Creating an outstanding customer experience, building brand loyalty, and thus sustainable, revenue-generating sales, starts with the right product range. Modern assortment planning should not be based on assumptions and immediate expediency, but rather on in-depth analytics, customer preferences, assortment lifecycle planning, and optimization and facilitation of all related workflows. In short, your product assortment is the cornerstone of your retail concept.
Gone are the days of doing this on paper or in Microsoft Excel. The trend is towards modern software solutions that essentially work as your virtual assistant-advisor, which uses modern algorithms, collects data, and performs most of the calculations in the background and provides you with ready-made options for making effective decisions.
The use of such programs is a powerful competitive advantage. In this blog, we will review five software products for retail automating assortment planning from different development companies.
1. LEAFIO AI Assortment Planning
We start our review with LEAFIO AI Assortment Planning software. The solution primarily focuses on the assortment management of goods from planning to matrix output.
LEAFIO AI has been focusing on solutions for optimizing business processes in retail and supply chain since the beginning of the company. Developers have identified the most common challenges retailers face and accumulated profound expertise and proposals necessary to solve everyday and strategic issues in the retail field. LEAFIO AI specialists integrate these achievements into their developments, thus providing the company’s products with industry-specific functionality that is often unparalleled among competitors.
In particular, LEAFIO AI Assortment Planning Software offers:
1) Powerful, in-depth, and customizable statistics and data analytics.
LEAFIO AI Assortment Planning manages data and deep analytics. The program doesn’t just calculate and visualize data but is self-taught and provides the user with in-depth statistics and analytics with future trends.
The system uses algorithms that provide many useful reports and helps the category manager make decisions. This assistance is demonstrated, for example, in tracking sales of new products and candidates for "exit" from the current assortment, generators of profit or turnover, etc. The user can dive into the required category in more detail, or, on the other hand, generate a general overview and trends – the system has a well-designed structure and hierarchy that adapts to your specific situation. If an entire category, subcategory, or a particular SKU needs attention or shows outstanding results, the system continually draws the user's attention to it.
2) Assortment management at all stages of the product life cycle.
LEAFIO AI Assortment Planning Software is a truly comprehensive set of tools that covers the entire assortment management process, from planning to analysis, adjustment, and optimization. Any category manager can create their own strategy for managing and developing the product category for which they are responsible and will regularly compare the results achieved with the established plans. At the same time, you can manage the life cycle of a product item in the assortment – from introduction to withdrawal – by simply changing the statuses of goods in the system, which is very simple and convenient.
The system also works as an advisor here – it will tell you when and what to pay attention to when changing the status of a commodity item.
3) Strategic vision of the assortment policy.
The smart algorithms implemented in LEAFIO AI Assortment Planning Software not only make detailed calculations and highlight problem areas and positions but also offer suggestions on what can be improved in the assortment structure and what needs to be done to achieve strategic goals and planned indicators. This system of suggestions has a solid base of scenarios and is able to learn from your specific cases.
4) Automatic or manual creation and analysis of store clusters.
Each store’s assortment, even within a chain, can vary, and different product categories can be represented differently in different stores. LEAFIO AI Assortment Planning Solution offers an intelligent automatic store clustering function based on built-in algorithms with the ability to adjust. If needed, you can group stores manually based on the desired parameters.
5) Simple and intuitive interface for industry professionals.
We know that this phrase has become a bit of a cliché, but in LEAFIO AI Assortment Planning Solution, the simplicity and clarity of the interface deserve to be recognized, as it is tailored to solve the daily tasks of a category manager. At first glance, it is clear that the program developers understand the category manager’s routine well, and the interface was tested directly by colleagues of future users. You can easily manage the statuses of products in the assortment matrix, and the dashboard presents a clear and complete picture of the assortment. It is noteworthy that the appearance and content of the dashboard and any section of the program can be customized by the user. The most common tasks are performed in 1-2 clicks, and the system performs most of the calculations in the background.
It’s also worth noting that LEAFIO AI Assortment Planning Solution can easily integrate with any external accounting system without overloading it. The program can store part of the data on its side, allowing retailers-users to manage the assortment in a new way, even with old accounting solutions in their arsenal. This will significantly speed up decision-making and reduce the cost of automating business processes.
LEAFIO AI Assortment Planning Software can exchange data with other popular LEAFIO AI products: LEAFIO Shelf Efficiency and LEAFIO Inventory Optimization, so you can create a complete, highly efficient supply chain and assortment management system in your retail chain.
It is also worth noting that the LEAFIO AI team actively cooperates with customers, which speeds up the implementation of solutions on-site and their optimization for your specific business. In particular, the developers emphasize that you will be able to influence the development of the LEAFIO AI Assortment Planning Solution with your feedback. So, you may very well be among the first to use this solution in your industry, and at the same time, you can customize and further improve the product to meet your needs. Not a bad prospect, is it?
2. A² Assortment Planning Software for retail
The next participant of our TOP 5 is A² Assortment Planning Software from the Finnish company Analyse2 (Analyse Solutions). This developer, like LEAFIO AI, has focused its activities and efforts on the development of solutions for retail businesses. In particular, FMCG and food products. The program considers product attributes, consumer trends, and sales data in its calculations to help managers use customer knowledge and form an optimal assortment.
The company’s key offering is the A² Category & Shopper Insight platform, which includes two solutions: A² Category Analytics and A² Assortment Planning Software for retail, which are independent products. It is the second one that interests us in this review.
