Consumer demand is continuously changing thanks to trends, changes in seasons, more knowledgeable shoppers, and unforeseen occurrences such as the global COVID-19 pandemic. To remain relevant, you must ensure that you meet these demands at the right time and in the right quantities. Fortunately, data-driven assortment planning can help you. And if you need assistance? Then there's DotActiv's Assortment Planning Services*.
We’ll get into all of that in this article. Before that, we'll set the scene by looking at assortment planning and its importance, including the benefits. We’ll also discuss its relevance in the category management process before unpacking our Assortment Planning Services and what it entails.
What is assortment planning?
Getting your assortment planning right is critical for your success as a retailer. It can mean the difference between pleasing your customers and maximising your sales or struggling to please anyone while your store sits with products no one wants to buy.
But what is it? In a nutshell, it's about selecting a range of products for each category in a predefined market.
You also plan your assortments at a category level and encompass the products for your sub-category, segment and sub-segment while also considering product-specific details such as brand, colour, size and price.
You can complete assortment planning per store or grouping of stores, referred to as a cluster. It includes evaluating various data types to understand the interaction of your retail business and the products within the market. These data types include:
- Performance data;
- Loyalty data;
- Market data.
As for the goal of assortment planning, that's straightforward: To meet the needs of your target market while considering the financial objectives so that you and your customers benefit.
Looking for assortment planning software that will ensure you to always meet consumer demand, no matter the time of year? Book a complementary consultation with a DotActiv expert today to find out how we can help you.
You can define your target market by considering demographics, regional variables and store location. It's also worth noting that it's vital to determine your target market for each store or cluster before any assortment planning exercise. Doing so allows you to factor in the wants and needs of each consumer group.
Assortment planning also considers key aspects such as:
- Category role;
- Transfer of demand;
- House brands;
- Product exclusivity;
- Imported products;
- Stock on hand; and
- Brand loyalty.
Assortment planning as a function of category management
Each category management function is essential on its own. However, you can only realise the value of each when you link them together. Assortment planning forms an integral part of the end-to-end category management process because you base your assortment plans on your store clusters.
As noted above, assortment planning considers category roles. Why? That’s simple: A predetermined category role impacts the width and breadth of your range. That’s not all. Assortment planning also requires:
- Classified data;
- Fixture type and dimensions; and
- The Number of drops captured at a category level.
With this information, you can establish an accurate range cap so that you don’t range products that won’t fit on your shelves in-store.
Then there are assortment planning rules.
In DotActiv, we use assortment planning rules to rank products to ensure that you include the most relevant ones in your range. You can specify rules at different levels of the hierarchy to include the items that fit the profile of your cluster and rank the highest in your range plan. Each cluster is represented by a unique assortment plan and considers all of the above elements.
Once you’ve planned your assortment for each cluster, you can create planograms. You can link your planograms to your floor plans to analyse your category performance in-store. It also allows you to determine if a category warrants its allocated shelf space and range. At this point, you can also identify hotspots and cold spots in your store and react accordingly.
What are the benefits of assortment planning?
There are plenty of benefits and thus reasons why assortment planning is a must. They include:
Improved in-store experience and customer satisfaction
Through data-driven assortment plans, customers receive localised product ranges. It means you can provide your customers with the right product, at the right time and in the right quantities. By satisfying the needs of your target market, you will create loyal customers.
Improved sales, profit and units movement
When assortment plans are tailored to the category role and cluster they serve, poorly performing products are removed from the range to provide space for new product listings and increased forward share of top-performing products.
Data-driven assortment plans reduce or eliminate slow-moving items from your range (depending on your category role and strategy). This reduces the costs associated with inventory holding and the risk of stocking products that don’t sell while optimising your shelf space by making space for products that benefit your business financially.
Reduced out of stocks
Out-of-stock items result in customer frustration as they can’t purchase the product they want, leading them to take their business elsewhere. Thus, you don’t only miss the sale of that particular item. You also lose out on sales of other products the customer may have purchased.
Unpacking DotActiv’s Assortment Planning Services
Through DotActiv’s Assortment Planning services, we develop and recommend optimised product assortment plans which are data-driven and tailored to your local shopper preferences. At the same time, they consider your available space to ensure that the right products are made available at the right stores at the right time and in the right quantities.
Our consultants will use our leading category management software and proven methodology to develop and recommend data-driven assortment plans for each of your product categories. What’s more, we can deliver this service remotely.
For DotActiv to deliver this service effectively, we require an integrated database to be set up and for your data to be classified in your display hierarchy down to segment level. Clusters need to be developed at a category level and stores must be allocated to each cluster.
If you require assistance with this, DotActiv’s range of category management services is for you. Our services are tailored to your requirements so that we can enable you to be successful in category management and achieve the expected results.
DotActiv’s Assortment Planning Services includes the following:
- Data processing: This includes an analysis of your current approach to assortment planning as well as an evaluation of your product classifications and current product ranges. We can also assist with the classifying and cleaning of your data prior to analysis.
Setting up your algorithms: This entails determining your category roles and strategies for each category cluster. Our consultants will determine your range cap for each category cluster. This will avoid the over-ranging of products and identify opportunity gaps. Rules will be recommended to you based on your objectives so that your products can be ranked. Templates, a collection of rules, are created and applied to different levels of the hierarchy so that the most relevant items are recommended for your range.
Presenting a suggested assortment: We will suggest a range to you for each cluster based on a point system that takes the category role, strategies, range cap and rules into account.
Providing assistance with assortment maintenance: Due to changes in demand, assortment planning is an ongoing process and therefore assortment plans must be refreshed routinely to accommodate these changes. The frequency of a range refresh depends on the retailer. We can identify the top performing items and items that are under-performing in relation to the range that has been established and captured on Range Maintenance.
Our consultants will be available throughout the process to provide you with expert advice so that you can confidently achieve your category management objectives.
Are you tiring of struggling to figure out what products you need to offer to meet consumer demand? Would you prefer to rely on category management experts who have know who to achieve the best assortment day in and day out?
About the contributors
Elani Nel rejoined DotActiv in 2021 as Cluster and Assortment Planner having previously worked as a space planner. Currently, she is an account manager for our WHSmith account. She has a Bachelor of Consumer Science in Fashion and Retail Management from Unisa.
Justine Brown joined DotActiv in mid-2019 as a retail space planner, creating data-driven planograms for Makro's Food and Liquor account. She has since been promoted to account manager to look after the Makro Liquor account. She has a Bachelor of Consumer Science in Hospitality Management from the University of Pretoria.
Nadia Cloete joined DotActiv in 2017 as a shelf planner, creating data-driven planograms for Makro. She has since been promoted to account manager and looks after the Makro General Merchandise account. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Commercial Fashion from STADIO's School of Fashion, formerly known as LISOF.
*This article was updated on 8 September 2022.