Mixing Art and Science in Retail

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Every successful apparel retailer knows that speed and efficiency are essential for staying ahead in the rapidly moving fashion industry. VF Corporation, a clothing and footwear company whose brands include 7 For All Mankind, Jansport, Nautica, The North Face, Timberland, and many others, looks to analytics software provider Alteryx to help managers and other retail staff make quick, informed decisions.

VF Corporation's brands are sold in more than 150 countries through 47,000 retailers in distribution channels ranging from mass to department to specialty retailers, as well as online. The company needed an effective way to provide its retailers with data-driven insights on location intelligence and product selections, as well as to help them better understand their customers.

The company selected Alteryx for its spatial analytics features, as well as the fact that it is "very quick and data-agnostic," says Pat Garvey, director of retail floor space management services. VF Corporation has used Alteryx's solution for seven years, but has recently concentrated on improving its CRM capabilities.

"What we've started to do is integrate our consumer data into Alteryx and get a more complete picture of the customer," Garvey says. "And whether it’s data from retail stores, e-commerce, loyalty cards, etc., we can geocode the data so we know exactly who our target segments are."

Using Alteryx, VF Corporation can provide managers with reports in less time and offer greater insight into their customer data. Support staff previously spent two and a half days gathering and creating point-of-sale reports per store so managers would know which products to replenish. That time has been reduced to less than one day.

Creating a forecast report on items for upcoming seasons can be done in less than two days by one person; previously, three people would work on it for a week. The number of accounts that can be included in a forecast report for certain brands has increased from 10 to 100.

Alteryx also enables VF Corporation to analyze demographic information about potential customers. "It's important that you've done the best possible job of placing products on the floor," Garvey says. "We know which consumers—whether it' based on ethnicity, income, etc.—like specific products, and we can use that information to make recommendations on the product mix that goes into stores."

Having the ability to group customers according to various criteria is another benefit. The company's retail partners, according to Garvey, are "getting to the point where we can stratify our customers so that we can send them more focused information, whether it's through direct mail, e-commerce, or social [media messages]."

Alteryx has helped the direct to consumer department reduce marketing-related expenses by more than 50 percent compared with a previous software provider, Garvey estimates. Other departments have expressed interest in using Alteryx's analytical solutions as well.

Looking ahead, the goal is to apply more predictive analytics to site locations and other decisions, according to Garvey. "There's an old saying in retail that the first fifty doors are the easy ones," Garvey notes. "As you expand your footprint, you need to bring more science into the process. Retail has become both a science and an art."

The Payoff

Since using Alteryx to expand its CRM capabilities, VF Corporation has:

  • reduced time spent generating POS reports from 2.5 days to less than 1 day;
  • increased the number of accounts in certain forecast reports from 10 to 100; and
  • lowered marketing expenses in its direct to consumer department by more than 50 percent.

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