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Service Industry Tools & Tech, Field Sales

Salesforce vs. Retail Execution Platform: Why Your Field Team Needs Both

What’s one of the most common barriers to success we hear when talking to CPG brands about their technology stack? “Our field team is using Salesforce's CRM to stay organized in the field.” You’re probably wondering how Salesforce.com's CRM offering could possibly be holding a field team back? While your CRM is great at organizing customer details and logging sales activities, it’s not optimized for retail execution field teams that track product and promotion performance at the shelf.

In this piece, we’ll fully unpack a handful of common questions, and explain the difference between Salesforce (or a comparable CRM platform) and a retail execution platform, and how having a modern and nimble RetEx platform actually enhances the value your team gets out of the data stored in your CRM.

TL/DR: When it comes to Salesforce vs. retail execution platforms, the answer is never either/or, your field team needs both.

 

What’s the difference between Salesforce and a retail execution platform?

While Salesforce is considered the #1 CRM platform in the world and is fantastic for organizing details for accounts, and logging and tracking sales activities, the platform is not built for the dynamic changing conditions required to properly manage retail execution in the field – like frequent changes daily in price, shelf condition, shelf location, and promotion execution.

When we think of managing customers, Salesforce on its own should be considered an essential piece of any and every brand’s tech stack. 

However, when we think about managing retail execution and product performance, we’re only focusing on what happens in the store with products that are going from the back room to the shelf and then out of the front door. While this is only a small percentage of the product’s journey, it’s a critical piece to track correctly and simply cannot be managed properly by a CRM.

What Salesforce does not do:

  • Does not provide retail execution/store condition reports
  • Does not allow brands to track retail compliance or program execution 
  • Does not have dedicated merchandising features (forms, photos, retail audits)
 

What a Retail Execution Platform does well:

  • Manage and track the journey of your products from the back room to the front door
  • Manage and track how your team is impacting that journey

What are the advantages of a dedicated retail execution platform?

Beyond the difference in data you might track in your CRM vs with your retail execution platform, there are a few platform-level advantages most modern retail execution systems offer that are tailor-made for a field team’s need to respond quickly to dynamic conditions in retail.  

Ramp-Up Time

Rather than spending hours on how to use your platform, a modern and nimble retail execution platform will have its users up and running without any training. This can be critical for high turnover field teams, who may need to onboard new reps every few weeks. 

 

Create Campaigns On-The-Fly

The priorities of a retail execution team can change at a moment’s notice — from seasonal product launches and weekly promotions to sudden price audits. Modern retail execution platforms are built so team leaders can create and dispatch specific jobs to their team on the fly, with zero technical support. From there, they can close the loop on execution with real-time views of work as it gets done, and flexible reports that match the work that got scheduled. 

 

Dashboard Reporting

With Salesforce, reporting can be a bottleneck. While sales activity and pipeline reports are their specialty, more dynamic reports on store conditions — or any other data reported by your field team — are harder to come by. It’s common for Salesforce customers to invest in building custom reports in their Salesforce environment, but those reports can’t be easily changed in response to new programs or initiatives in the field, leaving field teams feeling not entirely supported by their reporting framework. Most modern retail execution platforms automatically create dashboards based on their configurable data collection models, so field teams get instant visibility to summary reports on the metrics that matter most to them. 

 

Number of Seats on the Platform

With Salesforce, it’s expensive to add users to your team. It’s not designed for how many field teams operate with part-time field reps. With a modern retail execution platform, you have the flexibility to add new users to make store visits, manage a team, or simply view reports without worrying about increasing your bill.

So can my company skip Salesforce completely and just use a retail execution platform?

We do not recommend this. We recognize the incredible value having a dedicated CRM such as Salesforce provides to any business – you need Salesforce as a system of record, as your customer database. Order history, customer invoices, billing, all of these are meant to live in your CRM, not your retail execution platform. But when you have both Salesforce and a retail execution platform synced with one another, you now have the full 360-degree view of the customer: 

Salesforce

  • Here’s everything you billed them.
  • Here’s how long they’ve been a customer.
 

Retail Execution Platform

  • Here’s every action that’s happened at the store level.
  • Here’s the link to all the stores that we’re active in for that customer
 

Businesses of any size need a dedicated CRM. A retail execution platform should never be assessed as a replacement for it – but rather as a way to enhance it. A modern retail execution platform will make your CRM even more powerful and valuable and should automatically sync data via the cloud.

 

Conversely, even though Salesforce was not set up for our field team, don’t we want the data on any given customer to be found in the same place because we already have this large CRM database? Why wouldn’t we just use Salesforce for this?

Yes, while this is true at face value, it doesn’t fully define the differentiation between a CRM and retail execution platform. A CRM and retail execution platform are both systems that aid in the team management side of operations, however, a retail execution platform has strong capabilities for measuring program execution.

For example, let’s say a brand is trying to measure an endcap promotion.

With Salesforce, the brand can drill into each individual store and see if it was completed, but wouldn’t be able to view how the campaign was executed across all stores and the team’s direct impact on executing it. 

This brand’s field reps may find Salesforce useful to manage their own relationships with their stores, view what they did last time, and make a plan for what they’re going to do in the future. But tracking products in shelf-level performance is something that Salesforce was just not built for, which makes it incredibly difficult for area managers or national account managers to grasp how their products are performing in any of their accounts.

For example, Salesforce.com could be configured to show a view that says my team made 15 visits this week because a metric like customer touches is common across all industries, but that doesn't tell them they don't have an endcap in 20 percent of their stores, which is retail execution specific.  Salesforce CRM’s default setup does nothing to actually inform national account managers/chain managers/directors of retail what’s going with their products on the shelf. This is where your retail execution platform steps in.

The shift is getting your team to think about not just if your programs are being activated in the field, but understanding how they’re being executed and empowering your field reps to improve on that execution moving forward.

 

Why Salesforce? Can a modern retail execution platform work with any CRM?

Yes, absolutely. Whether it’s Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, SAP, or even an on-premise legacy system, your CRM platform of choice is less critical than you might think. Most modern retail execution platforms, like Repsly, will integrate with any CRM and use its data as a backbone for your team in the field to build upon.


Join us on Tuesday, October 5th at 2 p.m. EDT to uncover how today’s successful CG companies are winning in the marketplace through nimble retail execution strategies and technologies that improve performance metrics and maximize sales. Register for free to the webinar here:

Dodge Datas Blind Spots and Unlock the Power of Effective Retail Execution

 

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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