DemandTec Whitepaper: Best Practice Implementing Advanced Proce Optimization Solutions
The DemandTec ExperienceBest Practices in Implementing Advanced PriceOptimization Solutions
1 The DemandTec ExperienceOverviewA published AMR Research report asserts that retailers who implement a price optimization solution canexpect, on average, a 1-3% increase in sales, a 0-1% increase in unit volume, and a 2-5% improvementin margin. In retailers that have deployed DemandTec and followed our best practices approach toimplementation have achieved these benefits, as well others including better price image, clearer insightinto impact of pricing changes, and alignment between strategy and action. This whitepaper highlightsthese additional benefits and the best practices in pricing that have helped to deliver them.Best Practice #1: Cleansing Your DataPart of the process of implementing a price optimization solution involves cleansing data so that you getbetter results. While laborious, this process brings many benefits. Most retailers feel that they havesome minor data issues, but feel good overall about the state of their data. However, price optimizationimplementations almost always highlight previously hidden data issues such as missing size information,the wrong product families, and incorrect cost information. Each data issue can cost a retailer money.For example, when one retailer first loaded its data, DemandTec found a Known Value Item (KVI) with thewrong competitive data. The company the retailer used to check its competition had recorded apromotional price instead of a base price. With the retailer’s legacy system, the retailer would havematched that low price and lost a lot of money. DemandTec reports showed competitive outliers to makesure that did not happen anymore. DemandTec and the retailer also set up pricing rules so that if anybad competitive data were to slip through, no price would fall below cost.Many retailers consider data cleansing part of the price you have to pay to deploy price optimization. Thisis true, but when evaluating this cost, you want to make sure you take into account the extended benefitsof running your business on accurate data.Hidden Benefit: Running your business on accurate data.Best Practice #2: Align Strategy and ExecutionA key process in implementing pricing solutions is mapping category roles with the intent and goals for thecategory. Many retailers have formal category role names, such as “traffic builder,” “profit generator,” and“convenience,” and these goals usually map neatly into the optimization goals built into the DemandTecsolution, such as “maximize profit,” “maximize revenue,” or “maximize volume.” However, for someretailers, how each category is aligned with a category role is sometimes an open question. Often, muchof this information is stored only in managers’ heads, stashed away in research studies, or hidden inpresentation slides. The implementation process can act as a catalyst to align category managers and
The DemandTec Experience 2pricing managers with the role of each category to ensure that all of the merchants are “singing from thesame songbook.”Hidden Benefit: Increase business alignment by providing an opportunity to articulate strategicobjectives.Best Practice #3: Give Merchants More FreedomDemandTec’s price optimization solution enables retailers to achieve goals such as maximizing profit,while constraining prices by a series of rules, such as allowable last digit rules, line price rules, and pricezone rules. Often, retailers can easily translate the pricing rules from their legacy systems into rules inthe DemandTec solution because DemandTec rules are written in plain, everyday English with a fill-in-the-blanks structure. The sheer number of rules in the rules library also provides retailers with greaterflexibility and more granularity in pricing scenarios than was previously possible. For pricing teams, thisnew power and flexibility also provides them with the opportunity to step back and think more strategicallyabout their approach to pricing. Many pricing analysts find that they no longer need to makecompromises in their pricing strategies. They are now free to investigate new pricing tactics such as “buymore, save more” tiered pricing.Hidden Benefit: A more flexible pricing tool empowers retailers to use pricing more strategically toachieve goals.Best Practice #4: Take on the Competition without Going Head-to-Head on PriceSome retailers follow fairly simple, rigid, competitive pricing strategies. For example, they would matchthe price of image items with their strongest competitors in each zone, and price all other items within20% of the competition. While this type of approach is very easy to implement, it limits flexibility andessentially allows competitors to dictate prices. DemandTec allows retailers to take a more sophisticatedapproach that enables them to achieve margin goals and become more competitive on pricesimultaneously. For example, a retailer could use DemandTec’s volume-weighted CPI (Competitive PriceIndex) rules to stay within 10% of its competition at the category level. The flexibility of volume-weightingallows the optimization engine to bring individual item prices above or below this 10% collar to improvemargin, and at the same time, maintain greater competitiveness for the category as a whole. In manycases, retailers that originally planned to retain their existing CPI strategy prior to using DemandTec, laterrealized the power of DemandTec’s volume-weighted CPI rules and made them a core part of theircompetitive pricing strategy.Hidden Benefit: Increased competitiveness without sacrificing margin.
