Data integrity: The secret ingredient in Sony’s retail strategy

Doug Evans, Director of Sales Planning & Analysis @ Sony PlayStation
Retail forecasting in volatile times

Even one of the most recognizable brands in the world, Sony PlayStation, isn’t immune to shifts in consumer spending, supply chain issues and the business impact of the pandemic. Adding to these dynamics, a volatile economic outlook that is changing by the day makes retail planning and forecasting tricky. So how does Sony PlayStation make sure they meet consumer demand and hit the inventory sweet spot across its more than 140 retail partners

Doug Evans, Director of Sales, Planning and Analysis for Sony Interactive Entertainment, joined Alloy for a recent webinar to discuss forecasting amid a challenging retail landscape. His message contained myriad best practices for brands grappling with the same issues and a nod toward the power of technology.

Data integrity: The key to retail planning and forecasting

Alloy:
Sony Interactive has 140 retail partners. That’s a lot of data. How do you use that data for retail planning and forecasting?

Evans:
Number one, you have to have data integrity. It has to be absolutely rock solid, and you have to have the trust within the organization that whatever you are sharing is bulletproof. Number two, I’m going to quote my new favorite management consultant, Ted Lasso. In one of the episodes, he quoted Walt Whitman: “Be curious, not judgmental.”

With data, you have to be curious. You’re going to look at a lot of data over time and every now and then you’re going to see something odd and dig in. Whatever it is, dig into what’s driving that change, what’s making that look odd to you, and don’t be afraid of where it leads.

Alloy:
Can it be a challenge getting good data?

Evans:
We struggled with data from some of our markets. We cover all of the Americas, including Latin America. The data from Latin America was a challenge. We found there wasn’t a lot of communication within the markets with the partners we were working with. We would go to a headquarters’ office of a distributor and share data that we thought we had from them, and they would look at it and look at us strangely and say, ‘That’s not our data.’

With the help of Alloy, we’ve been able to dig in and figure out what was happening; we were getting replacement data from some of the regional country partners of that same organization. They were copying over data that we had, and they weren’t necessarily sharing that with the regional heads. We were able to figure out exactly where those gaps were and manage that better, and we’re in a much better spot now than we were.

"We've gone through a variety of tools in the past, and it always felt like there was a compromise. Either the data integrity was strong but it wasn't user friendly, or the visualizations were fantastic but it required a lot of manual manipulation on the backend to get the data to that nice spot. What we wanted was something that was as frictionless as possible."
-Doug Evans, Director of Sales Planning & Analysis @ Sony PlayStation

Using store-level data to drive marketing and sales

Alloy:
PlayStation consoles are hot commodities. Why is getting a handle on real-time, store-level, point-of-sale data important for a company that has a product in such high demand?

Evans:
The PlayStation 5 consoles are selling like wildfire, but we also have accessories and software, and those have a more regular sales pattern. We look at it at the store level and try to understand where there are gaps. What retailers are selling it well, where is their inventory buildup and what could we do about it?

I’ve looked at the first six months of 2022 and compared that to the first six months of 2019. There is a geographic shift in sales. In 2019 to 2022, there was a significant drop in sales in the big cities like New York, Brooklyn, Bronx, Chicago, Miami. It took about 33 other cities to fill in that drop in that market share. I have to attribute that to the migration because of the pandemic.

The way we can use that information now is that we can feed that back into our retail marketing teams and say, ‘Your in-store signage used to be really focused on these dense urban stores. You might want to think about some of these smaller cities as well. We’re seeing some pickup in some of these smaller areas.’

If we’re getting into a demand-softening period, we can look at the store-level data and see where the shifts are, what stores need help, and if we need to provide extra retail marketing support for those particular stores. Oftentimes, we can’t. It’s a tradeoff. We don’t want to interfere with the retailers’ business too much, but at the same time, we care about our products more than they do.

We want to make sure they sell. If we can provide guidance, support, recommendations, anything along those lines to help drive the business, we’re going to do it. Looking at it at that store level really helps us.

How Sony saves time and ensures data integrity with Alloy

Alloy:
At Sony Interactive Entertainment, you utilize Alloy’s Connected Planning and Execution platform to generate plans and execute based on data. Why did you get involved with us?

Evans:
We’ve gone through a variety of tools in the past, and it always felt like there was a compromise. Either the data integrity was strong but it wasn’t user friendly, or the visualizations were fantastic but it required a lot of manual manipulation on the backend to get the data to that nice spot. What we wanted was something that was as frictionless as possible.

For an executive or anyone that has a question that requires data, it would take time for that person to float a question through the chain of command, down to an analyst who was trained in that particular tool, and then that person had to download the data and format it nicely. It was very disruptive to everybody. If an executive has this great idea at the top, you want that person to keep moving with their idea.

The customization of the reports is also key. It’s so easy to build different reports using the same backend data. Regardless of what your particular emphasis is, whether you’re looking at one account and you need store-level data, or a portfolio of accounts, or a portfolio of countries – we can build a report very easily.

 

Ready to learn more about how Sony is achieving continued success in retail and digital channels with Alloy? Watch the full webinar replay now!

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