The hardware industry has experienced an unexpected sales surge during the pandemic as homeowners find themselves with more time to attend to household repairs, maintenance, and DIY projects.

In addition to keeping up with increased customer demand and new social distancing rules, floor staff must monitor on-shelf availability of in-demand products. This is why the field marketing industry has stepped in to help retailers manage the COVID-19 situation and assist with stock replenishment.

Paul Gardiner, business development manager for hardware at retail marketing services company, Crossmark said business intelligence reporting and data analysis are more important than ever in current circumstances.

“Data insights can genuinely help brands to differentiate themselves during seasonal periods and times of unexpected change, as we are experiencing right now. Understanding consumer behaviour, and the categories that are trending within a defined timeframe allows brands to quickly react to market trends,” he said.

With more people becoming accustomed to spending time at home, retailers need to adapt to changing shopping habits and utilise data to inform business strategies and drive sales.

“To achieve the best possible outcome for our clients, we use four key sets of data that are scrutinised by our in-house business intelligence team who compare and analyse figures, identify trends and draw conclusions,” he said.

“These data collection points include the supplier’s monthly KPI reports, weekly inventory reports from a retailer, such as Bunnings, and Crossmark’s internal system that consists of more than 3.5 million data points from its clients. These figures are then overlaid with information from a range of other sources to help optimise instore executions for clients.”

Data analysis tracks trending information over time to help inform decisions regarding product on hand versus actual store volume. This provides the ability to ascertain quickly and easily which stores are carrying too little stock compared to the actual level of sales transactions or whether a store is carrying too much stock for too few sales.

“The insights we draw from analysing data allows us to create bespoke dashboard reports with detailed graphs that clearly demonstrate sales and product volume by store,” Gardiner said.

“This, in turn, tells us how and where we can make the most meaningful impact. Working with our business intelligence team can also identify sell-through opportunities and shape strategic outcomes for clients looking to increase sales within a specific category.”

Using data to set stock weights in-store increases the productivity of a brand’s inventory to help maximise sales. Field marketing representatives can tailor a brand’s range to a store’s local conditions by analysing inventory figures on a weekly basis. This flexibility can be based on changing requirements, such as the weather, current promotional activity or simply adjusting stock for stores that are underperforming.

“To ensure our clients have a good understanding of what’s happing at store level we also report on product gaps. This highlights how many out of stocks there were when our team entered the store, how many gaps they were able to close during their visit, and the reasons for any discrepancies.

“Suppliers looking to gain further detail about a market sector or competitor can implement an even deeper data insights program using a covert data collection and mystery shopping campaign. When used in conjunction with other reporting insights, retailers can benefit from strategies that inform product ranging, pricing and promotions.”