What IKEA Can Teach You About Retail Cash Flow

Have you ever wondered what are the secrets of efficient back-end operations, seamless supply chains and almost inexhaustible cash flows of large retail companies like IKEA? Well, we have, and what we found out will expand your horizons and help you grasp what it takes to have an efficient cash flow mechanism. Elements of an efficient cash flow incorporate more than one component and in and of itself, cash flow cannot exist without management systems in place. Obviously, the most efficient management system can be found in IKEA, a retail giant with €34.2 Billion (with a capital B) in sales in 2016.

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The Business Behind That Perfect Party Dress

So we’ve been an entire month into the New Year, and while we were still in the post-party season detox mode, retailers across the US were already out with up to 80% discounts on the merchandise that was “fresh” and “new in” just before Christmas. The holiday season of 2016 saw an overall surge in discounts after the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales; a shift in the dynamics of retail sales calendar in the States accounted to be driven by millennials who apparently shopped way early before Thanksgiving, and more later.

As Black Friday virtually stretched over for two months in 2016, e-tailers have been more cautious than ever in rolling out new stock. How has that affected the party-wear business? Intelligence Node investigates with its proprietary SaaS-based tool, Incompetitor™ analyzing data points derived by mapping 1 billion unique products across 130,000+ brands for more than 1100+ categories every day.

Traditionally party wear dresses are broadly categorized as ‘evening dresses’. Google search queries for ‘evening dresses’ decreased by 4% for the US and 3% for the UK in 2016. But it doesn’t necessarily confirm a declining interest in party dresses. ‘Cocktail dresses’ in the US went up by 13%  and ‘party dresses’ up by 13% in the UK. Off shoulder  ‘bardot dresses’ were searched 162% more this past year.

If we have to describe the mood for party wear business in 2016, we’d use “cautious”.

We looked at the generally favored timeframe for introducing new stocks in partywear, which is early December, just at the hem of Black Friday weekend in November. Our data indicates a mere 2% increase in average in stock dresses compared to Dec 2015, despite in stock in the apparel category going up by 35% overall. This could be attributed to Black Friday looming over since September and the fact that this is the year ‘see now, buy now’ business model was adopted in one form or another by a rising number of brands and retailers. It renders the time-frame for buying partywear hazy, giving rise to continual discounting and simultaneous collection launches since as early as September first week.

Jumpsuits and skirts fared slightly better, 3% & 5% respectively, giving how velvet overalls and metallic pleated skirts have been a rage in the evening wear category. Search queries for ‘jumpsuit’ went up by 49% in the US; zooming in, ‘black jumpsuits’ have been searched 51% more according to Think with Google Report. Pleated skirts were having a moment, with a 33% increase in interest by end of 2016.

Discounting trends across different price/market segments for the last four months show an interesting insight into how conventional retailers differ from fast fashion brands and luxury e-tailers when it comes to holiday discounts. Macy’s, JC Penny, Barney’s, Nordstrom etc. still give heavy discounts over Thanksgiving weekends, whereas the newer, more dynamic players like Zara waited it out until the 2nd week of January to push sales. Luxury e-stores had a foot on both sides of the Holiday season, extending discounts from Black Friday right up till the end of January.

Dresses have been discounted more than skirts and jumpsuits in 2016 compared to 2015. Overall the “occasion wear” and “evening wear” have seen more slashed price tags than last year. Discounts were up by 11% in dresses and 8% in skirts. For a 2016 trend, discount rates on jumpsuits were not very encouraging. We saw an increase of 10.5% from 2015; just as much as dresses, indicating a failure to spike enough, considering the pre-Fall confidence in the category.

On the upside, the Luxury segment did quite well in the dresses department. 97.9% were out-of-stock at full price by end of December. Significantly more than accessible brand stores (87.3%) and way more than fast fashion brands (36%). Overall 45% of the stock in dresses wasn’t discounted at all in the Nov-Dec holiday season.

Compared to 2015, e-tailers were well-stocked this year. Average out-of-stock items were down by 16.77% for dresses and 14.92% for jumpsuits. Skirts saw the average out-of-stock rate decreasing by 19%. Could this mean that 2016’s pleated skirts were more successful than 2015’s voluminous midis? Maybe, for we saw velvet dresses neck-to-neck with pleated metallic skirts to gain the top spot, even during a colder last week of December.

