Operating by Exception to Gain a Competitive Edge during the Pandemic

December 10, 2020 in Operations

Operating by Exception to Gain a Competitive Edge during the Pandemic

We’re optimists here at Taiga and we believe that the forthcoming Covid vaccines will put us on track for a swift recovery. In the near term, however, we’re not out of the doghouse yet. Certain parts of the country are seeing a dramatic increase in new cases, and as a result, new restrictions are being issued at the state, county and city level every day. These restrictions have a direct impact on customer behavior and the results may be different at each location.

During the lockdown in March, we learned that there are too many variables to accurately predict the impact that Covid was having at the local store level. The most successful chains used Business Intelligence to quickly identify changes in customer behavior, and then carefully measure the results of their adjustments. The timeliness of their information was critical because reports that were months or weeks old would not have allowed them to keep up with the rapidly evolving situation.

Storekeep is affordable Business Intelligence software that was designed for small and mid-sized c-store chains. It uses real-time integration and advanced artificial intelligence to identify the “exceptions” in your customers’ behavior immediately and prompt you with actionable alerts so that you can adapt in real-time. StoreKeep’s integration is so robust that when a transaction occurs at a store, it is visible to within our system in two minutes.

Here are four examples of how StoreKeep users utilize real-time analysis to manage by exception to adapt before their competition:

1. Stay Effective while Operating Remotely

Covid has made remote operations a challenge for almost every business. StoreKeep users have access to real-time sales reports, inventory analysis, competitive fuel prices and wetsock inventory from anywhere on any device. Real-time visibility at every store enables them to be 100% effective from anywhere – even when stores that are hundreds of miles apart!

2. Understand Changes in Customer Traffic

Storekeep is constantly watching your traffic patterns on the forecourt and in-store while looking for changes. A client recently shared with us a story about how their city temporarily required that all bars and restaurants to close early. They used StoreKeep to understand how their customer traffic patterns had changed and then made adjustments to their staffing to optimize their customers’ experience. StoreKeep provides many other insights from customer traffic data including real-time alerts when a line is forming at the register.

3. Monitor Sell Through Rates and Avoid Stockouts

Storekeep’s artificial intelligence tracks the sell through rate of every product at a store looking for real-time “exceptions”. For example, the system can detect when a high-volume product has stopped selling and alert the store manager to check for an empty shelf or an obstruction. Storekeep can also detect and alert staff members when a product is selling faster than usual and will need to be replenished early. Covid driven changes in customer demand continue to catch c-store operators by surprise. Early detection can make the difference between profit and loss.

4. Watch Your Top 50 Products in Real-time

Storekeep provides a straightforward report that allows our clients to view their top 50 products by revenue, margin or sales volume in real-time. The report identifies how each product is moving up or down the list. Each product on the list is also linked to deeper analysis like market basket, brand, category, and product set information. While many store managers know their top 5 products, it’s game-changing for them to see their top 50 in real-time.

One additional item that I would like to mention is that over the last two weeks, I’ve seen several articles about the increased risk of Covid spreading at supermarkets. I believe that these articles will accelerate a customer trend that we identified back in April. Simply stated, a large number of supermarket customers have started shopping at c-stores because they perceive them as a safer and more convenient alternative to the long lines and crowded aisles of the supermarket. The temporary circumstances of Covid are driving these new shoppers to c-stores so it is imperative to convert them into loyal customers. Stay on top of your sanitary practices, keep your stores well-lit and make sure that you have hand sanitizer at the counter. Most importantly, identify the products that these new customers are looking for and make sure that you have them on your shelves. Our analysis tells us that this group represents 25% of your customers and their average basket is about $25. In-store sales have performed well during the pandemic and this is one of the key reasons why.

Now that we’re into the holiday season, I hope it will continue to be busy and prosperous four our industry. We expect the strong in-store sales trend to continue through the end of the year. If you can find 20 minutes to spare, I would be happy to give you a guided tour of StoreKeep. As always, we welcome your feedback so please, don’t be shy.