Retailers’ Strategic Planning Process

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Strategic planning, a critical management activity, cannot logically be separated from assessment of opportunity. It plays a crucial role in retail sector used as a coordinated effort in order to adjust and balance its resources, and produce programs of logical action. Since marketing executives are faced with the necessity of utilizing scarce capabilities and resources in limited periods of time, allocation is a major problem.

Effective allocation can only be achieved, however, through planned behavior. By enabling the conservation and allocation of human and physical resources, marketing planning provides the basic means for designing the marketing mix, implementing marketing programs, and establishing new marketing objectives. Although finance and production have long been planned, marketing activity has not. Often it has been performed rather haphazardly. The emphasis on planning of marketing operations (which is new, and has been stimulated by the marketing management concept) is now widely applied.

Strategic planning is concerned with predetermining courses of marketing action. It is based on both marketing intelligence and the assessment of opportunities, since it deals with the future in respect to both perspectives and operations. Marketing programming and marketing action are its major objectives, which are achieved through organizational implementation (Bradford et al 34). Two general approaches to marketing planning exist: a deterministic or general formula approach, and a dynamic approach. The former, a rather static approach, usually details the marketing planning procedure as follows:

  1. determine objectives or goals;
  2. set up a plan to achieve them; and
  3. control the elements to make sure they conform to the plan.

The sequence is goals, plans, and control. This approach ignores the realities of marketing situations (Bryson 32). The dynamic approach stresses that retailers should plan for change. It underscores the fact that plans are not merely the results of objectives, but that plans affect objectives. The goals and objectives can be changed, as can the plans. Changes in market opportunities, for example, result in changes in company objectives and hence changes in marketing planning. In addition, a company might purposely set out to change its marketing plans in the sense of improving them (Bradford et al 35).

For retailers, planned activity is goal-directed and achieves a more efficient expenditure of marketing resources. Strategic planning necessitates classification of a company’s goal or objective; but recently there has been a change in the perception of planning (Bryson 31). A company first specifies goals and then develops plans to carry them out, thus being able to achieve the goals. Goals thereby determine plans -plans are ways of reaching goals.

Another dimension of the relationship between goals and plans stems from the fact that an organization does not have a single corporate goal; it has multiple goals. Thus, a decision that at first appears to be a compromise among conflicting goals actually creates a major-goal. This goal is the weighted average of all corporate goals rather than a single goal. As the basic vehicle for matching ends with means, or marketing resources with market opportunity, marketing planning becomes the mechanism through which a company is brought into line with the external environment (Dunne and Lusch 135).

Planning is an essential function of marketing management, which has a forward-looking, integrated, and balanced view of total action. Marketing planning encompasses the perspective of the future, the types of objectives established, and the strategies and tactics to be employed. Through marketing planning, the fundamental strategies of the business enterprise are conceived on the basis of market needs, forces, and opportunities; and marketing is implemented as a philosophy of business operation and a way of corporate life (Bryson 39).

It is evident that the planning of marketing involves

  1. corporate values and objectives;
  2. the appropriate personnel;
  3. personal values and objectives;
  4. marketing opportunities;
  5. marketing barriers;
  6. the business organization and its resources;
  7. the time horizon and space dimension (Dunne and Lusch 131).

All of these factors must be combined in an integrated network of activities. In each company subsystem, concessions must be made in order to achieve a unified plan. Temporal and spatial relations are particularly important. The major goal of marketing programming is programming the marketing mix. It balances marketing resources and marketing inputs in terms of the communication mix, distribution mix, and product and service mix previously described. Marketing programming is, then, a process of devising or arranging the correct order in which various mixes should be initiated and completed, based on flexible application, evaluation, and revision. It bears on the sequence of marketing operations in which the outcome of preceding operations govern future ones (Dunne and Lusch 139).

Since various divisions or functions of business are highly interdependent, marketing activities are also interdependent, and since manufacture customer relations are intertwined, programming becomes a necessary activity (Dunne and Lusch 88).

