Manufacturers and retailers are missing joint planning optimization tricks by not utilizing granular field team store data, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
According to a recent POI State of the Industry Survey, the number one issue preventing consumer goods organizations from exceptional retail execution, at 47 percent of respondents, was limited availability and/or use of data and insights. In the same study, only 35 percent of respondents had integrated Trade Promotion Management (TPM) and RetX (Retail Execution) systems, and the lack of integration between these systems was considered to be severely impacting both execution and revenue gains.
This study is not a one-off. It’s indicative of an endemic consumer goods industry problem. And it illustrates the issue of a lack of information flows, particularly ‘back the other way’ from field sales and merchandising teams to key accounts, and most critically back to retailers. This is resulting in roadblocks to better promotions and sales volume planning across all parts of the supply chain.
But the ‘nirvana’ of 3-way communication between key account, field sales teams, and the retailer is achievable.
The current problem: one-way communication and data silos
Whilst in-store activities and promotions are planned and agreed between key accounts and the retailer, and some or most of the resulting execution information and instructions flow from key account managers to field sales and merchandising teams and related instore agencies to execute, most of this information is one-way.
In-store sales team information that is collected may be largely compliance based, designed to measure a sales rep or merchandiser’s productivity in a store, and is often not used to feed back to key account managers. Global studies have shown that 90%+ of CRM systems tend to be used for compliance, with focus on continuous improvement at the individual store level. And what is captured in store may only focus on the manufacturer’s brands, not the competitive context, and not what’s best for the retailer. So something like a competitor being out of stock during your promotion, causing an abnormal spike in your brand’s sales, may not be captured.
Key account managers tend to plan promotions and demand at the ‘global’ level using aggregated historical data. Mostly these are not adjusted for nuances, major disruptive events such as pandemics, or outlier data that may change forecasts. And they certainly don’t usually factor in a retailer’s own local competitive environment, which we see as increasingly important in optimizing opportunities to enhance manufacturer and retailer joint planning.
Where Trade Promotion Management (TPM) systems are often linked to an organization’s ERP system, often the field Retail Sales In-store Execution and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems are standalone. The TPM and Retail Sales systems are not linked, thus the flow of information is not two-way.
What achieving nirvana looks like
In this instance, nirvana is the ability to plan at both the field customer and key account levels, where everything you look at from a field sales ‘store back’ point of view influences key account planning. In effect, evolving field sales data into a predictive analytics tool for production and demand forecasting, sales planning, sales force deployment balancing, and even accruals management.
Integrating store-back data including that from the retailer enables the ability to calculate different variable impacts on demand and ROI planning such as changing SKUs, product groupings, customer buying groups, volume, phasing, impacts of cannibalization and sort term seasonality or external key event impacts. Individual store data can be aggregated geographically such as by state to tailor promotional activities to specific areas. Promotion execution data can yield cost-to-serve information that can be used to define future promotions.
Visibility of real-time store-back data also allows for agile adjustments on the fly once a promotion or activity is in field, including real-time changes to the demand forecast such as events that may cause out-of-stocks.
Let’s take a made-up example using the confectionery category. During COVID, as people shopped online from home impulse confectionery sales at checkout may have dived, but bulk buys such as block chocolate may have increased. Looking at store back data using a linked system may quickly result in reprioritizing the field reps’ priorities, in this instance to focus more on impulse and checkout than at shelf.
How to get there
Look at the scope of what data the field sales team collect. They may well need to capture more than just compliance. Things like competitor activity, retailer engagement, stock availability and out of stocks for the category rather than only for an individual brand. Determine how the existing data can be used to inform planning, and what additional data could better inform planning and real-time activity adjustments.
Get a system that integrates your TPM and Retail Sales In-Store Execution, and ideally, CRM through the company ERP (yes, that’s a lot of three letter acronyms in a sentence!) to allow an holistic view. This is typically done using APIs (there’s another acronym).
Have a resource or team – typically business analysts, revenue management, commercial finance, sales planning analysts – looking at the field sales data and generating hypotheses in order to pivot or tweak promotions calendars and activities in real time and implications for future planning.
In this way, by creating a two-way information flow, you can better manage forecasting and supply as well as cost to serve, along the way providing tools for the field teams to better influence instore negotiations with your retail partners and improve instore performance.
Find out more about in-store Retail Execution at https://exceedra.com/solutions/re-dsd/.