Thomas Paine was believed to have said, Lead, Follow or Get out of the Way. And legendary baseball player, Leroy "Satchel" Paige said, among many pithy quotes, "Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you." In this case, that "something" may be the use of real-time competitor monitoring in retail. This week Upstream Commerce unveiled a new tool in its Retail Intelligence Suite: Assortment Intelligence, a powerful tool allowing retailers to track assortment changes at competitors' websites in real-time, and adjust their own product-mix accordingly.
Here's what Upstream Commerce sees as the past, present, and future of retail intelligence:
* Yesterday and today, i.e. 2011-2012, many retailers don't do real-time competitive price and assortment tracking yet. If they do anything, they may track their competitors' prices and assortment once a month or each quarter, manually, or use basic scraping tools; it's very difficult to manage pricing of thousands of products this way; and many do eyeball analysis of competitors' prices and assortments.
* Today and tomorrow, i.e. 2012-2013, partial retail intelligence solutions will provide an important competitive edge for most retailers, who will use automated price tracking and comparison, some assortment tracking, and the retail intelligence will be integrated with analytics and eCommerce platforms.
* In 2013 and beyond, it will be impossible for retailers to do without a full Retail Intelligence Suite, as will be available from Upstream Commerce, for price, assortment, promotions, industry benchmarking, product life cycle, automated rule-based price changes, and the ability to make recommendations and predictions.
Here's what Marketoonist Tom Fishburne has to say about leading change, i.e. not looking in your rear view mirror to see who's gaining on you -- rather what retailers need to do to lead themselves into a successful future:
Fishburne says: "I was in a strategy discussion recently that became stuck in a competitive debate. We charted the minutiae of each recent competitive action and overdosed on two-by-two matrices. In the middle of this war-gaming, someone observed, “We’re trying to drive by the rear view mirror...”
Fishburne goes on to say: "...I most felt this competitive fever pitch in the Low Carb gold rush a few years ago. For a year, every food manufacturer set up Low Carb task forces to rush products to meet the earliest possible ship windows, worrying all the while that they might be too late. In 2000, there were 26 Low Carb products in the US. In 2003, there were 392. In 2004, there were 3,375. In 2005, the Atkins Company filed for Chapter 11. Brands hit the gas and followed each other off of a cliff.
I read once that a company can either become a rule breaker, a rule maker, or a rule follower. The only companies that succeed as followers are those with scale, lower cost, and higher efficiency, Fishburne writes, and then concludes: If you’re a rule breaker or rule maker, it’s good to remember to take your eyes off the rear view mirror and look to the horizon."
To get ahead in the ever-competitive world of online retail -- and stay ahead -- you need to lead. Those who start using retail intelligence systems early know the competitive landscape best and make the most well-informed, effective, profitable business decisions. Leading means succeeding -- not looking back to see what the competition's doing, or who or what's gaining on you.
PS Remember, objects in the mirror are closer than they appear!