Marketing programming helps retailers to determine and specify the tasks necessary to carry out marketing strategies, in proper sequence and relationships, dictating who will perform each task, how it will be done, the resources needed, and the time and target dates (Goodstein 101). It tries to allow for various eventualities and to map what might be done given each. Similarly, the marketing mix is divided into subtasks (goods and service mix, distribution mix, and communications mix) that are further divided for programming purposes. For example, programming advertising includes media selection, the allocation of funds among media, and the timing, themes, layouts, and appeals of the ads (Dunne and Lusch 92).

Time relates to marketing planning because markets are inherently concerned with temporal factors. Market potential and purchase decisions presuppose a specific period of time. Marketing efficiency is measured on the basis of sales or profits over time, and marketing programs are laid out in terms of a time period — a quarter or a year. However, the time aspect may be considered in another way. In retail environment, marketing planning rests on the sales forecast, which is a consideration of future events (Goodstein 104). As a result, planning is involved in the determination of expectations.

The question, what would happen if markets or competitors’ strategies change in a specific manner, is extremely important. Marketing plans must be closely related to budgets, since they stress the profit and cost expectations of alternative marketing programs. Rooted in marketing plans, budgets become their financial expressions. Budgets are also used to control and implement plans (Goodstein 107).

Strategic planning requires sales projections for such periods as one, three, five, and ten years ahead. These projections predict customer and competitor reactions; attempt to gauge acceptance for new products; and highlight economic, social, demographic, technological, psychological, and political changes, all of which are difficult tasks to perform -nor can they be performed with the degree of precision available in other more concrete situations (Goodstein 19).

Information that provides a perspective for future operations is invaluable for corporate decision making. One of the major characteristics of the adoption of the marketing philosophy is that plans and programs replace haphazard marketing methods. By providing the means for anticipating the firm’s future requirements along an orderly, continuous, systematic, and sequential basis, marketing planning avoids crisis decisions and concentrates on integrated programs of action (Levy and Weitz 33).

Strategic planning itself must be planned. As one of the most significant managerial functions, marketing planning is a prime responsibility of the top marketing executive. The very nature of critical day-to-day operations, the pressures of time, and the tendency to act rather than plan, frequently cause executives to neglect this function (Levy and Weitz 36). Strategic planning provides retailers with a forward-looking view of the total enterprise.

It is the basis for determining the fundamental strategies to be employed and the objectives, programs, and resources required. Strategic planning is to a business enterprise what thinking is to an individual. It supplies the rational means for achieving maximum market-striking power and results from the resources in hand (Levy and Weitz 33). Marketing planning is closely related to problem solving. Planning constitutes an intentional, unified approach to the solution of various marketing problems. Although the specification of a plan for solving a problem is the first step, execution must accompany planning to achieve results. Marketing planning is neither automatic nor impersonal (Levy and Weitz 55).

To proceed with it in terms of goals, policies, and programs, decision makers exercise judgments. These judgments concern human behavior as well as the motives and values of business institutions and customers. The use of end-means analysis for planning purposes requires that the values concerning the ends themselves be clearly specified (Levy and Weitz 57).

In sum, strategic planning is a rational way of translating experience, research information, and thought into marketing action. It is a pragmatic, organized procedure for analyzing situations and meeting the future. Based on information about ends and means to determine various causal relationships, trends, and patterns of behavior, it is concerned with the selection of alternative strategies. Strategic planning is an integrated, intelligent, rational process for guiding business change.

Works Cited

Bradford, R. W., Duncan, J. P., Tarcy, B. Simplified Strategic Planning: A No-Nonsense Guide for Busy People Who Want Results Fast. Chandler House Press, 2000.

Bryson, J. M. Strategic Planning for Public and Nonprofit Organizations: A Guide to Strengthening and Sustaining Organizational Achievement, 3rd Edition. Jossey-Bass; 3 edition, 2004.

Dunne, P. M., Lusch, R. F. Retailing. South-Western College Pub, 2007.

Goodstein, L., Nolan, T., Pfeiffer, W. J. Applied Strategic Planning: How to Develop a Plan That Really Works. McGraw-Hill; 1 edition, 1993.

Levy, M., Weitz, B. A. Retailing Management. McGraw-Hill/Irwin;, 2006.

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