, you will need to prove that these activities have had a positive impact on the performance of the various categories under your management. After all, if you can’t measure the impact, what’s the point?
When reviewing space management software, there are a few types of reporting one should look for. For example, using custom highlight spectrums. A highlight spectrum is a report that can be customised to show product performance for a host of fact fields such as sales, profit, unit movement and days of supply. What makes this form of analysis helpful is the way in which it highlights product performance as they are positioned or should be placed on the shelf making ideal tactical plans and ideas more evident.
This visual reporting helps to identify which products are performing well vs. products which aren’t performing so well and it will help point out what changes should be made. For example when the highlight tool is used to highlight best-selling products then it may become apparent that a particular product should be allocated more space.
6. Ongoing support and training resources
When shopping for space management software, you ought to determine what training and support options are available. Do they offer on-going training and technical support? What about performing upgrades and maintenance? What type of training program or resources do they have? Is the support team efficient during support hours?
As a customer of high-end software, the customer service you receive should be excellent. Service excellence should include providing users with access to engaging training content, technical support staff and complimentary consulting from an experienced account management staff. The result is being ensured that you not only achieve success with your space management software but that you get every bit of value from the software as well.
If the software you purchase is not supported, there will easily be features that your staff does not extract value from. It is vital to look for software which is backed by the type of support necessary to be fully available to every member of the team that uses it. Your space management software should be supported by the professional support expected of high-end software - empowering you and your staff to take advantage of every opportunity in space planning.
The best teachers have the ability to simplify the most complex subjects into easy, digestible concepts.
If you are in the market for space management software why don’t you go ahead and put us to the test? Here’s a complimentary (free) 30 day trial of our leading space planning software. During the obligation free trial, you will get access to our team, training videos and expert advice from our account advisory team.