Demand and supply

In the highly competitive retail world where companies sell a range of consumer foods, beverages and packaged goods, success is derived from an organisation’s light sabre-like focus, as well as its ability to adjust to the sales and margin performance of products. To accomplish this, retailers are increasingly reliant on technology-wielding members of the field force.

To stay ahead of the competition, suppliers to major retailers need to obtain an improved understanding of the market in which they sell, ensuring that all activities, forecasts and plans taking place within the complete commercial cycle are monitored. This might seem simple enough, but in reality the process is complicated and fast moving.

Achieving consistently positive results is dependent on the effectiveness of the mobile sales team and the merchandiser’s ability to concentrate and coordinate. These are a necessary part of ensuring products are protected from falling to the dark side of the shelf where ultimate destruction looms as the countdown to the expiry date draws closer.

See everything

Key issues that suppliers face when jostling for the best position on a retailer’s shelf include whether their products are going to sell and meet the retailers’ expectations – particularly if they are newly launched products.

Keeping and eye on the competition while at the same time assessing the effectiveness of campaigns for both new and existing products is crucial. Suppliers also need to continually find ways to measure the success or failure of these campaigns and be able to adjust accordingly to what their research is showing.

The problem for many suppliers is that they lack sufficient detail about what’s going on at the retail level. While many retailers can provide suppliers with basic information such as scan data, this is merely a record of which products have gone through the cash register. For the supplier to maximise both volume and margins, they need to know much more. Specifically, they need to know the "why" behind the scan data.

Why are only X number of units selling? Why aren’t products selling? Why are these products selling so well?

Answers to these questions can be gleaned through a well-equipped field force.

Take the scenario of a new line of bottled water that a supplier wishes to take to market. In such a highly competitive market segment, the bottled water supplier needs to understand deeply its product’s value proposition, as well as how it’s going to make the product stand out from its competitors on the retailer’s shelf.

While it is not the job of the field force to set up the initial promotion, the supplier needs to provide its field representatives with the ability to gather critical information to ensure the best outcomes. This includes information about shelf position, competitive intelligence, and price points, as well as survey feedback from retailers to find out what does and doesn’t work for them.

With this calibre of information at hand, management can assess results very quickly and adjust plans on the go. This is so very important given that competition for retail shelf space is extremely fierce. If products don’t move in alignment with the expectations of the retailer, then the supplier will lose the retailers attention very quickly.

Equipped in the field

To overcome these challenges, suppliers need to understand that it comes down to visibility of information. By giving the field force the tools they need to gather important data that can be easily assessed at a management level, the supplier has greater assurance of being much more responsive to market demands and trends.

Empowered with the most up-to-date information about what’s happening on the shop shelf or floor, the supplier can also be more nimble and adjust its go-to-market strategy quickly.

Communication between the field force and head office underpins visibility of information. While it’s the job of the field force to pull information from the retailer and feed it back to the supplier, tools that allow the supplier to push the most recent and relevant information out to the field organisation can achieve even greater competitive advantages.

For instance, the supplier can provide information to its field force representatives advising them on what to say and when to speak to customers, and in turn gather the information that management needs to ensure the products being delivered to market align with retailers’ expectations.

For any field force, the key to effective communication with head office lies with mobile technology.

Solutions that facilitate the two-way dissemination of information quickly and accurately allow organisations to keep a finger on the pulse of what’s happening at a grass roots level.

While management can make better decisions faster, field representatives have instant at-the-finger-tips access to customer history, allowing them to build an intimate knowledge about specific buying patterns. As a result, the supplier can better manage revenue and profit-generating initiatives.

It also allows them to manage territories more effectively, helping retain current customers and acquire new customers. By providing a single view of the customer, tailored to different roles within the supplier organisation, the field force can create a cohesive experience for the customer, improving sales opportunities and customer service delivery.

The reality is that most field sales automation solutions fall short in providing accurate and timely information to support their sales activity. Sure, managing a territory, planning the day and managing the call is important. But what is absolutely essential is the ability to enable the field organisation to optimise its selling. Field sales and merchandising staff are in a unique position to capture competitive intelligence, compare visibility rankings, track for compliance and get feedback on promotional activities.

For companies dependent on building strong customer relationships to generate revenue growth, success lies in enterprise mobility solutions that allow the organisation to communicate profile-based information, as well as plan, make, track and record call activity information. Field forces need to be able to capture survey information about products and merchandising, as well as display profile-based promotions and deals.

Successful retail execution can also be achieved by providing field representatives with mobility solutions that allow them to take orders with full visibility of customer history. By using these solutions to set and track cyclical targets and objectives, the supplier can manage multiple channels more effectively and increase customer satisfaction. They can also eliminate margin erosion by improving processes and offerings, while also improving transportation management.

By taking the guesswork out of selling to maximise trade promotions through the use of enterprise mobility solutions, suppliers can ensure their field forces are enabled with real-time territory management tools that allow them to better manage sales orders, merchandising, field intelligence, remote information dissemination and call completion.

Ensure you field force is with you in the battle for excellence in retail execution.

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