MarineMax, (NYSE: HZO), the largest recreational boat retailer in the United States, is using IBM business analytics to streamline operational planning, improve decision-making, and enforce more consistent, collaborative information access across the company. Since implementing the solutions, the retailer has been able to cut inventory costs, improve return on marketing spending, and reduce overall planning cycles from months to just a few weeks, among other benefits.
Over the past decade, MarineMax has experienced tremendous growth. Today, the company can be found in 55 locations across the United States, with a multi-channel retail model that includes showrooms, catalogs, a call center and a full-service online presence. With this expansion came the need for stronger, more collaborative information management across the enterprise. Previously, critical data was trapped in many disparate spreadsheets and systems, making it very difficult for business leaders and frontline employees to access and share information on sales, costs and inventory.
With IBM business analytics software in place, MarineMax has benefited from significant operational efficiencies across all levels of the company. Store managers now capitalize on self-service reporting and faster access to their store performance, helping them make better decisions about their merchandising and promotions. Finance is able to enforce a more consistent company-wide budgeting process to ensure forecast accuracy, and can focus on long-term planning and strategic performance analysis. Additionally, senior executives gain a holistic, real-time view of historical, current and projected enterprise performance to ensure company objectives are always on target.
A more efficient budgeting, forecasting and analysis process was, in fact, the primary driver for the new IBM system. Prior solutions were unstable and lacked key functionality such as re-forecasting, and “what if” scenario modeling to determine the impact of business decisions. With IBM, operational units across MarineMax can now easily work together from the same numbers to build integrated budgets and plans – a process that today only takes weeks instead of months – and evaluate performance against plans.
These new-found forecasting efficiencies were especially critical in the area of demand planning. Generally, global retailers experience lead times as long as 6 to 10 months, forcing them to make substantial bets on inventory, consumer trends and economic conditions. This challenge is magnified in the world of retail boating, where inaccurate commitment planning of luxury boats can inflate inventory costs. Using IBM business analytics, MarineMax can tap into multiple years of sales history, enabling managers to better understand customer demand trends and more confidently establish future commitments, adjusting forecasts throughout the year based on sales activities.
Similar efficiencies have been experienced in the Marketing department. MarineMax participates in hundreds of key marketing and sales events every year, such as boat shows, which require considerable labor and material resources to run effectively. IBM analytics provides marketing executives stronger visibility into the true cost and return on investment of each event. By easily identifying top and bottom performing events, MarineMax can focus efforts only on those events that drive greater returns, and has reduced their annual marketing costs significantly while still maintaining industry leading market share.
IBM also underpins the company’s Management By Objectives (MBO) program for employee performance, which helps employees clearly understand corporate objectives and identify their individual or team responsibilities. Using IBM technology, store managers can establish individual goals, monitor team member performance, take corrective measures when necessary, then roll information up to the store, region and company levels to quickly determine the impact on payroll.
“IBM business analytics and performance management is helping us achieve a smarter and more efficient operational model,” said Jeremy Wilson, Vice President of Information Technology at MarineMax. “The company is now better able to strengthen collaboration between finance, human resources, marketing, and store operations, ensuring MarineMax remains agile in responding to market challenges, capitalizing on new opportunities and providing the best shopping experience for our customers.”
In the retail world, success is premised on building customer loyalty and trust by getting the right product into the hands of the consumer at the right time. Yet every year, the retail industry loses $93 billion in missed sales due to not having the right products in stock.
“IBM analytics helps chains like Marine Max eliminate inefficiency and align supply with demand, putting them in a stronger position to better serve the new breed of empowered consumer,” said Patricia Vekich Waldron, worldwide distribution sector executive at IBM.
This effort with MarineMax reflects IBM’s focus on helping retailers use their information as a strategic asset. IBM recently created a new Business Analytics & Optimization services organization, with 4,000 consultants who can help clients get up and running with deep analytics capabilities, and made significant acquisitions in the analytics space such as the recent $1.2 billion acquisition of SPSS and the $4.9 billion purchase of Cognos in 2008.
MarineMax’s analytics and performance management system includes IBM Cognos BI and IBM Cognos Planning, IBM Infosphere Master Data Management Server, IBM Websphere Commerce and IBM Websphere DataStage.