A² Assortment Planning Software enables and helps:
1) Manage the assortment at three levels: macro level, category level, and item level
At the macro level, the system will help you optimally allocate the available retail space in the store between different product categories. In the case of a large chain, you have the opportunity to group stores into clusters according to a certain feature (size, demand characteristics, etc.) and manage the assortment in each cluster.
At the category level, you can use analytics and suggestions to manually or automatically determine the width and structure of the assortment of a particular product category for the chain as a whole or by store cluster or brand.
2) Optimize the assortment according to business goals
At the level of individual SKUs, A² Assortment Planning is able to provide the user with demand forecasts for specific products and recommendations for adding/removing certain items to the assortment based on demand and sales analysis.
The algorithm in this solution, as well as in the previous one from LEAFIO AI, is self-taught and has several scenarios for optimizing the assortment depending on your current and strategic goals. Choose a specific goal (maximize profits, get rid of "stones", launch a seasonal promotion, etc.), and the system will offer you solution options in terms of assortment items.
3) Plan shelf space according to sales plans
A² Assortment Planning Software has a module for visual planning of shelf space, combined with tools for drawing up sales plans.
The product is characterized as a flexible business tool that helps in decision-making. The product's independence and self-sufficiency are also among its advantages. However, if it is necessary to integrate it with third-party solutions, in particular with ERP systems, difficulties may arise.
3. HIVERY Enhance and HIVERY Curate
The third point of our TOP 5 is a brief overview of the solution from Hivery, a company with Australian roots. The HIVERY Curate program solves the tasks of assortment planning in retail stores, as well as category managers of suppliers.
The solution is focused primarily on local retail outlets (convenience stores) and working with them, taking into account the preferences of local customers. Hivery developers believe that the best predictor of future purchases is past purchases.
HIVERY Curate allows you to:
1) Create a digital store model based on modern technologies and algorithms and change its details according to your current goals;
2) Experiment with fast assortment strategies - the system is able to calculate the possible results of a particular solution in both financial and quantitative terms;
3) Create and establish effective and transparent cooperation with suppliers, both in the case of a specialized store and in the format of a minimarket.
Users call the modeling function a plus point of the solution in the reviews on G2.com, and the feedback on cooperation with the company in social networks is also positive. It is noteworthy that the developer's products are presented on Microsoft's AppSource portal but without reviews. At the same time, the scope of its products is still limited. However, this is the result of a clearly defined target audience.
4. Assortment planning module as part of the Luminate Commerce platform by Blue Yonder
The next participant of our review of solutions for assortment management in retail is a part of the Luminate Commerce platform from the American company Blue Yonder, which is part of the Panasonic multinational conglomerate. The Luminate Commerce platform covers a wide range of tasks from human resources management and pricing to inventory, shelf space management, and assortment management, which is the subject of today's review.
The Blue Yonder solution is based on deep analytics of historical demand data and customer behavior/satisfaction. The algorithms in the program take into account sales history, seasonality, various attributes of products in the assortment of your outlet and are able to predict sales of new products on this basis, offering a high-quality assortment structure for each store. Based on the forecasts, the user receives tips on the formation of qualitative and quantitative assortment strategies (for example, for the next season for a clothing store) and can monitor their implementation, making certain adjustments if necessary.
Blue Yonder Assortment planning software includes:
- Assortment planner, which will advise the manager on a localized assortment for a specific store or group of stores. Also noteworthy is the assumption-based planning function, where you can estimate the prospects of an idea, promotion, etc., in advance.
- The second block is a kind of smart assistant to the category manager, which coordinates assortment management with other goals – financial, marketing, brand.
The Blue Yonder solution has mostly positive user reviews for its power and range of issues covered. At the same time, one of the most common disadvantages is the rather long process of implementing the solution on site. Don't forget that, for this vendor, assortment management is only a component of a large platform with various other functionalities.
5. Assortment planning module from Increff
Our review of the top 5 assortment management solutions concludes with the development of a young company called Increff, headquartered in Bangalore, India, which is just starting its international expansion. Historically, Increff's program has been focused primarily on the clothing and footwear industry. The developers note that, compared to other industries, the fashion industry faces a much greater challenge in adapting to the latest trends and seasons. Manufacturers and retailers must clearly monitor forecast trends to prevent losses and unsold inventory.
Increff's software product is built on a modular principle: in particular, the assortment management module we are interested in is closely linked to the demand analytics module. This combination allows you to plan and optimize your assortment depending on your goals: to hold a sale of "dead stock" or vice versa – to avoid sales with big discounts as much as possible because they distort the picture of demand and assortment policy.
Increff's assortment planning tools will help you:
1) Identify NOOS (Never Out of Stock) items – sales leaders that are in demand consistently over a long period of time without the need to organize promotions and discounts;
2) Optimize the assortment for each outlet using product attributes;
3) Form an effective combination of assortment width and depth by analyzing past sales, income, discounts, availability or unavailability in the warehouse and in the display case.
Among the advantages of the product, users note a well-designed and implemented structure of product attributes and the construction of a database about them. The disadvantages include a not fully understandable user interface and dashboards.
Effective assortment planning solutions should help to increase sales and margins across all channels by using localized customer information. This information should be carefully collected and analyzed to build an assortment strategy based on numbers and facts, not on guesswork and assumptions. And modern technological solutions are the best assistance in this painstaking process.