In the early phases of e-commerce, people saw the Internet has a way to expand their choices and find the best price on big-ticket items—while still routinely going to the store for the daily essentials. As time goes on, this paradigm seems to be reversing itself. People are increasingly buying basic household items through Amazon, while going to a brick-and-mortar store for their big-ticket items so they can see the products and services for themselves before making a final decision. With increased convenience and choices come increased expectations for the value offered by products and services. Making the wrong decision for one’s phone, TV, gaming platform, car, or bigger pieces of furniture can be a regret that one must live with for years. And so, people are more motivated to visit a brick-and-mortar store for these and other items.

As such, many of today’s Big Companies have transformed more of their floor space from inventory displays to showroom floors and an interactive customer experience, while also offering many or all of their products through delivery from their distribution centers. Newer planogram and inventory management technologies allowed these retailers to analyze the dynamic effects associated with adopting an integrated approach to their retail sales model and how to best use their in-store inventory and assets.

Data Reporting and Planogram Compliance

Planogram technology—even in its traditional role of modeling the placement of retail products on shelves to maximize sales—is still as important as ever. More so. In addition to floor planning and range planning software that have been around for years, today’s retail industry is using more powerful data technologies for analyzing the performance of individual products within product categories as well as niche categories within broader categories. Which products benefit most from being featured on particular shelves? Which products hardly benefit at all from being on the retail floor? What products don’t benefit directly from being featured but which increase overall sales through related products? Take a look at this example of category management software to get a glimpse into the types of nested product information that can be reported on an easily viewable dashboard display.

To be sure, it’s not just about the data collection and mining. It’s also the data reporting and actionable intelligence. Especially when it comes to planogram compliance. Image recognition software can be used to create automated reports for planogram compliance. Store associates will know when store shelves or retail displays need attention. Visual merchandising managers can track planogram compliance remotely. Supply chain managers will know when products are under- or over-performing. Even newer planogram and merchandising technologies are turning the cameras around and using facial recognition software to measure customers’ eye movement across the shelves to optimize sales and inventory management.

Competition and Integration

Too often, today’s retail sector is described as the unstoppable march of e-commerce capturing an ever-increasing market share. But this isn’t really reflected in the data anymore. Even as some legacy retail brands go bankrupt in the rise of e-commerce, brick-and-mortar sales have stabilized and been positive for many years now, increasingly in lockstep with e-commerce sales trends.

The competition has also spurred plenty of innovation along the way. Price-matching guarantees seem so commonplace today that it’s easy to forget how relatively new they are. Digital Commerce 360 offers this reminder that it was only in 2012 that Best Buy’s newly minted CEO, Hubert Joly, made a price-matching guarantee policy one of his very first actions. “Customers who entered the store to personally try out the product felt empowered to buy on the spot—thanks to the guarantee. Further, he carved out showroom space for big brands, including Apple, Microsoft and Samsung so vendors could interact with customers.”

More and more, e-commerce and brick-and-mortar retail stores are evolving together. Recent trends show momentum toward a more complete integration of e-commerce and brick-and-mortar retail. More traditional retailers than ever have a robust e-commerce operation, while Amazon has shown increasing commitment to, and value in, establishing brick-and-mortar stores.

Planogram Tech Finding Applications in More Sectors

Beyond its role as a defining force in retail, planogram and merchandising technology are demonstrating their value in other sectors of the economy. For healthcare, for real estate, for hospital and entertainment venues, merchandising and other display strategies help these industries get more value from their available space. Even as many shopping malls are struggling to survive, commercial real estate prices have surged over the last several years, putting additional pressure on companies to optimize and monetize their space.