Abercrombie & Fitch forecasts regional product inventory and improves customer service from screen to store


Achieving self-service analytics culture across the enterprise
Integrating customer and merchandise data from 865 stores
Fulfilling customer demand with unified inventory view across stores and online

Abercrombie & Fitch is a leading global apparel and accessories retailer for men, women, and kids through three renowned brands. Merchandise planning for Abercrombie is critical; it’s the art and science of buying product and deciding where to place it across more than 865 global stores and outlets. To determine where to place merchandise, it’s important to accurately interpret customer demand. Abercrombie puts customers and their needs at the center of all they do, and with help from Tableau, they identify key metrics to make sure the right product is available when someone wishes to buy it. Providing a seamless experience between the store and online is first priority to deliver the quality, personal service that customers want.

Timeliness is critical to compete in retail and Abercrombie now better understands its merchandise product sales results, as Tableau Server facilitates nearly 6,000 queries across at least 600 people weekly.

Shifting to Tableau, the company is working to replace at least 80 percent of Excel spreadsheets used for analysis and arrive at product and customer insights faster. The company can now more quickly identify customer purchasing preferences by selling location. With this clarity and visibility, Abercrombie is reducing information silos and strategically moving to a holistic merchandising approach that supports a personalized, top-notch customer experience.

Customer service now has to be the center of everything we do, and we’ve got to be ahead of it before the customer even knows it. And Tableau is really making a difference in getting us there.

Omni-channel analytics enables stronger customer service and experience

Abercrombie works in the direct-to-consumer space with its hundreds of brick-and-mortar stores and outlets. For any retailer, placing inventory before demand is tricky. Retailers must accurately predict seasonal desired styles and features before a customer sees the product. If they predict incorrectly, it may mean overstock on shelves and in distribution centers or having product that doesn’t match customer preferences.

To create a seamless customer experience, all channels must act in unison: “We try to reach our customer through a full, omni-channel, unified platform so that they can shop who we are, anywhere that they are. We find that the customer who shops through multiple channels is our strongest customer,” explains Daniel Trimmer, Senior Manager of Product Facing Solutions.

Using Tableau, merchandising product teams can effectively track sales (size, color, and style), which helps in planning where to place inventory, as well as see what product is in or out of stock. There are shipped sales—sales that occur when a transaction is accounted for—and then there are demand sales—when a customer indicates their intent to buy online and creates demand. Tableau empowers the product teams to take a rear-facing view and alternate between ship or demand sales.

Tableau empowers the merchandise planning team to see sales and demand trends that were hard to previously visualize over time and by customer segment.

With a clearer picture of transactions and customer behavior, the company can take action on inventory immediately instead of waiting. Before Tableau, sales information was siloed, but having a complete view means faster time to insights and action, giving the company a competitive edge.

Today, the team combines product and customer data to determine common links between product and location, allowing the brand to skew product choice and assortments depending on the location of the customer. “To be able to see trends across time, look at them, and just the sheer amount of data, Tableau allows us to capture it, and as we place merchandising bets, find the anomalies that pop and react to them quickly,” adds Daniel.

We're moving people off Excel spreadsheets. We can create insights much faster and quickly make decisions across the business.

Abercrombie’s denim team uses Tableau to improve and localize product placement

With a growing business, flexing inventory levels, and more data to explore, the denim team at Abercrombie benefits from Tableau in their merchandising analysis. Customers like different fits, washes, and wear denim for varied occasions. They’ve observed that customer affinity for denim differs from store to store—even when they’re a few miles apart. But capturing that affinity is difficult.

Using Tableau, the denim team is making better decisions about the product sent to stores to anticipate what types of products would be most successful in each location. What used to be an informed guess about denim purchases is proven and validated with data. The denim and merchandising teams now see localized activity across all stores using Tableau visualizations. Combining this with customer data, they’re more accurately defining customers by store and attribute tracking (e.g. if they’re more causal, more relaxed). “It’s exciting. I think it’s creating a huge unlock across our business to take this denim model and fit it in with the rest of the organization.”

Teams have gone from report building to decision making.

Self-service analytics unlocks data exploration with IT support

As early Tableau adopters and Center of Excellence members, Product Facing Solutions (now Enterprise Business Solutions) serves as middlemen between IT and the business. They facilitate effective communication, help drive Tableau adoption and momentum, and work with data scientists to translate data through advanced analytics to achieve business outcomes. Their partnership across groups is shifting the company culture with data-driven decision making and Tableau as a complete enterprise solution. And they’re supported by a devoted team in IT who cleanse the data and ensure it’s consistently up to standards. “Our definition of governance, of how we look at data, has altered in a way. It used to be self-service—get whatever data you want, but we can’t guarantee where it came from—to now building standards and consistency around it,” shares Daniel.

Having data scientists at Abercrombie who also use Tableau with other complementary tools to analyze data and generate insights has enabled projects that started, but needed extra detail, to be completed. “We’ve been able to take good, core work that was done and polish it off in a way to deliver back to the business, so they can easily, intuitively understand what they need to do for their group” notes Daniel.

With data visualization in Tableau and the ability to drill into details, Abercrombie is bringing things full circle so action can be taken and next steps become clearer.

Evolving data culture enhances product development

The company has a line review process that involves collaboration between executives, business group leaders and product teams during a quarterly meeting to map out goals, understand strategic intent, and determine which products are on trend. Leaders used a set of reports during the meeting that analyzed product performance, but they hinged on using other business intelligence tools, pulling data into Excel, and having many people develop packets that were hundreds of pages long. They didn’t reflect up-to-the-minute information. This one-hour meeting required countless hours of preparation and reports proved ineffective when questions asked couldn’t be answered on the spot.

Abercrombie shifted their line review process reports to Tableau. They now prepare for leadership meetings in one-and-a-half days instead of several, and no longer make last-minute changes. With real-time, standard reports, executives and business leaders who want a top-level understanding can effectively act on the data and run the business more efficiently. “Teams have gone from report building to decision making,” explained Daniel.

Response by leadership to Tableau and the line review visualizations has been very positive. Just the amount of information that can be consumed in dashboards versus working in small slices of data created interest and enthusiasm. Staying competitive is a top priority, and with clearer insights in hand, leaders make strategic decisions to keep the brand moving forward successfully.

“We’re moving people off Excel spreadsheets on to things where you can actually create insights much faster and get speed to market on the decisions we’re making across the business,” says Daniel.

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