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Commentary: How Top Retail Brands Leverage Agile Reporting

Big brands understand that being data-centric isn’t optional.

In fact, by 2021, 75% of large enterprises will recognize the chief data officer as a “mission-critical” business function. Organizations clearly see the value of investing in data, yet a sizable 60% of companies admit that finding the data they need to solve their business problems is still a challenge.

Winning brands are overcoming this struggle with agile reporting, a system of data analysis that ignites a cycle of continuous improvement at retail. Read on to discover what this process entails, and some of the learnings brands are uncovering to help them enhance their retail presence.

What is agile reporting?
A hallmark of agile reporting that differentiates it from standard reporting frameworks is the speed of analysis. When brand managers have real-time insight into what’s happening at the retail store-level, they’re in a much better position to correct issues that are detrimental to sales.

The agile reporting method involves a few key fundamentals:
● Data must be consolidated into a central location.
● Data is collected in a standardized way.
● Data is shareable in real-time.

Centralizing data saves time, since managers aren’t trying to pull reports from multiple different sources to paint a complete picture. Standardizing how data is collected prevents errors and ensures the right information is being tracked. Finally, making reports shareable encourages data-centricity from the top of an organization.

The cycle of continuous improvement
Agile reporting affords brands a slew of benefits (more on that below), but perhaps the greatest is its ability to make data more actionable. Brands that effectively employ agile reporting use it as part of a cycle of continuous improvement. This cycle is one of insights, planning, and actions, where management uses intel derived from reporting metrics to improve decision making and take action faster.

Say you’re a beverage company that’s just introduced a new SKU at WalMart, and were able to bargain for a special promotion as part of the rollout. The stakes are high at the country’s top retailer, so a poorly executed launch can cost your brand its seat on the shelf.

A brand that’s not using agile reporting to track the results of a promotion is likely left trying to piece together sales metrics from hundreds of stores, along with ad hoc photos and notes from brand reps who visit them. To make matters worse, managers probably can’t access this information on the fly.

Conversely, a brand who uses agile reporting receives a steady stream of clean data points on its various Walmart accounts. This data is being populated into reports that live in a single interface, in real-time. Managers can instantly find out whether or not their promotion is being executed properly, and if the new SKU is meeting sales expectations (insights). If not, they might decide to deploy team members to remedy problems at select accounts (planning). Brand reps might end up visiting lagging accounts on a weekly basis instead of biweekly to guarantee the launch is a success (actions).

Insights gleaned through agile reporting
High-quality reporting is accurate, timely, and digestible. This trifecta makes harboring insights from complex data sets significantly easier. Here’s just some of the ways successful retail brands are leveraging agile reporting:

● Preventing out-of-stocks with more visibility into stock levels and sales performance.
● Having data-driven conversations on in-store execution with retailers to build their trust.
● Tracking promotions closer and better preparing for future ones.
● Restructuring sales territories for brand reps more efficiently.
● Arming brand reps with the knowledge they need prior to their next interaction with a retailer.
● Identifying which store placements and displays have the greatest impact on sales, and doubling down on them.
● Monitoring competitor activity more closely and implementing strategy changes faster as a result.
● Evaluating the effectiveness of cross-merchandising and making choices about where to repeat the effort.

Brands that are able to remove administrative tasks like emailing back and forth or sharing spreadsheets as part of their reporting workflow are better equipped to augment their retail strategy fast. Moreover a collaborative, data-oriented culture promotes constant improvement, making it no surprise that brands cite a 25% sales increase!

Mat Brogie is CEO of Repsly.
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