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Optimizing Field Force Store Execution in the Age of the Great Resignation

Automating sales force and field team execution, part of Retail Execution Excellence, is becoming increasingly important as companies struggle for store merchandising and compliance field staff. 

Where did all the people go in the pandemic-driven Great Resignation?

Front line staff, particularly those in hospitality and retail, have been some of the most likely to resign or shift into tech and other work-from-home oriented white-collar positions.

This makes it increasingly difficult to find and keep retail field sales and merchandising personnel in order to maintain ‘perfect store’ retail execution. In turn, this places a premium on the instore time of the available field force you have.

So how to get the most productivity out of the available field force time in store? By automating field force activity as far as possible, and integrating field force data with your CRM, TPM and ERP systems.

Right-sizing your existing field team activities

First, know what to measure and set instore KPIs upfront. Key measures include on-shelf availability (to reduce out of stocks and thus the need for more store visits to stock shelves); at-shelf space and visibility such as shelf share and SKU locations and planogram compliance; and product visibility including via offlocation displays. These KPIs can be set and automatically measured.

Once you know what you’re measuring and you’ve got the data, use it for field force route planning. By automating sales territories and routes based on sales and promotional data forecasts at the store level, linked to the promotional calendar, you can reduce instore audit times by up to 80%.

Next, use your data at a store specific level to direct field team activities at each individual store.

Then, improve your field team effectiveness through one-time instore information capture, real-time reporting, and action. If field teams are provided the right info before they hit the store, in up to 90% of visits sales field teams can take corrective action at the shelf during their in-store visit, without needing to return later to fix it. Data inaccuracies are minimized. 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. Compliance metrics can be reported at head office level through real time and one-time reports, providing a continuous view.

Field time instore can be further minimized by implementing traceability and a transparent view of the supply chain to improve cycle counting. The better the on shelf availability the less time field merchandisers need to spend stocking shelves and the faster stock count becomes. Using store back field data for forecasting, on-shelf availability can be increased +6-11%, and improvements in instore KPI and compliance and traceability can increase sales by +2-5%.

Here’s an example. 

A major hardware supplier faced obsolete technology deployed in the field, preventing innovation. They had an extensive product catalog of 75,000 SKUs that were audited in non-traditional ways, a complex selling process including county-specific regulatory constraints affecting the sales process, and lack of visibility in product availability. By onboarding Exceedra by TELUS Consumer Goods’ Retail Excellence solution, they enhanced their ordering and auditing processes to support the daily sales force efforts. This included accurate ordering and reducing capture errors, while making the most of the end user’s time in the field.

Getting ducks in a row for future activities

By aligning store back execution data with top-down channel planning, future field force time instore can be reduced through the use of smart analytics to forecast, among other things: stock availability on shelf for your and competitor brands and skus; sales at shelf versus offlocation; and competitor and category activity around product, pricing, and promotions.

An automated field force solution provides for single integration of orders and deals from the store to your ERP, CRM and customer order management systems. By integrating the field force Retail Excellence solution with your TPM system, promotion execution data can yield cost-to-serve information that can be used to define future promotions.

This effectively evolves field sales data into a predictive analytics tool for production and demand forecasting, sales planning, sales force deployment balancing, and even accruals management.

Automating sales force and field team execution, part of Retail Execution Excellence, is becoming increasingly important as companies struggle for store merchandising and compliance field staff. By implementing a Retail Excellence field force automation solution and integrating it with your other systems you will not only make field team time instore both more efficient and effective, but you’ll have a ‘virtuous circle’ of data with which to plan future activities more accurately whilst better managing forecasting, supply and cost to serve.

Find out more about instore Retail Execution, or schedule a demo, at https://exceedra.com/solutions/re-dsd/

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