Navigating Cost Volatility in Retail: An Industry Leader's Success Story

Learn how an industry leader is mastering cost volatility in grocery retail through innovative pricing strategies with Pricemoov. Discover actionable insights from this real-world success story.

Blog - Navigating Cost Volatility in Retail An Industry Leaders Success Story


Anya Policht


June 2024


7 minutes

In today's uncertain economy, cost volatility remains one of the most formidable challenges businesses face, particularly in the retail sector. The price rollercoaster can send retailers on a wild ride, impacting their pricing strategies, inventory management, and ultimately their bottom line. Understanding and managing cost volatility is crucial for retail businesses to maintain stability and profitability.

The recent webinar hosted by Pricemoov, featuring Samkaup, Iceland’s leading grocery retailer, provided profound insights into effective strategies to manage these cost fluctuations. This blog delves into the core lessons shared by industry leaders and outlines actionable strategies to master cost volatility. By staying ahead of the curve and having a proactive approach to cost management, retailers can minimize the negative effects of unpredictable costs, seize opportunities, and gain a competitive edge.



Understanding the dynamics of Cost Volatility

Frequent and significant fluctuations across various cost factors influence cost volatility in retail. These range from raw materials to labor costs, each affected by its own unique set of drivers. It is important to recognize these diverse factors to craft responsive pricing strategies that accommodate rapid market changes.

A prime example of volatility can be seen in the instability of raw material prices, which is often the first indication of upcoming fluctuations in retail pricing. Several factors contribute to this instability:

Climate Change: An unusually warm summer in Canada significantly impacted mustard seed production, resulting in a sharp 20% price increase in July 2022. Such environmental changes pose unpredictable challenges to supply chains and pricing models.

Political Events: The war in Ukraine has caused a notable shortage in flour production, leading to an average price increase of 25% for pasta in Europe. Political instability can, therefore, directly affect commodity prices and necessitate quick adjustments in retail pricing.

Supply Chain Tensions: Transportation costs have also played a critical role. For instance, fleet transportation costs from China to the EU escalated up to 250% in January 2024. Such dramatic shifts in transportation costs can heavily influence the final retail prices.

Consumer Behavior Changes: Strong inflation has led to shifts in end-customer decision-making, impacting demand dynamics and, consequently, pricing strategies in retail.

To illustrate how businesses have adapted to these challenges, consider the automotive industry. Before COVID-19, Michelin was known to update its prices bi-annually or once per season. However, the pandemic and subsequent market fluctuations have forced a significant shift in this approach. Michelin now adjusts its prices between six and ten times per year, reflecting the new norm across the industry. This increased frequency of pricing adjustments demonstrates the need for businesses to remain agile and responsive to external economic pressures.

These examples underscore the complex web of factors that contribute to cost volatility. By understanding these dynamics, retailers can better navigate market uncertainties, ensuring stability and continuity in their operations.



Samkaup's Evolution in Managing Cost Volatility

Samkaup has faced considerable challenges in adapting to the realities of cost volatility, a journey marked by significant transformations in its approach to pricing and inventory management. Gísli Tryggvi Gíslason, Project Manager at Samkaup, detailed the historical difficulties in managing price updates across multiple brands within a complex and fluctuating market environment.

Historically, the manual process of managing and optimizing prices at Samkaup was time-consuming and limited in scale. "We had to manually track competitors' price movements and target specific margin percentages," Gísli explained. This labor-intensive process involved manually scanning competitor prices, reviewing every supplier cost change received through various communication channels, and then creating multiple Excel engines to define prices. The reliance on outdated systems made it challenging to update prices dynamically, leading to a pressing need for digital transformation.

The transition towards a more agile pricing strategy was spearheaded by Pricemoov’s implementation, which Rakel Masdottir, Pricing Manager at Samkaup, describes as a pivotal shift towards responsive and transparent pricing. Rakel noted that the economic pressures of recent years led to observable changes in consumer behavior, with a noticeable trend towards lower-cost products. This shift necessitated a strategic reassessment of pricing and purchasing practices to align more closely with market demands and consumer expectations.

"As we prepared for the digital transformation with Pricemoov, we encountered several challenges that highlighted the inadequacies of our previous manual processes," Rakel said. The adoption of Pricemoov allowed Samkaup to establish structured rules for each pricing scenario that had previously been managed manually. This new approach has not only improved internal transparency but has also enhanced the speed and efficiency of price adjustments.

The current strategy involves a rapid response to frequent and significant supplier price changes—a stark contrast to the past. "We are now equipped to manage prices more quickly, producing a large number of price changes in a short amount of time, which is crucial given the pace of market changes today," Rakel added.

This evolution from manual to automated, data-driven processes exemplifies how Samkaup has successfully navigated the complexities of cost volatility. By leveraging Pricemoov’s intelligent pricing capabilities, Samkaup has transformed its pricing operations to become more agile, transparent, and aligned with current market conditions, ensuring they remain competitive and responsive to consumer needs.



