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Merchandising, CPG Team Management, Technology, Field Sales

Taking a Hybrid Approach to Solving Acute  Execution Problems On-Demand

For more than a year and a half, the CPG landscape has been hit with numerous headwinds – from changing consumer demand, supply chain disruptions along almost every touchpoint, and a lack of workers willing to take on jobs – that put many brands into challenging situations where they were forced to innovate in order to survive.

One unique approach that has proven successful for many brands during the pandemic has been outsourcing parts of their retail execution operations to a third-party merchandising team. This blended-team strategy allows for brands to boost coverage and manage through peaks and valleys of workforce demand while protecting cost and ultimately business margin.

Below we’ll highlight how this temporary outsourcing strategy may prove to be a mainstay for many teams moving forward to ensure problems in the field NOW, don’t linger because of staffing issues.

 

Why Blended Team Strategies

When responding to challenges in the supply chain, reaching remote accounts, or executing on blitzes and promotions – brands are challenged with over-investing in resources and travel. 

And COVID has put a big spotlight on difficulties with managing surges of demand to keep products on the shelf with a workforce who unpredictably could be impacted by COVID and become unavailable; resource management had never been more difficult and retail service providers have stepped up to assist in backfilling.

Now like any strategy there are pros and cons – and to a large extent, brands can manage the challenges of a blended workforce by picking the right partners and integrating them into their retail execution strategies and solutions like Repsly.

 

How Brands are Implementing It Today

One of the largest food companies in the world has taken this blended team strategy in stride this pandemic by downsizing half of its Canadian field team operations and outsourcing a third-party merchandiser in order to meet today’s new demands. By outsourcing their day-to-day activities that a third-party merchandiser can easily manage, they were able to shift the focus of their senior field reps into sales roles where they’ll continue to visit stores in order to sell/upsell new products. 

With this new approach, the brand sends their sales rep into a Walmart, Kroger, Target, etc., and they sell a new SKU into that retailer. When that new shipment arrives in two weeks, the brand sends the third-party merchandiser to the store to make room for the new SKU/pack out the shelf so that it meets compliance.

This hybrid model of working is what many brands consider to be the future of fieldwork. With tight budgets and unpredictable conditions, the most efficient field teams will be those that find the right balance between internal field sales reps taking on key-selling activities, while merchandisers handle every shelf maintenance. 

 

Who Brands Can Trust to Partner With

Once the decision has been made to switch your field team model to a blended team strategy, the next item to check off is choosing a trusted third-party merchandiser to partner alongside your brand/internal field team. 

Merchandisers have a huge responsibility to support the key programs of all of their brands as well as the thousands of stores they serve, so it’s crucial they’re using industry-specific execution tools that provide dynamic insight into shelf conditions and planogram compliance.

Even the strongest merchandisers face similar challenges of supporting hundreds of stores on a tight budget and short roster. But forward-thinking companies know that in order to win in today’s CPG space, they need to differentiate their services from competitors with technology that can provide their brands with unmatched visibility into the work their field teams do for them at retail, all while measuring the team’s execution in real-time.

Sara Clarkson, President and CEO at Storesupport, a Canadian-owned and operated retail services organization that has been in business for over a decade, explained that manufacturers outsourcing or using a hybrid model for fieldwork has been a common post-pandemic theme that she’s seen take place globally. 

Even though Storesupport is feeling the labor shortages as well, many brands are still turning to her merchandising team to help solve their own labor shortfalls. Sara said that she believes many companies like Storesupport know the demand for their services will only continue to grow as more brands turn to hybrid approaches to ensure their products are on the shelf, promotion ready, and representing the brand in its best light.

Make sure that when choosing a merchandising broker to partner with your operations, that the merchandising team is using a retail execution platform like Repsly that can provide instant access to data about how your products are sold at the shelf.

A modern retail execution platform will show the placements the merchandising team has won and the projects completed, giving the brands they serve a complete view of execution in their key accounts. See how Gotham brand managers use Repsly to deliver a higher level of service to their clients while maximizing efficiency with their merchandising team.

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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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