Sky I.T. Group.

With continuous disruption creating monumental changes in consumer behavior over the past year and historical data proving obsolete, retail’s demand for data has never been higher. And for retailers now needing to make quick, confident decisions, understanding the consumer, as varied as they are, has become paramount – especially as consumers continue to flock to online shopping where fulfillment is key and stockouts can sour a brand’s relationship with the customer.

For many retailers, Skypad, Sky I.T. Group’s interactive web-based reporting solution, is what makes staying close to the consumer possible.

Here, Gil Hakami, Vice President, Business Development at Sky I.T. Group, talks to Fairchild Media Group about addressing demands for faster lead times, navigating data, and the cost of data divide.

Fairchild Media Group: From your perspective, how has disruption affected the relationship between retailers and their brand suppliers?

Gil Hakami: As demand for data increases to keep up with the fast paced and ever-changing retail and digital environment, retailers are looking for more efficient ways to share data with their supplier community, that can in return drive more business insights, collaboration, and ultimately improve the consumer shopping experience.

The retailer buying office has been one of the hardest-hit groups due to the pandemic. In some cases, retailers were forced to completely pause data-sharing efforts with their suppliers due to resource restraints and manual efforts required with legacy practices, and this unfortunately continues today. The lack of visibility into sell-through reporting is debilitating to the merchant-supplier relationship during such a critical demand shift, as suppliers are unable to prepare assortment, allocation and pricing recommendations for their buyers.

For suppliers to be effective retailer partners, they need to be equipped with data and tools to drive confidence and proactive action. With access to performance data, suppliers are able to be extensions of the buying team, coming with valuable suggestions on targeted in-season opportunities such as reorders, transfers, and fill-ins. With fixed resources in the buying office, narrowing the data-gap between retailers and their suppliers is the key to the industry’s success.

FMG: How does Skypad enable collaboration in these relationships?

G.H.: Skypad brings multi-brand retailer buyers and their brand suppliers together on a standardized set of sales and inventory performance insights. Brands and buyers are then able to self-serve product and location performance reports across different time, geographic, and product attributes to quickly identify opportunities and collaborate on business trends.

To start, we relieve retailers of any current data-sharing practices that are in place, such as manually emailed buyer reports and vendor portals. We then replace these practices with a high yielding data-program that standardizes a consistent set of information, and automatically distribute the data across the supplier community in a secure easy to use, web-application, called Skypad.

The selection of what metrics to share and which reporting views to distribute comes from a deep analysis of how the information shared can impact the supplier and ultimately benefit the retailer and their shoppers. Skypad was designed as a reliable platform to share and consume data maintaining a consistent pulse of your business – no matter the disruption.

Retailers who leveraged Skypad before and during the pandemic did not skip a beat, as consistent data sharing and reporting practices enabled suppliers to evaluate the business shifts to e-commerce and expedite critical recommendations to support demand.

FMG: Why is it so important to have seamless access to the ‘right data’ – especially during disruption?

G.H.: I think the key is highlighting the “right data,” as it truly makes the difference between taking action and taking the right action. What data should be shared? When should it be shared? And in what format? These are the three major components that we evaluate with our retailer partners to help identify the impacts—good or bad—they can have on their business.

The format is also important – if suppliers and buyers need to hop through hoops to access the information they need, and/or re-format the information they are less inclined to put the effort required to do so.  We hear it all the time – user-friendly, turn-key access to data needs to be prioritized.  Self-service best practice reporting supplemented with easy use ad-hoc tools helps brands both uniformly report on the business with their merchants and quickly identify opportunities unique to their business model.

Additionally, brands are tasked more than ever with determining the right distribution mix for their business, and we find that wholesale brick-and-mortar vs direct-to-consumer strategies are top of mind. We are also finding that access to information plays a major role here. DTC programs enable brands with access to a wealth of real-time, clean and standardized information, while wholesale insights are harder to acquire and consolidate, leaving suppliers with a relatively narrow window of visibility. Retailers who elect to share comprehensive data with their suppliers not only gain their loyalty and support, but also evolve into strategic partners who evaluate and align big picture market insights to their specific retailer-supplier relationship.

FMG: To that end, how has Skypad enabled companies to meet new, faster demands during the
pandemic?

G.H.: The pandemic established a sense of urgency to dig into specific data that supported visibility into location level performance.  Even with stores closed, many retailers expedited store inventory management solutions, such as with the “buy online, pick up in store” and “buy online and ship from store” programs.  Close monitoring of how these online order fulfillment methods were both satisfying consumer demand and reducing inventory was critical in understanding and reacting to the pandemic impacts.

Timing is a crucial component in today’s fast-paced retail environment, but it’s also about frequency.  Understanding how often information should be shared – and committing to that frequency – supports routine and sharper visibility into trends. The fashion wholesale industry standard has been weekly frequency for over a decade, and while it is still proven effective if executed consistently, daily frequency has become attractive to suppliers as well as retailers who rely heavily on targeted promotions.

Retailers who elect to leverage Skypad are delivering data to suppliers Sunday night in an e ort to ensure data is readily available for Monday morning distribution.  Suppliers prioritize where their attention goes based on when they can access performance data, so it’s the retailers providing access first thing Monday morning who get suppliers’ attention first.  Retailers providing access to data later in the day on Mondays, and throughout the week, leave less time for their suppliers to identify opportunities and drive collaboration.

FMG: How does Skypad help in terms of ROI and cost savings?

G.H.: Due to the major data-divide between retailers and their suppliers, in-season opportunities are overlooked at an alarming rate, and assortment and allocation imbalances are leaving consumers frustrated at the retailer and brands’ expense.

For example, a retailer that provides limited visibility to their supplier community at the account level is bound to miss allocation needs at the door level. Retailers that are not sharing sizing or color level information with their supplier community are more likely to experience broken size runs, stock-outs and overall inventory waste.

By establishing a Skypad data-sharing program with suppliers, our retailer partners receive significantly more targeted opportunities from their supplier community, all while being relieved of the manual or systematic efforts to distribute reporting.  Our retailer and supplier partnerships have unfailingly proven that when more detailed, frequent and accessible data is shared by the retailer with the supplier, the merchant-supplier relationship realizes higher ROI and lower costs throughout the supply chain.

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