Vision, Data, and Teamwork: How Retail Digital Transformation Can Elevate Merchandising
There’s never been a better moment for retail businesses to prioritize digital transformation. Retailers must be fit to adapt to ongoing challenges to the industry including inflation and the global supply chain crisis. Plus, a retailer with streamlined and digitized core systems can shine where it counts. Freed from time-consuming administrative tasks and regular tech upgrades, your team can focus on their talents, creativity, and strategic goals including merchandising.
According to a recent survey by RIS, 39% of retailers are pursuing digital transformation in 2022 in order to grow revenue. As an ongoing practice of implementing new technologies and processes across all areas of an organization, a digital transformation can revitalize an organization and elevate core components like inventory management, operations, and customer experience. With the right vision and strategy, a digital transformation ensures your company is ready for success and prepared to face any future business challenges.
Take it from Michelle Gill, the VP of Merchandising at The Container Store. After initiating a digital transformation at Neiman Marcus, where Gill was the Vice President of Merchandising, the retailer “became a much more streamlined organization,” Gill says.
“Running the day-to-day business became less manual so we were able to spend more time on forward-looking strategies, giving Neiman Marcus the ability to stay one step ahead of our competition.”
The success of the digital transformation at Neiman Marcus meant that Gill could focus on her work to excite and entice customers. She had worked at the company for over twenty-five years, including eight years on the ecommerce side of the business as Site Group Merchandiser and Director of Merchandising and six years as a VP Divisional Merchandising Manager, and could immediately see the benefits of the digital transformation. Now the retailer has advanced data to make future buying decisions. Cloud-based services including robust dashboards auto-generate relevant and sophisticated analytics like vendor selling reports. This data can be used for trend forecasting and identifying the best items to buy for the store.
The goal and catalyst for this digital transformation, Gill says, was for Neiman Marcus to become an omnichannel organization. Prior to 2014, the brick-and-mortar Neiman Marcus stores and catalog/ecommerce business had been run like two separate organizations.
After becoming an omnichannel business, Gill found that business decisions happened more seamlessly including consistent strategic direction, inventory optimization, and the ability to execute merchandising strategies across the organization. For Neiman Marcus, this resulted in improved profit and increased customer satisfaction.
Gill’s work at Neiman Marcus demonstrates how the challenges a retailer faces with antiquated manual processes (departments failing to effectively communicate, incomplete data, inefficient inventory practices, etc.) can, after a digital transformation, become the keys to its business success.
3 keys to retail digital transformation success
A digital transformation is key to prepare retailers for future challenges and organizations need a clear vision of their desired strategic direction. For Neiman Marcus, the goal of becoming an omnichannel business meant they had to transform many parts of their operations including sharing inventory across channels. This inventory visibility made the day-to-day operations at Neiman Marcus more seamless and it prepared the business for the rapid, unexpected changes to retail in 2020.
“In everyday business this is crucial to inventory optimization, improved profit, and increased customer satisfaction,” says Gill. “This was life-saving during Covid as it allowed stores to act as warehouses for online during the temporary store closures. It could have been a much different outcome had we not had that capability.”
The People Component
Creating the right solutions that deliver the desired outcomes requires input and collaboration from many people across the organization. Neiman Marcus achieved a successful digital transformation through the strength and expertise of their workforce. Gill incorporated insights from business experts by creating open channels of communication between business departments and IT. Team members worked toward shared goals with delegated tasks in the digital transformation. They now use the same types of analytics tools for effective communication across departments. The workforce sees a unified strategic direction and it is easier to execute business strategies including merchandising innovation.
Data and Analytics
Assessing the outcome of your digital transformation execution is necessary to determine the value added. For Neiman Marcus, one of the goals of this transformation was to better understand and serve their customers, which required more accessible data. Extensive analytics can be used to craft brand experiences on the web and with apps. These digital services can be personalized for the needs of individual shoppers. At Neiman Marcus, about 70% of customers browse on the web first regardless of where they chose to make their purchase. This is an opportunity for a retailer to build loyalty and engage with a customer in a way that recognizes their unique desires and shopping habits.
A successful digital transformation will enhance your merchandising instincts for success. Even the most complex retail business operations can be optimized and streamlined with web-based digital solutions that revitalize inventory and offer personalized approaches to customer retention.
Hear more insights from Michelle Gill at our webinar: Industry Insights: The Right Product, The Right Merchandising Transformation
At Mendix, our low-code platform enables you to leverage your workforce and transition existing manual processes and spreadsheets into intuitive web-based digital solutions and data insights. Explore the “how-to” of digital transformation in our Digital Execution Manual, or reach out to us directly. We are here to help!