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Tectonic shifts in currency, the declining price of oil, rapid evolution of social media, and no barriers to entry for pure-play online retailers are playing havoc with the Retail Industry. Industry stalwarts are seeing comps (same store sales) decline, while upstarts and innovators are blazing trails into market-beating territory. SAP customers that are on board with the newest solutions seem to be fairing better than many.

As an industry, we can’t sit idle and not react to this chaos.  Yet thousands of retail companies globally are still relying on 20 year old planning systems. Are you?

Planning is an area where retail merchants, buyers, and their planning experts can really benefit from SAP’s innovation. Almost 5 years ago, SAP created a roadmap to the future of Omni-commerce retailing, and has been rapidly building that road with new solutions.

Key innovations include the SAP Customer Activity Repository. (non-fluffy details here). The idea is we created a foundation for retail transactions, to support both on-line, real-time operations, as well as analytical and predictive capabilities. Simply put, the point-of-sale, ecommerce, and other transactional data is brought into CAR’s data model for analysis and real-time transactions.

The business value comes from the Integrated Planning and Unified Demand Forecast within CAR, and the consuming applications that draw on these capabilities. As CAR is based on SAP HANA in-memory computing, this means the days of throwing away data and summarizing it are no longer necessary.  We used to toss the details and work with aggregates. Retail, as the mother industry for big data, was shackled to planning and analytical applications that were designed to deal only with the big-but-summarized data. Are you still suffering in your retail company?  I hate to sound cheesy, but SAP has changed all that. Now it’s time for retailers like you to embrace the change and cut hours or days out of your planning cycles, share plans with more experts, and get the micro-level detail needed.

Now you can adjust your plans and cope with the changes in the world around you.

In early January 2016, in time for the National Retail Federation’s Big Show, SAP debuted the state-of-the-art in retail planning. Of course, it has an incredibly sexy name – SAP Merchandise Planning – but that makes it really clear what it does.

Retailers can embrace the real-time, detailed data, and make changes to their merchandise plans at the speed of thought. You can have a team play “what-if” and see the results right in front of you.  Yes, it looks like Microsoft Excel, but the deep analytics, flexible hierarchy and rich set of planning metrics mean you can plan just about any way you want, and do it live, with your team. As  SAP Merchandise Planning consumes the capabilities of the Customer Activity Repository, it also means your historicals/actuals are the real numbers, and not just approximations. Plus, you can make adjustments at the finest levels of detail. The SAP Merchandise Planning solution is the newest of the consuming applications built on SAP CAR, joined by the SAP Assortment Planning solution and SAP Promotion Management for Retail solutions.

The true beauty of the approach is that you can adjust your plans much more quickly – not just once a season, once a month or once a week. You can lock down what can’t change, and adjust what you wish, and collaborate with your colleagues, planners, buyers, and supply chain team and partners.  This lets your business address the immediate nature of planning in today’s retail climate.

For a bit more information on SAP Merchandise Planning, you can contact me, and also take a look here: http://news.sap.com/sap-releases-retail-planning-software/

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