a white paper presented by THE EFFECT OF DISCONNECT: THE OPERATIONAL CHALLENGES OF RUNNING AN ECOMMERCE BUSINESS

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1 a white paper presented by THE EFFECT OF DISCONNECT: THE OPERATIONAL CHALLENGES OF RUNNING AN ECOMMERCE BUSINESS

2 Report highlights l Retailers need to move away from the disconnect of silos and rethink the organisation s structure to enable a 360 view of the business l Some of the biggest challenges retailers face today are tracking the most useful KPIs and collecting and analysing data l Retailers are being urged to understand the online business drivers and inputs and outputs that impact KPIs In an ever-changing, increasingly consumerdriven retail landscape, a top-quality online and offline multichannel offer remains critical to rising above the competition, providing customers with extensive choice about how they shop. And yet one of the many challenges of the exponential growth of online retail over the past decade is the fact that still, for many businesses, ecommerce operations remain disconnected from the overall structure of the business. The complexity of incorporating new sales channels has cleared the way for a multitude of new challenges. According to a survey of more than 100 retailers conducted by Retail Week and ecommera, organisations are grappling to adapt to the new business demands that come with multichannel operations, as well as making the most of the influx of data at their fingertips. With the added implications of running different channels together harmoniously to ensure maximum profitability, the need to move away from siloed busi- ness operations and to ensure connectivity has never been more important. Digging deep into performance data As retailers work tirelessly to stay a step ahead in an increasingly competitive marketplace, they are recognising that astute analysis of performance data is vital. The answers from survey respondents, who work in various departments including operations, marketing, merchandising and ecommerce 64% oversee both the online and offside sides of the business indicate that spikes and dips in the business performance are being identified, but not necessarily in the most efficient way. 37% of respondents say their marketing, merchandising and operations teams work independently to determine the causes of performance dips and spikes. In today s more complex world of retail operations, where increasingly joined-up thinking is required, that suggests a notable level of disconnect in organisations (see chart below). Which of the following statements best describes how your marketing, merchandising and operations teams determine the causes of performance dips and spikes? 24% Each team brings their reports and data to cross-functional meetings where we review and debate the causes 16% We independently assess the causes and present individual findings to the cross-functional team 21% We independently assess the causes and only reach out to other departments when a question arises 16% We often have to ask a data analyst for additional analysis and dig deeper to try and help us truly understand the causes 23% As a team we can easily assess the data and quickly agree on the causes 2 Retail Week

3 What operational challenges do you face when it comes to your ecommerce business? (Choose the top three statements you agree with) n Having an integrated view across marketing, merchandising and operations n Identifying how the performance or actions of one area of the business can impact another n The speed to quickly interpret and act upon issues that are impacting performance n Enough functional resource to manage the full product line n Enough data analyst resource to help interpret the data n Ability to prioritise actions based on financial impact n Continued erosion of product profitability n Managing and combining all the spreadsheets and reports n Finding, training and retaining first-class commerce employees n Other 26% 20% 24% 30% 9% 15% 37% 30% 33% 35% The nature of the decisions you make in physical retail mean that you can make good decisions with people working independently, says Michael Ross, co-founder of ecommera. Online the touchpoints the co-ordination are of a completely different nature. Ross reiterates that the connectivity required internally for online operations is on a different scale to physical retail and that retailers need to be thinking about the organisation s structure. In the online world, the level of co-ordination required is extraordinary and, therefore, what we re seeing is people rethinking the actual organisation structure and saying we now need to have category management teams that own particular categories. That includes the buying, and the merchandising and the marketing, says Ross. 37% of respondents acknowledge that having an integrated view across marketing, merchandising and operations is a significant challenge of running an ecommerce business, 33% say identifying how the performance or actions of one area of the business can impact another is a challenge, while 35% say the speed to quickly interpret and act upon issues that impact performance is challenging. Future success will require retailers to address how they make business decisions and who is responsible for what (see chart above). On a data drive Data collection and analysis is empowering retailers, but a focus on buying more and more tools while potentially neglecting thorough analysis could leave organisations flying blind. Although 23% of respondents positively assert that as a team they can easily assess the data and quickly agree on the causes, being sure that data is used effectively to understand, quickly and easily, what is going on in the business requires retailers to dig deeper, which can be time consuming without the right data collection and analysis systems in place. With online operations arming retailers with greater insight than ever before into the strengths and weaknesses of their business, the onus is on them to embrace the availability of data and results and to use these to make effective business decisions. However, with research suggesting that businesses have not yet managed to tie their operations together in a way that best allows them to analyse performance, it comes as little surprise that confidence in results analysis is relatively low. The majority of respondents report average levels of confidence when it comes to asserting that their final assessments of the cause of performance spikes and dips are accurate, while just behind that, about 36% report high confidence. In terms of confidence that the Retail Week 3