2016 has seen some very strongly defined trends, dresses being on of the favored categories. Velvet dresses, off-shoulder/cold-shoulder dresses, slip dresses, metallics, sequins & ruffles made a splash this fall and overlapped across occasion wear, evening wear, and casuals- making them prevalent everywhere you laid eyes.

The overlap was not just confined to categories. About 39% of styles had a combination of two or more of these attributes. Off-shoulder velvet dresses, sequined slip dresses, ruffled velvet dresses, metallic ruffled dresses- and so on. The 90’s influence was heavy this holiday season, with Kate Moss’s iconic slip dresses making their mark alongside velvet Bardot numbers.

While this holiday season has seen ambiguous trends in holiday discounting and sales, across the past four months, retailers have been able to cash in on a handful of styles in dresses and skirts, thanks to ‘star’ items that hadn’t been around the past few years. It would be wise to gear up for the coming year with pricing strategies that tie-in discounting seasons as well as full-price (virtual) shelves to hit the sweet spot in e-commerce buying trends. Take note that your customers will expect bargain deals all year-round, and will spend on new collections, albeit cautiously. Now is the time to get a dynamic pricing automation strategy to feed both the proverbial beasts.

Climb Up The Retail Ladder Successfully Using Predictive Analytics!

If you’re in the retail marketing business, you’ll know how important retail inventory management is. Having the right product at the right time — and in the right amount — is indispensable, because you cannot stock up on an inventory without an estimate of the amount you would be spending.

Many assets have depreciation value; predictive analytics in retail is just the thing for you to switch too. In common parlance, predictive analytics simply means basing your retail marketing on the available data, and managing your inventory accordingly. Continue reading “Climb Up The Retail Ladder Successfully Using Predictive Analytics!”

Riding the Back-To-School Wave to Retail Success

Anyone who’s been in the retail business knows how important capitalizing on the shopping wave during the back-to-school, or BTS, season is. Depending upon which expert you ask, this potential boom in sales is the 2nd, or 3rd, biggest one during a calendar year.

As summer camps draw to an end, parents start a frenzy of last-minute shopping for school, which, combined with back-to-college shopping, translates to a whopping $68 billion spent. This means that merchandising and marketing strategies, and the ever-important multi-channel shopping experience at retails chain, all need to be tweaked.

Let’s take a closer look and delve deeper into seasonal retailer and e-tailer techniques for riding the back-to-school wave, and what exactly BTS and BTC mean for retailers.

Understanding the Significance of Back-to-School Shopping

The BTS season is a little different from the boost in sales during ‘normal’ holiday seasons. In a nutshell, it’s longer than these other ‘boosted sales’ periods.

Parents may begin their research on products, prices, and promotional offers — usually online — as early as July. They compare the collected data and make their decisions by the month of August, making the purchase around the same period. Last-minute frazzled trips are usually done and dusted by September. This means that retailers have a longer window of potential sales compared to other big sales days, such as (say) Black Friday.

Products that receive a boost during the BTS shopping window include office supplies, apparel, electronics, and books. This long list of products, and the relatively longer sales window, make strategies a little more complicated during the BTS season.

Brick-And-Mortar Stores Rejoice!

As more and more e-tailers take over territory originally occupied by brick-and-mortar retail outlets, you could be forgiven for assuming that retail stores won’t be doing much business. To the contrary, though, it’s these stores that will see more traffic than their online counterparts. While parents will head to their laptops to buy devices and wearables for their kids, all other purchases will get them walking into brick-and-mortar stores.

School supplies such as notebooks, textbooks, and writing materials drive parents to stores, with kids in tow. Stores are the primary choice for parents buying writing materials and books (87%). These are followed — in terms of brick-and-mortar store demand — by shoes (80%), jewelry and accessories (64%), and clothes (64%).

Even as store-based retailers gear up for wars with e-tailers during the upcoming holiday season, they are set to receive a boost in sales from BTS parents.

It’s easy to see why: parents need to shop with their kids to accommodate their preferences, and most feel this is best done at a store, rather than online.

Tailoring Your Strategies Accordingly

Since we’ve already discussed the massive potential of this season, let’s take a look at marketing — and merchandising — strategies designed to help you achieve optimal returns.

First, you’ll need to understand that customers are primarily concerned with who offers the best deals. As a retailer, your first priority would be to think along those lines, and come up with a strategy that helps you put your brand right there. Even Apple — not a brand known for offering sales — caves in during the BTS season, offering discounted ‘student’ and ‘education’ prices.

