The pandemic expedited a need for digital transformation and organizational agility that otherwise may have taken years to adopt – and many field teams faced a sink or swim situation. The past 18 months created a lot of change in process for CPG brands and their field teams and left many desiring more insight and control of their SKUs on the shelf.
If you’re a field sales leader and this sounds like a familiar experience, you’ve come to the right place. This piece will help you determine if your current method of overseeing retail execution is keeping your team from execution at a high level and gaining a competitive edge.
We’ll discuss three key operational areas every sales leader should ensure their retail technology solutions and apps can cover. In today’s CPG landscape, you need a platform that is modern, mainstream, and setting the field up for success. Read through, and depending on your answers (or your inability to answer as it may be), you may want to re-evaluate your toolset for 2022.
If you’re an IT leader or close with your IT lead at your company, we’ve got a checklist for you as well to assess if your retail tech stack is modern and measures up today’s demands on organizations.
Field Team Management: Planning, Building, and Scheduling Campaigns
- It’s time for a new RetxEx platform if... your field team can’t set up new surveys on their own, or change them without technical support. If you can’t get real-time summary reports on your data collection programs, and/or area managers can’t customize surveys based on their unique needs, your current platform is holding your team back from their true potential.
The way to think about each of these questions/statements is to consider what your team is missing out on by not having these particular features. In this case, the importance is having the ability to set surveys up on the fly and direct your field team based on the day's priorities.
Having the flexibility to execute and track on-the-fly reactive shelf audits, short-term product launches, or in-store marketing campaigns is contingent on your platform’s ability to create programs out in the field.
- It’s time for a new RetxEx platform if... your reps visit the same accounts every week or month and don’t change their route based on the latest sales or execution data, or merchandising priorities.
With this, it’s important to consider the opportunity cost of missing something at a key account that your field team didn’t plan to visit for another two weeks - because your routes are planned on schedules, not real-time demands.
Retail changes incredibly quickly and is always unpredictable. If a field team never updates or changes its routes and chooses to take a blanket coverage approach with all stores treated equally, then there’s a clear mismatch between the way this field team is approaching retail and the reality of how retail functions. Not all stores require the same amount of support and treatment. For example, a Kroger with a high priority in August may not be a high priority in September. But if the routes this team takes never change, they won’t be able to catch this change in priority.
A field team shouldn’t waste resources on accounts that aren’t important if that means they’ll miss out on opportunities in other accounts, such as out-of-stocks, drops in sales. A field rep should plan their week around a set of problems they want to solve in the field, rather than a set of accounts they want to visit. The first is a proactive approach while the latter is a reactive approach. Visiting accounts on a regular schedule is a guessing game and it’s not putting any of their prior fieldwork (data and knowledge) to use. While a rep may find an opportunity in an account, they may have wasted four visits to find it.
- It’s time for a new RetEx platform if... your area managers can’t add new visits directly to their team’s calendars when new priorities come up, and can’t create or track jobs or tasks for their team to complete in the field.
Likewise to the statement above, if a store is underperforming week-over-week, it doesn’t make sense to wait until the end of the month to make its regular visit. The store should become an immediate priority to understand and correct the issue. This same concept applies to time-boxed projects like campaigns where reps should visit those set accounts throughout the campaign rather than once they’ve been completed, leaving no room to improve or course-correct a compliance issue. A retail execution platform should allow area managers to help their field team prioritize accounts to help maximize sales and executions/data, as well as merchandising and marketing opportunities.
In-Store Execution: Platform Functionality/Agility (Back Office and Mobile)
- It’s time for a new RetxEx platform if... your reps lose data and can’t work when they lose cell service or WiFi.
It’s pretty common for backrooms to have poor cellular service, so if an area manager expects their field reps to complete accurate store audits, it’s important they have an application that they can trust will save the data offline until it can safely sync online. If a rep believes they’ve completed an audit, only to find out hours later that some data did not get captured due to lack of service, the rep needs to either double-down on work or move on with incomplete data.
This is not a fringe case by any means. Most stores will have some sort of service issue, especially in their backrooms.
- It’s time for a new RetxEx platform if... your reps work in multiple applications to place orders and submit data through email instead of a dedicated system. Do they require built-in admin time during their schedule to send email recaps of their visits?
For this, consider the following situation: It’s the end of the day and your field rep has two choices to make. 1) Make an additional visit/solve additional problems in the field or 2) Spend time putting together an email recap of their day. The number of opportunities that will be lost spending time sending emails will add up quickly for the entire team. And it could be one email at the end of the day that takes away from an additional store visit, or it could be half a day at the end of the week set aside for field reps to fill out reports. Not to mention the hard, hourly costs of paying a rep to do administrative work, instead of operating in the field. We’re talking $1000’s of wasted dollars a week supporting administration work that a purpose-built retail app could accomplish. This way of working will force your team to miss out on many opportunities in the field.
Insights and Actions
- It’s time for a new RetxEx platform if... your reps can’t view store information on the fly, like planograms, files, and sales data, and don’t have confidence that it’s up-to-date.
This is crucial in allowing your field reps to leverage their sales data on what has sold well in the past in that store and similar stores in their conversations with store managers, ie. fact-based selling so that your field reps are not using the same pitch day-in and day-out. By doing this you’ll increase the win rate and sales rate of your reps.
At its core, your retail execution platform should enable your field reps to be independent in their ability to improve their territory coverage and their success rate in every account. Again, if you can’t successfully answer all of these statements, then it may be time to talk with your IT team about exploring options for a more modern, nimble solution to meet today’s demands.