4 actions agreed on are the right ones, with the biggest impact, average confidence is 54% and high confidence 27%, while just 19% express low confidence (see graph below). These relatively low levels of confidence could be linked to the revelation that just 47% of organisations marketing, merchandising and operations teams discuss and agree as a cross-functional team the actions that need to be taken to rectify performance dips and spikes, highlighting the need for more organisational alignment. Meanwhile, 45% of respondents reveal that they either decide independently on actions, leave meetings still unclear on the actions to take or leave it too late to act on data analytics. Just 8% rely on data analysts to recommend actions. A question of KPIs As retail channels diversify, measurements of success evolve too. Choosing the right KPIs and assessing them effectively not only indicates a strong understanding of how the business is operating, but also where future success lies. Whereas a physical retailer can rattle off what their key KPIs are, most people again don t understand the drivers of an online business and there are a lot of people focusing on the wrong metrics, says Ross. The key online is to distinguish between the inputs and outputs. When asked how actions are prioritised in their business, the majority of respondents (59%) say profit potential, closely followed by 56% stating revenue potential. With an earlier identified lack in communications across departments, retailers need to move away from silos to ensure that total costs are recorded in order to allow an entirely accurate profit reading (see graph on p5, top). Also to note, despite many respondents saying profit potential is a business priority, when asked what operational challenges are faced when it comes to ecommerce, just 24% indicate concern around the continued erosion of product profitability. Meanwhile, when asked about the top three KPIs that the business is measured on, inputs such as markdown and returns, which are key components to profit, are not prioritised. In fact, returns visibility is trailing behind other business areas that people view as critical. With returns from online operations proving increasingly costly for multichannel retailers, taking postage, packing and handling costs into account, the fact that 13% of respondents say it is not important at all, while an equal percentage say it is critically important to have returns visibility is worrying. 41% of respondents rate their current level of visibility into returns as being either no visibility or below average visibility. Interestingly, when they are asked what additional complexities respondents face in selling products online versus in store, 33% acknowledge that returns, and also shipping, are significantly more complex online than in store. However, in slight contradiction, when asked which areas of their ecommerce businesses respondents wish they could make the most On average, how confident are you that the actions you have agreed on are the right ones, with the biggest impact? (On a scale of one to 10, where one is not confident at all and 10 is extremely confident) 22% 20% 16% 12% 12% 10% 0% 3% 4% 1% Retail Week

5 How do you prioritise actions? (Choose the top three options) Current promotions Revenue potential Profit potential Seasonality Inventory levels Gut-feel Popularity Whoever shouts loudest Easiest to do We can never agree the priorities We create a complete list and just work through it Other 10% 11% 5% 10% 3% 15% 3% 26% 25% 30% 56% 59% On average how many reports, spreadsheets and analytics applications do you use to determine and track the performance of your department? 1 0% % % % Retail Week 5

