The Two Unexpected Benefits of Prescriptive Analytics, According to Four Retailers
Though individuals can affect positive change, outcomes are always easiest achieved when individuals are working in harmony – whether striving to solve problems or create opportunities.
Earlier this month, more than 100 Zebra customers and key prospects attended Zebra Prescriptive Analytics’ Prescriptive Analytics Collaborative Training (PACT) 2020 conference. Held virtually for the first time this year, the two days were packed full of panels, presentations and roundtables sharing how various retailers are utilizing Zebra Prescriptive Analytics to increase profits, margins and revenue.
As a refresher, Zebra Prescriptive Analytics is a software solution that analyzes data to determine:
- What is happening
- Why it happened
- How much it is costing the business
- What to do about it
- Who should do it
Amidst the presentations, a key theme stood out to me. Customers adopt Zebra Prescriptive Analytics to help them increase revenue and reduce costs, yet many enjoy additional benefits including improved collaboration and innovation – essential traits for the most successful retailers in this time of uncertainty. In their presentations, many retailers emphasized the importance of collaboration and innovation in navigating their own challenges and explained how ZPA helped them get there. Here are some memorable examples:
Several of our customers spoke about how Zebra Prescriptive Analytics helped them break down information and internal communication silos and empower different functions to better collaborate. Interestingly, all of them experienced an almost-instant unification of the same two functions: asset protection (AP) and store operations. This is a bit surprising, as these two functions have goals that often clash with one another. AP’s main job is to eliminate fraud and risk, while store operations is tasked with ensuring all stores offer a great customer experience with an optimized cost of labor. Many times, what’s best for the customer experience and what’s needed to reduce labor costs aren’t what’s best for mitigating risk.
But in the scenarios that customers detailed at PACT 2020, AP and store operations had to work as a team to complete the tasks identified and actioned by the prescriptive analytics solution. At a grocer, for example, the AP team rolled out our mobile field application (which is basically the mobile-friendly version of our solution) as a store audit tool for its own people. As it continued to test the mobile field application, the store operations team expressed interest in rolling out the capability to its store managers. This further helped improve efficiency, as some store audits could be handled by the managers and alleviated pressure on AP’s limited resources. The two teams now enjoy a much better working relationship, where the “store audit” is now more data-driven versus routine.
Similar benefits were realized at a wholesale club, particularly in the optical department where social distancing was difficult due to eye exams and other close-up interactions. Together, the AP and store operations teams made the joint decision to hold off reopening until:
- Government mandates permitted reopening
- Personal protective equipment was widely and fully available to associates
Thanks to this collaboration, and using the prescriptive analytics solution, the optical division is on track to meet its sales goals for the year.
A common complaint at large companies is insufficient innovation. One of our customers, a pharmacy chain, had this same concern. It found that innovation often suffers due to one of two main causes:
- It’s unproven: “It’s an interesting thought, but how do we know this idea will generate the ROI we need?”
- It’s untrusted: “It’s an interesting thought, but I’m not convinced it aligns with our internal capabilities.”
As a result, the retailer’s AP team introduced the Zebra Prescriptive Analytics solution into its innovation process. Because our solution can process so much of the retailer’s data, it provided a great way for the team to easily extract the data that would back up the feasibility of its innovations.
The presenter at PACT shared how well the Zebra Prescriptive Analytics solution worked for his team in the context of one specific innovation: employing scanner-equipped drones in stores after hours with the goal of identifying inventory inaccuracies.
Traditionally, this process was done via occasional audits and spot checks, which were neither accurate nor cost effective. The customer first leveraged Zebra Prescriptive Analytics to create a dashboard that assessed and displayed the current state of its store inventories. This showed clearly that there were enough inventory inaccuracies to justify a new approach to audits. From there, the retailer launched a program that fed drone data directly into the prescriptive analytics platform for immediate processing. By comparing the results to audit results, the team was able to show that there was, indeed, potentially high value for this program. The team now plans to take this project to its leadership and apply for additional funding to fuel its success.
The Biggest Takeaway
There are very few technologies these days with a single purpose – especially those that offer a high and quick return on investment (ROI). Prescriptive analytics, though originally developed to provide clearly articulated “best next step” guidance to retail store associates, is delivering a far greater ROI than even the technology’s innovators could have probably predicted when it was first rolled out. Of course, the ancillary benefits that you will derive from prescriptive analytics may vary from the examples I shared today depending on your actual applications and operational structure. But the point is that the actionable intelligence gathered and distributed across your business by your prescriptive analytics platform is doing more than eliciting swift preventive actions or resolutions. It’s building trust across your workforce while empowering individuals to confidently propose and collaboratively execute positive changes across your entire business with simple actions that deliver stellar results every time. No reading through mountains of reports required.
To learn more about the many benefits that Zebra Prescriptive Analytics may be able to provide your business, visit our website or contact our Retail team.
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