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Merchandising, CPG Team Management, Merchandising Brokers

Merchandising Today: Addressing the Challenges Head-On

If you’re having difficulty rebuilding your merchandising team back up to pre-pandemic levels, just breathe. And know you’re not alone. Many merchandising teams across North America are facing a number of headwinds today.

Third-party merchandisers are being forced to hire field team members who have never worked merchandising before. A question we pose - can you really afford to teach someone new to merchandising, on an outdated retail execution system? Or even worse, with no retail technology and enablement at all? Issuing tools, creating visibility and alignment, and providing clear paths for communication, learning and questions will be key for third-party merchandising and retail services as they tackle these headwinds of a short, and under-prepared labor field.

 

The Challenges Merchandising Teams Face Today

If any of the following hurdles face your team today, then this article is for you.

  1. High turnover rate on merchandising teams.
  2. Difficulty finding experienced field workers who want to stay.
  3. Onboarding and ramping up new hires on outdated systems or no technology at all.
  4. Inability to stay connected with your merchandising team throughout the working day.
  5. Isolation and confusion with your field teams.

Are you feeling any of these pains today? If you answered yes, it might be time to reassess your technology stack and consider upgrading to a modern retail execution platform to help tackle these issues head-on. With a retail execution platform built for these use cases, you’ll be able to onboard, coach, and reduce ramp-up time for new hires, in addition to receiving real-time updates and communication from the field to help them succeed.

 

Supporting Your Team with an Intuitive and Easy-to-Learn, Mobile-Tech Stack

According to the 2021 POI State of the Industry report, 88 percent of CPG teams struggle to onboard new users to their Retail Execution tools. This becomes an issue fast if your team is already short-staffed and you need every rep pulling their weight in the field.

Sara Clarkson, President of Storesupport Canada explains that they try not to hire anybody without any prior merchandising experience. This makes the pool of available and qualified talent for her team even more scarce, which makes having a near seamless and smooth onboarding and ramp-up process incredibly important to their success. “It usually takes about two weeks to ramp up somebody and it took a bit longer before we switched to Repsly as well. It would take at least three weeks before,” Sara said. 

saraclarksonquote1

“The awesome part about Repsly – because we come from a different ERP system – is the ease of use of the platform. It's so easy for the reps to use because it's very much like their phones, so they understand it immediately. The app doesn’t look, feel, or act foreign to what they already know. It looks much like their iPhone or their Android, so it's easy for them to use.”

 

Building Relationships and Team Culture through Technology

Merchandisers already know the average turnover rate is relatively high, and the pandemic only exacerbated turnover throughout nearly every industry. According to the 2021 Bureau of Labor Statics report, the annual total turnover rate in 2020 was 57.3 percent. That’s why Sara believes that in order to maintain a strong and engaged merchandising team, “it can’t just be a job anymore,” Sara said. “We need to create a team environment where the field reps are inspired to come to work and enjoy the work every day.”

How does Sara do this? It takes great technology, and an even stronger leader to keep reps connected, motivated, and engaged every time they start their workdays. “I find that because we are a third-party merchandising team and we don't have people all over the country, same within the U.S., these people are out on their own island when they're starting, and to over-communicate with them during this time is incredibly important because it's really easy for someone to say, ‘there are so many jobs out there. I don't like this, I'm going to another job,’” Sara said.

saraclarksonquote2

 

Deploying Your Precious Resources More Strategically

When resources are stretched thin, it’s even more crucial that your reps are as efficient as possible throughout their routes and in-store visits. Without a modern retail execution platform, mastering route optimization to cut down on any unnecessary travel routes and quickly pulling in-store conditions is a lot easier said than done.

“Kilometer consumption is a big issue in Canada as we watch our carbon footprint, so to have a retail execution platform that helps manage that and make it as efficient as possible for our reps, even though they’re covering new areas and are having to travel a bit further than usual has been a plus to the entire team,” Sara said.

Sara explained that their retail execution platform cuts down on time spent in the store as well. “For us to be able to scan products via the phone and not have to touch packages, our team feels really good about that. We still may need to handle some product if we’re taking it from the back room, but the speed and efficiency we have in the stores are attributed so much to our platform.”

saraclarksonquote3 

Understanding Shelf Conditions from Anywhere, Anytime

A modern retail execution platform becomes a gamechanger in understanding shelf conditions and seeing data in near real-time, giving insight into any SKU from anywhere, which can help guide your team to eliminate out-of-stocks and catch compliance errors early on.

With most grocery stores in Canada still not fully staffed to pre-pandemic levels either, Sara explained that these retailers need their services now more than ever. “Our business has not really gone down. Lately, what we found in grocery and Walmart is that the manufacturers need our help huge because the stores don't have as many people working in the stores as well, so they don't have enough bandwidth to be able to stock the shelves and do what they need to do in the stores,” Sara said.

saraclarksonquote4

The Storesupport team has found that some of the brands paying for floor displays in the major chains in Canada are not getting set up and displayed correctly, or even at all. Since her team has real-time data on the store conditions, more and more companies are reaching out for their services to make sure their displays are being set up correctly, because these days the stores won’t.

Let your retail execution platform help you get your merchandising team back to normal, and potentially better than normal with a modernized tech that can compute data to allow you to take action on the insights and pivot in order to improve against the competition


If your merchandising team is struggling to attract and retain strong talent, this blog will uncover three proven strategies to help you find qualified talent who want to work.

strategies to retain merchandising talent (1)

 

Ben Weiner

Ben is Repsly's content marketing manager, focusing on digital storytelling through blogs, video and podcast production, and social media. He recently served as Bullhorn’s senior content marketing specialist and is also the founder of InVision Media, a video production company that helped small businesses promote their message. Before joining the workforce, Ben was the captain, president, and social media manager of the men's ice hockey team at the University of Maryland. In his spare time, he enjoys rollerblading with his dog Chewbacca, watching the Boston Bruins, listening to classic rock, and playing competitive games of Settlers of Catan. Follow Ben on Twitter: @bennybyline.

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