• Joanne Neidorf

Results From Our Survey: Comparison of Cross-Functional Interaction

Merchant Insight Consulting conducted an online survey asking retail professionals worldwide how frequently they meet with others in their organization as well as how often they visit stores, visit websites, meet with vendors, etc. For survey highlights on cross-functional meeting frequency, see our blog post from January 11, 2018. For survey highlights on the frequency of meeting with individuals in one's reporting structure and other activities, see our blog post from January 15, 2018.

The survey captured forty-two responses from people representing more than thirteen different functions, with Merchandise Planning, Merchandising/Buying/Category Management and Product Development & Sourcing (PD&S) making up 50% of the respondent pool.

Three functions appear on all versions of this "Top 5" list:

  • Merchandising/Buying/Category Management

  • Merchandise Planning

  • Supply Chain & Logistics

These are the functions that have the highest level of cross-functional interaction as measured in meeting frequency.

Next, we can surmise that most functions must be interacting fairly regularly with IT as they make it into the top 5 overall, despite not being in the top 5 for Merchandise Planning, Merchandising or PD&S (our most common survey takers).

Finally, Visual Merchandising and Marketing are much more likely to be interacting with Merchandising than with either Merchandise Planning or PD&S.

Now let's look at the functional areas with the least interaction with our survey takers:

Here there is much less consistency vs. the Top 5. This likely reflects that each organization's structure and current priorities impact which functional areas become more isolated from vs. integrated with the others.

There are still a number of conclusions we an draw, however. First, Visual Merchandising appears in the "Bottom 5" list of every grouping except Merchandising/Buying/Category Management. And as we just saw, it's in the Top 5 for individuals in that function. So clearly the primary link is between those two functions.

Interaction with Finance and Human Resources - two functions we know exist at all retailers - is also fairly infrequent. This certainly opens up the possibility that more interaction could be beneficial - both for individuals in those functions and throughout the organization.

One of the findings that surprised us was how relatively infrequently both Merchandising/Buying/Category Management and Merchandise Planning are meeting with their Stores/Store Operations and Online/Digital teams. (0 = Never; 5 = More than once a week).

Merchandising/Buying/Category Management is meeting with these two functions less than monthly.

Merchandise Planning is doing slightly better - but frequency hovers around monthly for Online/Digital and between monthly and weekly for Stores/Store Operations.

We are surprised because the Stores and Online/Digital functions are the most direct link to the customer that the merchandising team has. We expected to see more frequent meetings, as a marker of greater partnership and collaboration.

While meetings are not the only way to share and get access to customer insight, meeting frequency can be an indicator of overall connectivity and we expected to see both Merchants and Merchandise Planners more tightly linked to these critical customer-facing functions.

Final Thoughts and Considerations

Our survey, of course, has only covered the frequency of interaction and activities within these retail organization. Equally important are the quality of the interaction, as well as how well the functions operate as a seamless whole. Cross-functional understanding, collaboration and partnership do not solely depend on meeting in person, but meeting frequency is an indicator of which functions are most tightly linked and are therefore more likely to be sharing the right information at the right time.

Merchant Insight Consulting can help review your organization's unique structure, goals and current lines of communication to optimize interactions for better partnership and business outcomes.

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These are just a few of the insights from our survey. To request a full survey report, please contact us at info@merchant-insight.com

Improving cross-functional understanding and collaboration is an important element of Merchant Academy, a unique online training and development product designed to increase the effectiveness of retail Merchants and Merchandise Planners.

For more information, please email us at info@merchant-insight.com

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