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3 Common Retail Execution Mistakes and How to Avoid Them [New Data]

Although more brands are prioritizing retail execution, an overwhelming majority aren't able to hit their goals in the field, according to new data from the Promotion Optimization Institute

As many as 81 percent of companies reported that they're unsatisfied with their ability to execute at retail. Another 86 percent said they're not satisfied with their trade promotion efforts, POI found.  


"81 percent of companies are unsatisfied with their ability to execute at retail."b9f4dfa0916910b8afb2547a3f6aff30.png


The findings not only indicate that brands are having difficulty executing at retail, but they point to some of the roadblocks holding companies back from in-store success. In this post, we'll run through the data and offer a few suggestions on how to overcome the biggest obstacles to retail execution. 


Problem 1: Poor Promotional Compliance 


One of the highest priorities for companies looking to get a boost at retail is to run promotions or discounts. Despite their importance, or the fact that they're negotiated in advance with retailers (often at the regional or national level), a whopping 90 percent of companies say their promotions aren't executed to plan,b9f4dfa0916910b8afb2547a3f6aff30.png POI reported.




This massive disconnect between suppliers and retailers suggests a lack of communication and collaboration when it comes time to execute in-store discounts and marketing promotions.

That 90 percent figure isn't improving, either. It's down five percent since last year, according to the POI data, indicating that despite technological advancements that should make communication more streamlined, these teams still struggle to get on the same page. 


Solution: Retail Audits

Brands that have teams in the field can use retail audits to combat this problem and hold retailers accountable for displaying agreed-upon promotions. In addition to the sales and merchandising activities they might already do at every store, try using your field team to check the active promotions your brand has going on.



Grand Opening, L.L. Bean style. #retailaudit #llbean #partridgecreek #shoppingbutworking

A post shared by KimRayMI (@kimraymi) on

Using photos in retail audits captures detail and provides evidence of compliance.  


To conduct a retail audit, have your field team collect data on the pricing, promotional material, and placement each of your products is getting at the stores they visit. For retail audits in particular, taking photos (like the one above) is especially effective. Not only can they detailed information about the promotional environment at the store, but they give brands concrete proof of promotional compliance . 


Learn more about setting up and conducting effective retail audits with this best practices guide!


Making retail audits part of your regular field strategy can help you catch and correct noncompliance early, helping you make the most of every discount agreement you negotiate for.  


Problem 2: Lack of Retail Data 


Remember that old adage: "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it?" With that in mind, having consistent, accurate data about your product's presentation and performance at retail is essential to improving your retail execution. 

However, 81 percent of companies say retailers don't share data with them freely, making that whole measure/manage thing pretty tough. While frustrating, this figure isn't all that surprising, considering retailers represent so many brands that keeping everyone up to date on their products would be a massive project. It's the same way parents take lots of pictures of their first child, but don't document anything about their youngest. To retailers, you might be kid number 600.  


"60 percent of companies don't have the data they need to analyze events."b9f4dfa0916910b8afb2547a3f6aff30.png


Whether or not its retailers' fault, that relationship means that 60 percent of companies are left without the data they need to analyze the effectiveness of their events, POI reports. 


Solution 2: Collect And Organize Data From The Field 

Relying on retailers to give you data about your products' performance might be ideal, but it's outside of your control. One way to take control of the data you get about your product is to empower your reps to collect it themselves when making store visits. By keeping track of orders, pricing by date, active promotions, and more every time they visit a store, they can paint a pretty helpful picture about how and why your product sells. 


That can be easier said than done, however, since collecting that data is only half the battle - you also have to keep it organized if you want to be able to analyze it on demand. So before you ask your reps to start collecting data about their events, make sure you have a single, uniform system you can use to store and report on that data.


The best systems give reps a simple interface they can use to collect data straight from their mobile device, and sync those activities directly to managers in the back end. That way data gathering doesn't interfere with the rep's job, and managers neber have to wait for their insight - everyone wins.  




Problem 3: Lack of Innovation 


Finally, one of the biggest factors holding brands back from hitting their retail execution and trade promotion goals is that they feel stuck in "old ways" of doing business.

When asked about their ability to innovate with digital tools, just three percent felt they were actively innovating, according to the POI report. What's more, less than a third were actually satisfied with their strategies. The vast majority (58%) felt they were lagging behind. 


Solution 3: Embrace Agile

For many brands, the challenge in innovation isn't so much coming up with new, creative approaches to retail - it's having the bandwidth, leeway, and confidence to develop and prioritize those ideas over a more traditional approach. Even when companies have a potential groundbreaking strategy up their sleeve, it can be a huge risk to sideline their tried-and-true approach in favor of a month-long experiment. 

Following the agile methodology, brands can evaluate their retail strategies much quicker, taking much of the risk out of experimentation. Here's how the agile approach differs from traditional retail execution: 

  • Responding to change > following a plan
  • Rapid iterations > "big-bang" campaigns
  • Testing and data > opinions and conventions 
  • Many small experiments > a few large bets


With this work style, you'll be able to begin analyzing, learning from, and improving on projects within a matter of hours or days, rather than months or quarters. Not only will this allow you to eliminate bad strategies and proliferate good ones sooner, but it will give you agency to experiment at retail without as much of a risk. 




Frank Brogie

Frank Brogie is the Product Marketing Manager at Repsly. When he’s not thinking about how to position and sell Repsly’s products, Frank loves to explore Boston by bike and hunt for vintage cars through a camera lens. On weekends you can count on Frank to organize a pickup basketball game or play disc golf. An avid podcast listener, Frank recommends Philosophize This, 99% Invisible, and Radiolab.

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