Making better supply chain decisions with inventory and retail data
The right retail and channel inventory data – and knowing how to use it efficiently – is crucial to keeping your business running smoothly, especially during supply chain disruption.
That was the subject of our recent conversation with Alison Jones, former VP of supply chain at Edgewell and, since its acquisition of Billie, Billie’s VP of operations. Alloy’s Logan Ensign talked to Alison about how she got control of data at Edgewell and Billie thanks to Alloy’s Data Platform and Alloy.ai Intelligence.
Jones got on board with Alloy.ai during her tenure as Edgewell’s VP of supply chain, and was happy to find after the acquisition that Billie had already been using the platform.
“Once your teams and leadership get involved in it, they see that it does become a game-changer in terms of data and analytics, and being able to have what I call ‘data-based conversations.’”
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Top 4 ways retail and inventory data can help make better decisions
#1: Retailers will accept your recommendations if you can present the right data insights
One concern many brands have is that their retailers don’t always accept their recommendations. They have several reasons for turning you down – they may be newly enrolled, set in their way of doing things, or you just haven’t built enough trust with them yet.
But Jones notes that it just takes one great insight that saves the retailer money, and can build the trust and relationship you need to get your future recommendations through to them.
When you’re in Alloy’s platform, you’re using the retailer’s data. “That’s going to be the starting point of building trust,” Jones says, “because you’re speaking to them in their language. Whether you’re talking to the VP of sales or the chief supply chain officer, Alloy.ai helps you speak in the language of your audience, whether internal or external.”
This is true whether you’re a huge company or a small one, Jones notes. Billie was very small before being acquired by Edgewell, but the interest they’d generated online made them an attractive choice for Walmart’s brick-and-mortar stores.
“I don’t think it’s company size [that makes the difference],” Jones says. “Are you innovative? Are you using your data? Are you helping me grow my business?”
#2: Inventory planning is much easier with the right retail data insights.
Inventory planning was one of the challenges that prompted Jones to introduce Alloy.ai into Edgewell. They particularly needed help in their sun care space, which is very seasonal. “You don’t want a bunch of Hawaiian Tropics sitting on the shelf at the end of the season,” Jones said.
Using Alloy.ai Intelligence, Edgewell became more intentional about how they moved inventory throughout their network. This helped them prevent some common shortfalls in planning—which for Billie was for example, selling out of seasonal suncare stock in sunny Florida, while still having a bunch of unsold stock sitting on a shelf in North Dakota.
Alloy’s dashboards helped Jones and her team elevate their analytical capabilities and unlock new insights in their retail data. The insights they gained from Alloy’s dashboard allowed them to recommend $300,000 more inventory to specific Costco locations – places they could add inventory without risking a lot of returns.
Even more compelling was the $4 million in Walmart sales they were able to drive by using Alloy.ai to reduce phantom inventory and get the right products to the right locations.
#3: Alloy.ai is a powerful tool for collaboration between sales and supply chain teams.
Alloy.ai was designed to break down silos between teams in consumer goods companies and assist with S&OP by Connected Planning and Execution, using high-frequency retail data from the POS.
“Pre-Alloy.ai, you’d have to be an Excel guru to pull a lot of data and dump it into spreadsheets and get to business decisions,” Jones says.
Edgewell’s supply chain team led the way when it came to incorporating Alloy.ai into their operation, but they saw the value for the sales team – and communicated that value to them. Jones says that Alloy.ai puts the data into the language of the person you’re speaking to by allowing you to tweak the dashboard for your supply chain and sales teams.
“It allows us to have a data-based conversation that’s not necessarily supply-driven OR sales-driven, but more customer-centric: what’s the right thing to do for the customer?”
The value of this data-based conversation is highlighted by Jones’ story about Billie’s acquisition. The brand is now carried in Walmart stores; during the acquisition, they needed to do a blackout transition period while incorporating Billie into Edgewell’s SAP system. Alloy.ai helped them figure out which SKUs to get out of and how much inventory they needed for others. This kept inventory running smoothly during the acquisition phase.
#4: Retail data analysis gives you more power in both planning and execution.
“The value is not in just pulling the data,” Jones says. “It’s figuring out, what are we going to do? How do we get to decision-making sooner than later?”
As she notes, data you pulled last week may be outdated by the time you have a conversation about it this week. You need the latest source of data in order to get a bird’s-eye view of your supply chain and see what you need to purchase and what those purchases mean in sales.
The right retail intelligence tool—should show you whether your business is running smoothly, or you need to make a change in purchasing, or you need to have a conversation with your retailer because POS data is going up or down.
Retail data analysis enables end-to-end decision making that can have a huge effect on your whole supply chain operation.