5 Ways Real-Time Data Helps Improve Grocery Margin Management

In an industry with such tight margins, grocery store managers seeking a competitive advantage are looking to Point of Sale (POS) data analytics to make better decisions. However, if you’re only looking at what’s happened in your store in the past, you’re missing a big part of the picture. There’s a lot more you can do when you have data available in real time to help you make decisions on the fly.

Margin management is easier with a real-time picture of what’s happening in your store.

Though real-time data is available in many retail systems, using it to make real-time decisions is relatively new to many grocery stores. As a result, many grocery managers are still making decisions based on analyzing past performance data. However, we see the idea of real-time data analytics evolving, and we expect it continue over the next decade. While some solutions exist today, the application of AI and Machine Learning technologies will also continue to grow. The data available will only get better, and when leveraged in real time, the decisions retailers make based on it will be stronger. In the meantime, though, here are some tips to allow today’s grocers improve margin management in the day-to-day operation of their stores.

Nimble changes to staffing and production

One of the keys benefits of real-time data is that it allows you to make adjustments based on what is actually happening in your store right now. While post-analytic data definitely has important applications in retail environments, it lets you make decisions based on something that has already happened. With real-time data you can make quick operational changes to staffing and production.

Do you have more customers in the store and longer checkout lines than usual? Real-time data lets you see when (and where) it is unexpectedly busy, allowing you to pull cashiers out of other departments and send them to the checkout lanes to keep customers moving. And in the deli department, real-time data can pinpoint which prepared food items aren’t selling well on a particular day, so you can halt any further preparation and prevent waste.

Pricing adjustments can be made on the fly

It’s difficult to make price adjustments while your store is open, because the price on the shelf must match the price in the POS. And it’s even more difficult to know if one of those adjustments is having the desired effect on sales. However, with solutions like TRUNO’s Electronic Shelf Labels (ESLs) (which are integrated into our TruCommerce middleware platform), you can update shelf prices and see the data flow through your back office, point of sale, and other retail systems. This let you test those changes in real time to see if they have the desired effect on sales.

Not every variable in a grocery store’s operations can be changed on a real-time basis. For instance, you can’t force more customers in the door this afternoon just because sales are slow for the day. However, testing price elasticity based on real-time data will let you raise or lower prices and stop leaving money on the table.

Reducing fraud and improving rewards programs

When you have real-time data updates to your POS system, simply eliminating the data lag time can cut down on incidents of fraud. For instance, data that’s instantly updated prevents a customer from buying an item at one store at one price then returning it to another for a higher price, making money on the transaction.

Real-time data synchronization also helps prevent promotions fraud. When systems are batch-updated at the end of the day, a customer might use a one-time promotion at multiple stores, instead of just once as was intended. But when the database is updated in real time, coupons only work once as they’re intended.

In addition, real-time data synchronization with loyalty or rewards points has a positive impact on customer service. Customers like to see their rewards updated right away after a purchase.

Keeping stock on the shelves

Though not yet available everywhere, there’s a highly anticipated way to keep shelves stocked that will likely become commonplace over the next decade. Keeping product on the shelve is an obvious way to improve margins—after all, shoppers can’t buy what’s not there. What’s less obvious is that, with real-time inventory and POS data, you can keep track of stock on the shelves, without an employee having to periodically walk the aisle to spot check. These inventory applications can notify personnel when the last item has been taken and that it needs to be replenished.

Identify issues before they become a problem

Active helpdesk monitoring and remote systems management are another way to use real time data within a grocery store. TRUNO’s helpdesk software utilizes the data from the store equipment in real time and alert you if something is wrong—or even just out of the ordinary. For instance, it might tell you definitively that a lane is down, or it might let you know that an end of day process didn’t run, alerting you to check them out. When monitored by help desk personnel, it can trigger scheduling a maintenance call before the store manager or IT staff are even aware of the problem.

While some of these features will become more common in the future, most of them are available right now for grocers to implement in their stores. With up-to-date POS software, it’s easy to start taking advantage of how using real-time data can help improve margins in your store.

TRUNO can give you the real-time data you need to protect your bottom line.

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