Innovative Pricing Strategies to Combat Cost Volatility

Following a look at how Samkaup has transformed its approach to managing cost volatility, let's explore some broader strategies businesses can employ to adapt to similar challenges.


1. Embracing a Granular Approach

A granular pricing strategy allows businesses to adjust prices based on specific categories, accurately reflecting market conditions without overarching impacts. For instance, a retailer may choose not to profit from certain items that are strategically priced for competitive advantage, focusing instead on maintaining attractive key price points. Expanding on this strategy, it's essential to adapt pricing for different sales channels, each with unique customer bases and operational costs. For example, in France, in-store retail prices are typically about 15% higher than online prices due to the additional costs of physical operations and the value of immediate product availability.

Businesses can optimize revenue and customer satisfaction across each platform by customizing pricing strategies for websites, marketplaces, and physical stores. This tailored approach not only meets the financial and experiential needs of each channel but also strengthens a company's market position across diverse environments.


2. Leveraging Data-Driven Insights

Incorporating data-driven insights into the pricing strategy is another pillar of modern pricing. By closely monitoring competitors' pricing, understanding cost variations at the SKU level, and analyzing historical transaction data, businesses can anticipate market trends and adjust their pricing proactively. This approach helps mitigate the risks associated with sudden market shifts and ensures pricing strategies align with current market dynamics.


3. Centralizing Pricing Information

To effectively implement these strategies, it's essential to centralize pricing data in one datalake or data warehouse. With price adjustments becoming more frequent, having instant access to reliable, actionable data is crucial. Centralizing these resources helps ensure that decisions are informed by the most current information, enabling quick and accurate pricing actions.

By adopting these modern pricing practices, companies can enhance their agility in responding to cost fluctuations and ensure they remain competitive and responsive to consumer needs in a volatile market.



Investing in Modern Pricing Software

To fully leverage the benefits of granular pricing, data-driven insights, and data centralization, investing in modern pricing software becomes indispensable. As illustrated by Samkaup’s success story, integrating next-generation pricing software like Pricemoov can lead to significant improvements in pricing efficiency and accuracy. This technology not only streamlines the pricing process but also provides a competitive edge by enabling companies to maintain stable margins despite fluctuating input costs.

Modern pricing software such as Pricemoov offers sophisticated analytics capabilities, timely data processing, and seamless integration with existing ERP or CRM systems. This allows companies to implement dynamic pricing strategies with precision and ease. Such tools enable businesses to automate and streamline their pricing processes, reducing the reliance on manual calculations and outdated systems that cannot keep pace with market demands.

In Samkaup’s case, it has dramatically transformed how it manages pricing by adopting Pricemoov. Rakel shared that their decision-making process has shifted from intuition-based to data and rule-based, providing clear guidelines for each pricing scenario. This change has sped up the price management process and made it far more efficient by centralizing all the data previously spread across numerous Excel sheets.

Furthermore, the integration of Pricemoov has significantly enhanced the speed and efficiency with which Samkaup can access and act on pricing data. Especially in situations requiring quick reactions to market volatility, such as sudden changes in supplier costs or competitor pricing strategies, Pricemoov's accurate pricing recommendations allow Samkaup to stay ahead. The platform's advanced algorithms analyze incoming data continuously, suggesting price adjustments that can be swiftly implemented to respond to market changes. This agility is crucial for maintaining competitiveness and enhancing customer satisfaction as it ensures that prices reflect the latest market conditions, which price-sensitive customers especially appreciate during times of market volatility.

Beyond the immediate need for price adjustments, pricing software also helps craft flexible long-term strategies that adapt to ongoing market changes. With simulation testing features that facilitate scenario planning and impact analysis, businesses can foresee the potential outcomes of different pricing strategies and choose the most effective path forward. Investing in such technology ensures that a business remains agile, responsive, and competitive in a dynamically changing market landscape.



Looking Ahead: The Future of Pricing in Retail

Looking to the future, the webinar panelists discussed the increasing importance of data, technology, and agile methodologies in shaping retail pricing strategies. The ability to anticipate market trends and react promptly will define the success of retail businesses. Advanced analytics and predictive modeling will further enhance the capability of pricing software, making it an indispensable tool for retailers.

The expert insights shared underscore a clear message: embracing innovative pricing strategies and cutting-edge technologies is no longer optional but necessary. As retail businesses continue navigating the complexities of cost volatility, the lessons from industry leaders like Samkaup offer valuable guidance. If you’re looking to delve deeper into this topic, exploring the comprehensive strategies outlined in our eBook can provide further enlightenment.

For those ready to take the next step in mastering cost volatility, we invite you to explore our solutions at Pricemoov and contact us to learn how our pricing software can transform your business operations.

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