While the Monday morning retail meeting isn’t always the high point of the week, it doesn’t have to be the low point either. Most of the pain here seems to be centered on one question: “What happened to sales last week, and why?”
With the right planning and tools, the answer to that question doesn’t have to take a whole morning (or weekend) of frantic searching. In this post, we outline several proactive strategies that can help you identify the key competitive drivers of sales changes and how you can take steps to alleviate retail problems on your own.
When it comes to collecting data about competitor moves, the key word is “proactive.” Most of the data needed to provide answers about the past is time-sensitive, of course. A few minutes each day can save you from frustrating hours later. Below we break down the data sources that can help you tell what’s going on, organized by the competitive drivers that can affect your sales.
Scenarios for Prices, Promotions, and Assortments
Pricing is key. Suppose one of your competitors raised or lowered prices and your customers reacted. It helps to have a long history of data here for context—even if your prices were 10 percent lower than other retailers last week, that still might not explain a sudden sales increase if your prices have been that way for a month.
The relevant data to review is actual prices for individual products from each competitor, classified by category so it’s possible to aggregate them for analysis. Is it too difficult for you to capture all the products from each competitor? You can always specify a smaller, representative basket of products to track. Note that actual prices means “in shopping cart,” not just advertised prices.
When average prices are charted over time, it’s easy to see pricing fluctuations. For example, Williams-Sonoma and Casa might have experienced a slowdown in sales when Macy’s dropped its prices towards the end of this time range.
Regarding promotions: what if a competitor advertises a special discount that draws customers to a certain set of products? Be careful not to ignore non-monetary promotions—just because there isn’t a percentage off or amount of savings doesn’t mean the visuals won’t draw customers in.
The promotional data you can check includes screenshots from of all the promotions run on a daily basis through various channels:
- Social Media
- Individual product pages
Too much to consider? You can get some of the benefits by taking daily snapshots of social media and homepages, sampling product pages, and saving any competitor emails you’ve signed up for.
During assortment changes, a retailer adds new products or runs out of availability on a hot item. Customers buy wherever they can get the item they want.
To tap into that motivation, view the list of all products in each category a merchant sells in (it’s best to combine this with pricing data). Like pricing data, this could take all day for large merchants. Capturing a screenshot at the category level is less painful and can provide most of the necessary data if you end up digging in later.
Comparing assortments by category average can lead to interesting insights. In this case, the majority of Bed, Bath and Beyond’s assortment distribution by price is above the category average. Other retailers can check to make sure they’re not missing out on potential sales due to holes in their assortments.