6 improvement in, just 13% say returns. The results suggest that not enough emphasis is being placed on returns, which take on renewed prominence in online retailing and also on a retailer s bottom line. Peak performance tracking Choosing the most favourable KPIs to assess can all too soon become irrelevant where there are insufficient systems in place to identify and track the performance of departments. The survey reveals that a 44% majority use between two and five reports, spreadsheets and analytics applications to determine and track the performance of their department; 33% use between five and 10 and 23% use more than 10 (see chart on p5, bottom). Recognising the importance of investing in such systems, 54% of respondents will be making some investment in reporting and analytics tools in the next two years, while 20% say they would be making a substantial investment. However, 26% will be making no investment in these tools. Operations software is also an area where a significant number of retailers plan to invest, with 50% planning to make some investment and 26% making substantial investment. Predictive analytic tools will receive substantial investment from 17%; merchandising software 17% and marketing software just 7%. Having the tools in place to collect data is important, but inadequate analysis can see useful data wasted. When it comes to business intelligence and reporting tools solving their analytics needs, nearly half of retailers assert that they are useful to show trends but stop short on identifying the underlying reasons. Just 16% confidently say that what they have provides them with all the visibility they need in the organisation. 51% often still require a data analyst to dig deeper and carry out additional analysis (see chart below). To achieve a connected view across the organisation and dig deeper into data, retailers often need to turn to data analyst specialists and tools that identify and help solve issues to guarantee thorough, useful analysis is delivered promptly. Go big on data or go home Although big data has retained its top spot as today s retail buzz phrase, some organisations have been slower than others in recognising the golden insight it How well do business intelligence and reporting tools solve your analytics needs? (Choose the top three statements you agree with) n Useful to show trends but stop short on identifying the underlying reasons n We often still need to have a data analyst dig deeper and carry out additional analysis n Provides us all the visibility we need in our organisation n Provides a partial view of each functional area not a connected view across the organisation n When we combine all the data into spreadsheets, we can usually figure out what s happening in the business n In meetings we often have data interpretation and next action debates n We can easily connect business success with the actions we took in the past n Other 38% 27% 13% 4% 47% 16% 51% 53% 6 Retail Week

7 can unlock. 15% label big data as a current fad that is overstated and say retailers have always effectively managed reams of complex data. With the growing availability of consumer data access, thanks to multiple sales channels, such a statement seems somewhat glib and potentially dangerous. Fortunately, 43% acknowledge that they need to collect more data to deliver and improve a personalised customer experience and 41% say retailers who manage to interpret and act on big data will beat out their competition (see chart below). This understanding of data importance poses something of a conundrum when levelled with the earlier assertions that many retailers are still without the tools and resource to collect and analyse this much-needed data. Data may be a buzzword but it s in every industry that is being touched by ecommerce, says Ross. We re seeing that those making sense of the data are making spectacularly better decisions than those who don t harness the data. In terms of hiring in the next two years, most will be done in marketing and operations, while just 13% of respondents will be substantially hiring data analysts. Instead, retailers need to act on bringing in smarter analytics tools sophisticated tools on the market can now go to new depths of data analysis, allowing retailers to pinpoint the causes of specific business issues, recommending what action to take and prioritising these solutions in terms of those that will have the highest impact on a business. In this ever-changing and ever-challenging multichannel environment, retailers have more opportunities than ever to grow their business. However, to maximise on this potential, they need to move away from the disconnect of silos and rethink the organisation s structure to enable a 360 view of business, allowing for optimum decisions. Tracking the most useful KPIs and collecting and analysing data are just some of the challenges that today s retailers face. While tracking the most useful KPIs remains key to business success, operating online brings with it new levels of complexity. Retailers are being urged to understand the online business drivers and inputs and outputs that impact KPIs, such as returns and shipping. It is challenges such as these that mean effective, in-depth data analysis has never been more important. Big data (Choose one option you agree strongly with) A current fad that is overstated. Retailers have always effectively managed reams of complex data 15% Other 0% Retailers who manage to interpret and act on big data will beat out their competition 41% We need to continue to collect more and more data to deliver and improve a personalised customer experience 44% Retail Week 7

8 About ecommera ecommera is the leading provider of decision-intelligent commerce solutions to omnichannel retailers. With our suite of products and expertise you can connect channels, operations and data to drive growth across the globe. As the only dedicated company that brings together everything success demands, we have the know-how, develop the technology and employ the talent to transform your business. a white paper presented by

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