Last week, The Parker Avery Group sponsored and participated in Consumer Goods Technology’s Analytics Unite event—a groundbreaking virtual conference that brought together around 500 retail and consumer goods professionals from a variety of different backgrounds and from around the globe. While indeed, the virtual setting was quite different from attending a live conference, the event platform provided many opportunities to connect and discuss ideas with colleagues and new contacts in a real-time albeit highly remote, capacity.

Once attendees (and sponsors.) grew accustomed to navigating the virtual event platform, there were several lively exchanges of information about advanced analytics solutions and their increased necessity in a very changed world. During Parker Avery’s discussions over the 3-day virtual event, where the overall theme was “purpose-driven analytics,” we noted three key messages:

1. The focus on advanced analytics in retail and consumer goods/CPG is clearly high right now, especially as brands need to adjust quickly to continuous disruptions.

Brands have quickly—and some painfully—understood that local and global disruptions can dramatically shift shopping behaviors on a dime. As such, being able to quickly adjust consumer demand signals leveraging advanced analytics is essential for survival. The ability to understand shifts from physical stores to ecommerce is an easy example, as well as being able to understand demand shifts based on spiking coronavirus cases by geography.

2. Advanced omnichannel capabilities—supported by analytics and flawless operational execution—have become imperative.

Whereas before 2020, some brands (and entire segments) were merely “tinkering” with omnichannel, over the past few months forward-thinking companies have catapulted these initiatives into overdrive. Consumers are demanding more shopping and different fulfillment options, there is increasing pent-up frustration with continuous closures and restrictions, and patience is quickly waning—especially as we quickly approach the holidays. Retailers and consumer brands are refining and operationalizing what started out as “scrappy” omnichannel processes at the beginning of the pandemic.

Curbside pickup is a perfect example of a capability that few retailers had a year ago, and now many have gone through multiple iterations of new curbside options for consumers; an ability to better manage this demand signal and related services is critical to continued growth. To drive margins and profitability, new omnichannel processes must be supported by analytics to ensure demand signals direct products to and from the most optimal shipping and fulfillment locations. When implemented correctly, analytics can have far-reaching, positive implications throughout the entire omnichannel supply chain.

3. Brands are placing priority on business value from their analytics investments, as opposed to implementing just another “cool” technology.

The competitive landscape is cutthroat—even more so now—and shoppers continue to be fickle. Brands realize that analytics can no longer be relegated to the IT department or in the analysts’ cubicles. Analytics must be in the hands of the business: those critical roles making sourcing, planning, buying, replenishment, allocation, supply chain, merchandising, and other key operational decisions. To drive—or really optimize—business value, high priority must absolutely be placed on the infusion of analytics into retailer and consumer goods companies’ business processes as well as on change management leadership to ensure organizational adoption and sustainment of value. Analytic tools should be directly tied to key metrics and expected improvements, especially across revenue, margin, and inventory productivity.

As a final takeaway (but not exactly related to analytics), while we’ve all grown accustomed to Zoom/Teams/[name your platform] meetings, and this familiarity certainly helped during the discussions the Parker Avery team had during the conference, we also believe there is significantly more value in physical, face-to-face events. We certainly understand the importance of continuous diligence during a pandemic environment; however, in a virtual conference setting, attendees can quite suddenly “disappear” by simply closing a browser tab or exiting Chrome on their mobile device screen. This was indeed a slightly frustrating characteristic of the virtual platform—perhaps something younger generation gamers are more accustomed to—but it did make unplanned, casual conversations difficult to initiate and consequently somewhat degraded the value of the event.

But for those who kept the platform open on their screens, there were notifications for when keynotes, presentations, breakout sessions, topic tables, and 1:1 meetings were beginning—which proved to be very useful to those of us who are admitted multitaskers and needed a digital “nudge.” Further, we commend the staff at CGT and EnsembleIQ for being quite diligent in all the preparations leading up to the event.

All-in-all, we were pleased to make a number of new connections, and the opportunity to essentially test a new way of networking was interesting. We are looking forward to follow-on conversations and especially where The Parker Avery Group can work with companies in driving meaningful value from analytics.

Clay Parnell, Sam Iosevich, and George Arutyunyants

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Published On: October 15, 2020Categories: Analytics, Clay Parnell, Events, George Arutyunyants, Sam Iosevitch