Merchandising is an art and a science. Though perfection may require a professional with a keen eye, there are many simple things that merchandisers can do to make their work stand out to consumers and retailers. That being said, overlooking some of the most basic principles of modern retail merchandising is something which many organizations still regularly do, and their sales suffer for it. Here are the three biggest retail merchandising mistakes that organizations regularly make.
1. Inventory Control
Far too often, employees operate without a system for monitoring inventory across multiple locations. In fact, a common problem among retailers is not having enough of the most popular flavor or version of a product. The problem does not arise from a lack of production, but rather from a lack of inventory control on the part of the merchandiser and retail manager.
Company Y has a fantastic new soft drink flavor positioned next to two of their other flavors, and have started to notice that sales of their new flavor were very strong at first, but then began to taper off. Consumer demand for the product is still high however, so what happened? Without the proper means of inventory control, retailers may unwittingly fill open holes in their displays with other products. If the Company A’s new flavor sold out quickly, and the merchandising employee working that location has no record of the new flavor being sold in that spot, they have no reason to believe that a re-order is necessary. Although the new flavor was the most popular among consumers, it now has poor sales and has lost traction among retailers.
A complete mobile solution for merchandisers is the only surefire way to alleviate out-of-stock issues with retailers. A solution such as Field Activity Management software offers geo-tagged photos, purchase order history, and client notes all in one organized system which can quickly be pulled up on a merchandising rep’s mobile device. If the rep takes a look at photos from the previous visit, and then notices that a new soda is sitting where their company’s flavor should be, they will know to address the issue with the retail manager and re-order more product.
2. Quality Control
Dr. Iana Castro, assistant professor of marketing in the SDSU College of Business Administration notes that: “The display cues we address–shelf display organization and product quantity–are cues that managers can directly control.” And also that “People were less likely to buy the products when only a few products were left and they looked messy.” Most people know from experience that a messy or unorganized shelf is unappealing to consumers and can give an entire retail location and product line a negative image. Although most merchandisers are good about following planograms and keeping their shelves organized, there are still some bad apples who put little work into their displays and call it a day.
Josh is a seasonal merchandising representative for a small candy company operating in the Greater Boston Area. Although sales have been good year-round for the company, the previous year’s Halloween had sales much higher than anticipated, and distribution was unable to keep up with demand. This year, Josh has been hired to create assemble displays at various retail locations which will hopefully boost sales even higher.
The problem is, Josh doesn’t care about the company or his work. There is no system in place which regulates his progress throughout the day, checks the quality of his displays, or even monitors whether or not he is actually working. The candy company fears that without an intervention, they may lose the trust of retailers and consumers, and miss the chance to keep their product growing in the area.
A strong system of communication couple with geo-tagged photos is the best way to monitor merchandising performance without actually visiting the location. A mobile solution which enables managers to send and receive geo-tagged photos allows merchandisers to show that they are in fact at the correct location and have completed the job as requested. If managers need to make changes on the fly, they should be able to post new planogram photos or similar materials to the client’s information. If merchandisers and managers have a strong means of communication and verification, the quality of displays and consumer reception will be much higher.
3. Working Relationship
Retailers want to know they can trust the organizations whose products will be lining their shelves. Merchandising reps, being an extension of the company, need to build a rapport with retail managers and verify the work they’ve done. Sometimes, this relationship never comes to fruition, or merchandising reps will leave without verifying their work—leaving the door open for retailer-supplier disputes about the quality of work being done.
Joan is a merchandising rep for a new craft brewery which has recently begun distribution to a number of small businesses in the Chicago area. Joan is fairly good at keeping the displays in order, but sometimes slips up and makes a mistake. Joan also dislikes dealing with the manages at each location she stocks—she’d prefer to get in, stock the display, and leave. This has led to a number of ongoing disputes where the quality of the organization’s merchandising has been questioned by retailers.
An electronic signature capture system coupled with a required client note form would alleviate the issues that the craft brewery has been having with Joan’s customers. Allowing retail managers to sign off on the work Joan does ensures that the job is done to the standards of the store manager, and helps nullify and future complaints that may arise. A client note form forces merchandising reps to interact with retail managers and better get to know their likes, dislikes, and any special accommodations they would like made. If the rep is especially good, this may even open the door to cross-selling or up-selling opportunities in the future.
Though there are plenty of mistakes which merchandisers can make, keeping the three principles above in check should be the number one merchandising priority of any business—especially those just starting out who are looking to create a good reputation and brand image for themselves. Leveraging a mobile solution, such as Field Activity Management software, is a great way to keep everything running smoothly, and everyone feeling happy in your merchandising operations.