Identifying winning merchants – a retailer’s story

  • August 6th, 2019

With the onslaught of e-tailers and omni-channel experience, physical stores are faced with multiple challenges, especially when it comes to executing a strong merchandising campaigns. Data deluge, accountability, competition, technological advancements, and arduous process involved in merchandising add to the vows. Ensuring in-store opportunities are not lost and the realization of the fact that the merchandising decisions influence marketing, supply-chain, sales and customer experience will be crucial.

So then, how can retailers make informed business decisions that will positively impact its profitability margins, while still maintaining customer loyalty and acquisitions? Which merchandise is performing better than the other? What must retailers do so as to get a complete view of the business problems and its inter-relations? These were some of the questions that led to one of the world’s largest retailer partnering with Mu Sigma – a need to transform data 

Here is a walkthrough of the Mu Sigma client engagement, in the words of the team that made it possible for the retailers to make decisions through relevant data.


While this largest US retailer came to us with the problem, one thing that was quite evident was that it is going to be challenging and would require a different perspective to solve the problem. Monitoring the consumer behavior and dealing with the over-complexity in the retail merchandising process is crucial to raise the business performance and it was not going to be easy. Therefore, in order to bridge this gap, decision scientists at Mu Sigma had to figure out the solution to help the client that could transform and simplify the retail merchandising execution influences.

In 2009, one of the largest retail client reached out to us with a request to build a tool that could give them a 360-degree view of the merchandise performance and provide insights on request as they did not possess a unique platform to monitor the performance of individual merchandise. The frequent business questions around performance measurement of a Merchandise from clients set off the request to forge the product that could help them take intuitive decisions with informed metrics on a single dashboard.


“For the dashboard to be consumable, we had to arrive at a common set of Performance Indicators which would help each merchandise manager assess the health of their respective portfolios. Interviewing the end users helped us, and we designed a product which helped different teams objectively analyze and compare portfolio performance”, says Amit who manages multiple engagements for retail merchandising operations analytics team.

Also, repetitive trend of request was observed while working with the retailer which triggered to bring up the more effective solution coupled with technology and data. It had to work effectively on the below mentioned three areas.

  • Identifying the Key Performance Indicators (KPI)
  • Developing an end-to-end strategic dashboard showcasing the KPI metrics
  • Incorporating the feedback in an iterative manner to make the dashboard more useful

Taking all these challenges under consideration, a tool had to be built that could cater us a clear picture to take relevant decisions based on collected data.

Our Approach:

After evaluating the challenges, a 5 member team in 2009 clinched on making an analytical tool that could answer repetitive business questions and cater a simplified glimpse of the relevant data on a single dashboard. The rigorous brainstorming and analysis among the growing team gave birth to OASIS, a BI interface that would precisely assess the performance and help the client get observational insights instantaneously across distinct merchandising categories. This dashboard was prepared to answer the common business questions across different business verticals, categories and departments with competent efforts and time.

OASIS consisted of two interfaces – POS View, which compiles the selected merchandise within a period of 13-52 weeks and represents it in YoYs, Sales, Quantity, Visits, Sales per store, Visits per store, Quantity per store metrics along with providing a comparison within different merchandising categories.

Traced View, where the user can select different merchandise in the product hierarchy and compare its performance across different demographics. It reports the proportion of household *********** and also the percentage of POS data.

This intellectual interface catered the client with actionable business performance insights across different merchandise levels.

“It let the business managers as well as executives, make informed decisions by representing the merchandise performance and consumer behavior at a self-service platform. This helped them save huge amount of time and efforts to deliver instantaneous insights across different merchandising categories.” says Adarsh, ADL of Walmart.

Now, this team has all grown to a 90 member team providing the competent solutions at different segments, performing deep dive analysis on various problems where the retailer wants to make informed decisions through actionable insights. From a small 5 member team to one of the largest team at Mu Sigma, the journey wasn’t a bed of roses. There were numerous challenges that had to be dealt and solutions discovered around it.

Major Takeaways:

It is a unique tool, one of its kinds which can help all the merchants to track their respective merchandise performance and help them identify the type of customers preferring individual merchandise. It has significantly dealt with the problem and enabled the buyers and merchandise managers to answer common business questions across any merchandising categories and levels within few clicks.

It has not only saved generous amount of efforts and time but have left lot of time to perform deeper analysis on request. This has enormously helped the client to perform quick business decisions by minimizing the time latency between the business events and decisions.

There is always a scope to think beyond what the client needs. We analyzed the historical trend of questions asked by the retailer and found some similarities to develop these kind of advance analytical tools. This will not only help them in answering repetitive business questions in a seamless manner but also help them to focus on deep-dived analysis for any anomalies with their performance.” says the winning team with delight.

Hence, such a great success made it quite evident that this team at Mu Sigma has paved the challenging road with utmost adherence and commitment towards finding the ideal solution to the critical business events.

Client’s Acknowledgement:

Our client realize that we produce a competent in-depth analysis and discover the problem to create a suitable solution.

In their words, “It has reduced a lot of ad-hoc work that we were doing. We should probe into more places where we could implement similar solutions?”

It’s an empowering feeling for Mu-Sigmans to go beyond the maximum and explore the opportunities in this huge pool of big data and analytics while delivering a competent solution.