3 The DemandTec ExperienceBest Practice #5: Understand Price ElasticitiesBefore choosing DemandTec, retailers’ pricing teams may have had some understanding of the priceelasticities of their categories through third party research, but most had little understanding of theelasticities of each item. Merchants usually were aware of common cross-elasticity effects with some oftheir items, such as the sale of hotdogs driving the sale of buns, but often this kind of knowledge did notfactor into their decisions. A better understanding of cross-elasticity effects can help improve pricingstrategies. Today, with a single click, DemandTec customers can graphically view how a change in theprice of each item would affect unit volume, revenue, and profit for the item and the line. This capabilitynot only allows merchants to quickly understand how elastic an item is in order to make better pricingdecisions, merchants can also incorporate this capability in making other decisions, such as which itemsin a line should be slated to appear in a flyer or on an endcap. With DemandTec, all of a merchantsdifferent pricing scenarios can incorporate cross-elasticity effects. DemandTec provides retailers with amore granular and more precise understanding of shopper behavior that can give them a competitiveedge.Hidden Benefit: Gaining a clear understanding of price elasticities provides insight into consumerbehavior that allows retailers to make better decisions and more accurate forecasts across the board.Best Practice #6: Make Pricing Analysts a Strategic Resource to MerchantsAt the beginning of a price optimization project, buyers and category managers sometimes have concernsthat their experience will somehow become less valued, and that they might lose power or control to thenewly empowered pricing team with its new solution. In general what we have seen is that categorymanagers retain overall authority for the strategy and prices in a category, and are now able to rely onpricing managers to develop alternative scenarios for them to consider and review.Within the pricing team, there is often a shift in the required skill set. Before implementing DemandTec,pricing analysts typically have spent a large portion of their time performing administrative and clericaltasks. With the implementation of a price optimization solution, many of these traditional tasks areeliminated, freeing up pricing analysts to focus on conducting and interpreting analyses. Time and again,we have seen that pricing team members may also now feel that their role is more satisfying and morerewarding than before.Hidden Benefit: Because pricing is a more strategic function within an organization, members of thepricing team typically have higher job satisfaction.
The DemandTec Experience 4Best Practice #7: Tame the “Domino Effect” in Price ChangesPrice maintenance is a challenge at most retailers, even when prices are relatively stable. Amanufacturer’s price advance is like a snowball touching off an avalanche. A cost increase on one itemcould affect the price of the entire line. This could then misalign size relationships since a retailer couldnow be charging more per ounce for larger sizes than smaller ones. Then, the carefully structured pricegaps of a retailer’s good-better-best price tiers could be altered. It often does not take much to set off achain reaction. The flood of cost increases retailers saw in early 2008 led many retailers to re-prioritizepricing projects. DemandTec consultants work closely with merchants to configure their solutions’ pricemaintenance capabilities. Rather than bluntly setting the maximum number of price changes that couldoccur in a given week, the combined team works together to set individual and cumulative thresholds todictate what criteria will trigger price changes on the shelves. The DemandTec solution also providesmerchants with advanced capabilities to selectively override price recommendations and help themunderstand the impact of choosing not to approve a suggested price change. Some members of a pricingteam may be skeptical initially about some of the early price change recommendations the systemsuggests, but they quickly come to trust and rely on these recommendations when they’re able to seewhat sparked a recommendation and what the impact will be on the overall category.Hidden Benefit: Better able to evaluate the impact of pricing changes and when and how often tomake them.Best Practice #8: Measuring Success“How do we know that the system is working?” As retailers evaluate price optimization solutions, thisquestion comes up repeatedly. Some retailers consider taking a test and control approach, but manyultimately decide that this is a time consuming, expensive, and flawed approach. They often decide thatthey do not have the resources, and sometimes believe that they would have trouble creating a crediblecontrol group given the nature of their competition. Instead of test and control methodologies, manyretailers depend on DemandTec’s Merchandising Decomposition Analysis (MDA), which provides acomprehensive, statistical decomposition of historical volume by isolating base volume, seasonality, andincremental lift from pricing and merchandising tactics. Not only does this approach help documentsuccess, but routinely tracking success can also help identify when you have gone off course and need tore-optimize a category. The results provided by this capability allow you to improve your performance,and are key in maintaining executive support and building confidence in a project.Hidden Benefit: Improved results by routinely tracking and course-correcting.
5 The DemandTec ExperienceSummaryThe improvements most retailers see in revenue, volume, margin, and price image have been welldocumented, but the value retailers see in improving their processes and improving efficiency are equallyvaluable to many retailers. This whitepaper highlights many of the common benefits associated with animplementation, but each retailer also sees its own unique sources of value. To help you betterunderstand the impact of a price optimization implementation at your company, please contactDemandTec at 1-888-676-3636.