Clothing giants such as Urban Outfitters and H&M target children from middle-school through college age with carefully planned ads. Take a closer look at textile e-tailer websites, and you’ll probably see smiling school and college kids, with huge blurbs advertising discounts up to 70%.

Take a look at your competitors, and make sure you stay ahead of the game. Build marketing strategies around the BTS shoppers, and you’ll see your sales numbers rise.

E-Commerce-Specific Strategies, Techniques, and Ideas

With so many consumers spending so much of their time online, the retail industry today — while still relying on in-store interactions — has grown to depend on big data and online transactions.

If you haven’t done so already, it’s time to embrace social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter. In fact, that last tweet-broadcasting platform now has a ‘buy’ button, letting you sell products right off your Twitter timeline. If you aren’t aware of what the ‘Twitter’ timeline is, your brand’s social media game is in need of some serious updates this BTS season.

Seeing as 41% of college-goers base their buying decisions on smartphone-based research, M-commerce is another concept that needs to be embraced in order to ride the BTC wave.

Wherever your potential customers spend their smartphone browsing time is where your brand needs to be front and center. For instance, the humor app ‘9GAG’ had 164 million visitors in December 2015 alone. Considering that most of these users are college students on their phones, this is a great place to advertise.

You can use retail analytics software providers such as Intelligence Node to help you build strategies based on big data and competitor trends.

Embracing concepts like new social media platforms and big data, and understanding the significance of a strategy tailored to buyer trends in the BTS season, you’ll be able to capitalize on the buying trends of parents scurrying to stores with school-going kids close on their heels.

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How Amazon Uses Six Sigma and You Can Too

In some cases, the term “Six Sigma” is cryptically applied to describe a measure of quality adopted by a business organization. Truth be told, there’s a lot more to Six Sigma than simply the formless perception some may have of its principles.

Essentially, this data-driven philosophy gets its name from the six standard deviations used as guidelines to keep business defects firmly in check and within established specification limits. Year after year, Six Sigma continues to be a keystone of the business world, opening the doors for rising professionals to embrace the tenets that have already led so many to prosperity.

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The Best Times to Use Free Shipping to Increase Online Retail Sales

For obvious reasons, consumers are naturally drawn to any way in which they can save some of their hard-earned cash. So it stands to reason that free shipping has become such a popular feature to promote eCommerce sites. In addition to the built-in appeal of giving customers the chance to cut down their purchase total, such a tactic has a tremendous impact on customer service and, in many instances, may directly lead to the formation of long-term customer relationships. However, like any marketing tool, free shipping delivers the best results when used strategically to accent your business.

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How to Boost Retail Sales with Automated Discount Pricing

The retail space has certainly long known that pricing is a key factor in a customer’s decision whether to purchase a given product or service. However, while how much something costs is far from the only element influencing the sales process, pricing strategies continue to evolve as the marketplace becomes more and more crowded with emerging retailers. In particular, discount pricing — itself a tried-and-true method of boosting sales — has become less about simply dropping price points and more about strategically adjusting to fit the ever-changing nature of the market.

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Empower Your Business With Social Media Hashtags


It was back in 2007 that the concept of the hashtag was first proposed. Twitter received a suggestion to use the hashtag for tagging group conversations. Initially Twitter rejected the idea, perceiving that the idea was too complicated for the fun-loving and fast-moving social media users. Over the span of a few short years, social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook have evolved and are no longer platforms for simply for peer-to-peer communication and funny cat videos. They are engines for commercial success – for brand growth and development along with marketing and promotional activity.

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The Rise Of ‘Athletic wear’ In the apparel Industry

Heard of words like Active wear? We are sure you have come across some apparel that is put under this word on many an eCommerce app. Active wear, Athletic wear, Sports Wear, these words mean a lot these days.

There was a time when buying sportswear was for hardcore gymnasts or athletes. Then the body builders who went to the gym started taking workout clothes seriously and wearing them religiously to the gym- thanks to brands like Nike, Puma, Adidas, etc.

In fact, until now, athletic wear has been synonymous with these names. But now, everyone and their dogs are seen wearing track pants (costing up to $400) just like that. Going to the gym? Not really. Would you wear a branded $400 pair of pants while gymming? We think not! Another kind of workout then? Nope!

The pants are just, “I felt like wearing them, so I put them on,” pants. Okay. If this does not say “trend” in bold letters, we don’t know what does. Active wear has transcended the hallowed rules of fashion shows.

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