RSR Research Agenda
- Survey Release: May-2020
- Report Release: Sep-2020 View Report
Getting Past The Hype – What Can AI Analytics Really Accomplish For Retailers?
In RSR’s 2019 study on the state of Innovation in Retail, we stated:
Retailers strongly agree that information is strategic to their businesses, even more than the value of experimenting with new concepts in the shopping experience. Information leads to insights, and insights lead to innovations.
This finding was reflective of indications that we found in earlier studies that retailers want to use information and analytics for more than record keeping. Next-generation analytics, made possible by new non-transactional data often gathered outside the “four walls” of the enterprise and data analysis engines like artificial intelligence, are becoming important as retailers extrapolate patterns in data to help them sense changes in the operational environment and respond appropriately in time to directly affect outcomes. Data visualization techniques “democratize” complex analyses, and operational processes can be infused with the results of insights derived from new data to automate certain decisions.All of these capabilities weren’t possible even ten years ago, and some of the technologies being used now weren’t generally available even in 2015, the last time that RSR studies BI & Analytics in Retail.
- Survey Release: Feb-2021
- Report Release: Apr-2021
How Retailers Manage A Newly Distributed Enterprise
Retailers are quite accustomed to managing technology at what used to be the “edge” of their enterprise, the store. Most have also separated headquarters from distribution centers and faced similar challenges.
The pandemic changed everything. By necessity, employees at all levels of the organization have been working from home. They’ve also discovered it’s generally a far more pleasant experience than long commutes in crowded buses, trains and/or highways. Housing prices outside major cities have skyrocketed as employees realized all they really need is a good internet connection. In other words, at-home workers are here to stay.
The implications are huge. Along with planning and budgeting meetings, and keeping various groups in sync, there’s the matter of software selection, roll-out, and training. Certainly, the new environment begs for Cloud computing, with its zero-footprint software and incremental updates, rather than big-bangs. Given that retailers have been bemoaning the inflexibility of their legacy software for years, it seems the time has come to make a change. How will they manage it? How can vendors help? There are many questions to be answered.
- Survey Release: Feb-2021
- Report Release: May-2021
Contactless Retailing: Order Orchestration And Fulfillment
Most of us have not seen a year quite like 2020 in our lifetimes. But along with human and economic tragedies, we also saw the acceleration of retail trends that we knew were coming “someday.” Still, a surprising few were prepared.
Most notably we have seen an incredible acceleration in contactless retailing. For the purposes of this research, we will consider contact retailing as:
- Pure eCommerce: buy online, deliver to customer via some form of package delivery service with days of the order
- Same Day Delivery: buy online, deliver to customer from nearby stores or distribution centers within hours of the order
- BOPIS: Buy online, pick-up in store
- BOPAC: Buy online, pick-up at curb
Of course, nowhere was this more dramatic than in the world of grocery and fast-moving consumer goods. But there are long-term impacts to other retail segments that are worth pursuing. Two issues, in particular, loom large: 1) What are the implications for mall-based retailers? How can they support curbside pick-up? And 2) What will happen when BORAC (buy online, return at curb) becomes a thing? No one wants to wait on customer service lines, most especially during a pandemic
We know that the most profitable retailers have been making technology investments to support contactless retailing for some time. Especially in fast-moving consumer goods, there is so little margin in every item sold that efficiency is a profitability imperative.
This begs the question: what’s the current state of contactless retailing? Consumers want it, retailers will deliver it, but how many gross margin dollars will be lost in the process? What technologies have they been buying to support these initiatives, and finally, what are the implications of having an “at home” workforce to supervise the orchestration?
- Survey Release: May-2021
- Report Release: Jun-2021
The Retail Supply Chain – Achieving Agility Without Sacrificing Efficiency
The COVID-19 pandemic uncovered some significant failings in the retail supply chain. It became obvious that the operational efficiencies retailers have achieved over the past thirty years have not helped make that same supply chain more agile. The challenges highlighted by the pandemic are not new: now they are just more urgent.
Retailers’ supply chains have long-sacrificed flexibility for efficiency. While this may have worked in the past, it does not work right now. RSR’s 2020 study on the imperative to use new data analysis technologies in the supply chain revealed that over-performing retailers were exploring using predictive modeling to anticipate supply chain disruptions and to be able to recommend cost-optimized corrective actions. But it was also clear that AI-enabled predictive models for such things as labor and transportation costs across the supply chain – or finding optimal DC-to-customer locations to lower costs while still satisfying customer needs – were not yet seen as must have technologies.
The 2020 report pointed out that, “Winners have a tremendous head start when it comes to leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning… the time to move is absolutely now… those who invest in making their business run smarter in these times will stand a much better chance of not only surviving – but in making up some ground.”
This begs the question: what’s the current state of enabling a more agile supply chain in 2021? What technologies have retailers settled on to enable modernization of the supply chain, and can they balance the need to enable an agile supply chain with maintaining or even improving on hard-won efficiencies?
- Survey Release: Apr-2021
- Report Release: Jul-2021
Pricing In 2021: What’s The Best Way Forward?
Safe to say, retail has grown a lot more complex in the past few years. The push and pull to both a) make things ubiquitous across all selling touch points, while at the same time b) hyper localizing and personalizing offers – is asking retailers to keep two completely conflicting ideas in play simultaneously. It’s a lot to ask, and as it relates to pricing: can be very dangerous ground on which to experiment.
What does a modern pricing strategy need to look like? What are the absolute no-nos’s, and what are becoming successful tactics? Who’s doing it best, and how are those Winners’ varying their efforts from the average and under-performing brands they are competing against?
To find out, we need to dig deep into retailers’ current pricing strategies, and that means a survey that examines these issues the way only RSR can.
- Survey Release: Jun-2021
- Report Release: Sep-2021
An Agile Merchandising Lifecycle In The Age Of Disruption
With the exception of fast fashion, the merchandising lifecycle has been less than agile for many years.
Now, in the pandemic even as fast fashion falls a bit out of favor and consumers expect more sustainability, the pandemic has changed requirements. It’s time to push the “go faster” button. But it begs the question: go faster in which direction?
The answers are not so simple. We have pre-pandemic data and pandemic era data – but really don’t know what will stick and what won’t. Retailers and their merchandise vendors must find ways to create a more iterative and faster design, produce, allocate, ship cycle.
What are they thinking? Is near-sourcing an option? What technologies do they believe can support them? And….how will they implement those technologies with a predominantly home-based workforce?
- Survey Release: Jul-2021
- Report Release: Oct-2021
Rebooting Independent Retail
The Independent Retailer had a rough time in the COVID pandemic. Repeated lock downs, enhanced safety precautions, and the sudden consequent explosion of contactless sales were too much for many to absorb. Even though consumer sentiment does seem to be moving towards supporting local retailers, environmental factors have made for a very challenging environment.
How have the luck ones survived? What will it take to thrive? Are Independent Retailers ready to re-emerge as the pandemic comes under control?
These are the questions we seek to answer in this study.
- Survey Release: Jul-2021
- Report Release: Oct-2021
Research Slot 1 Available For Your Ideas
Every year, RSR leaves two research agenda slots open for retailer and vendor suggestions. This is the first of those slots.
- Survey Release: Nov-2021
- Report Release: Jan-2022
More To Come
We have lots more research on our agenda and will post it as space becomes available.