Merchandising Field Report Best Practices

Merchandising is all about how your products look to customers when they come across them in a retail setting. A solid merchandising strategy makes your product attractive and available to shoppers to make sure you have a fair shot at capturing sales. However, if your merchandising strategy isn’t being implemented correctly or not anticipating the needs of your shoppers, it’s possible that up to 50% of consumers could switch to a different brand.

Properly implementing your strategy requires you to track how effective your merchandising strategy is in the first place, and then renovating your strategy as you go in order to improve it. The best way to approach this process is to build merchandising reports from the data your sales or merchandising team collects in the field. In this article, we will go over three main merchandising reports that you can use to refine your strategy and boost your performance in the field. These three reports are merchandising field reports, promotion field reports, and competitor reports.


Merchandising Field Report: The Essentials

For field organizations working within retail arenas, merchandising reports are highly insightful. Merchandising reports provide businesses with information regarding the conditions of their products on the shelf, such as the amount and quality of shelf space, inventory levels, and more. It allows your reps to consistently track and avoid the dreaded out of stock issues: when your product goes missing from the shelves, your brand takes a big hit. Not only is the consumer unable to purchase the product, but it may also lead to a product void, which occurs when the retailer fills up the empty space with another substitute brand. Here are the necessary components to include in your merchandising field report that will help you avoid these inventory issues:

  • Product Availability: Are your products available on the shelf vs. in the back room? Record the stock across all product ranges.

  • Out Of Stock: Which products are out of stock? How often does this occur?

  • Units Ordered: How many units did you order?

  • Retail Price: What is the everyday price? How has it fluctuated since the last time you checked in? And is it in compliance with the contract?

  • Discounts: Is your product on promotion? How long is the discount duration?

  • Quality of Merchandising: How does your product look on the shelf? How organized/disorganized in a scale of 1 – 5?

  • Communication with the Retailer: Did you negotiate any more placements in the store? What are the sales potential in this retailer? Did the manager have any comments?

  • In-Store Activity: What did you accomplish today? What other services did you provide?

  • Photo & Signature: Obtain the signature of the retailers to sign off on the work you did in-store.




Actionable Insights

One of the most common challenges facing managers of remote field teams is the lack of visibility of field activity. No matter how organized and extensive an organization’s onboarding and training programs are, once reps are in the field, they make their own decisions; they decide whether or not to fix a shelf facing, or if they should put pressure on a retail partner who isn’t living up to their contractual obligations, etc.

Since managers cannot be physically present with the reps at all times, the only method of gaining visibility in the field is through strong communication networks between back-office managers and reps in the field. While field reps are responsible for filling out these reports to the best of their abilities, it is the manager’s responsibility to develop a simple, standardized process for collecting data in the field. While some teams may prefer an old school approach of pen and paper reports, streamlining your reporting by using technology will establish a much more successful long term reporting structure.


The Promotion Field Report Essentials:

Promotional events, like food and beverage tastings or in-person product demos, help brands drive engagement with new shoppers, but there’s no doubt they’re expensive to staff and execute. Measuring (and maximizing!) ROI depends on getting clear data about when and where your team executes events in the field, and how effective their tactics are.  For brands looking to quantify success on a promotion, here is a list of metrics to track for a promotions report.

  • Promotion Type: Is it a sampling, tasting, or demo? Or are you at a trade show? Measuring different types of promotions will help managers determine which types of promotions are most effective.
  • Event: What was the occasion? Was it a holiday?
  • Duration: An eight-hour promo may produce very different results than a two-hour promo. Measuring the difference will help managers allocated their resources effectively.
  • Products: What was being sampled? How many units of it?
  • Position: Just as the duration will produce varied results, so will the store position in which the promo takes place. Track this for more successful future events.
  • Number of Employees: Measuring this will help managers determine the appropriate number of reps for a promotion.
  • Effectiveness: What was your beginning & ending inventory? How many total units were sold due to this promotion?
  • Photos: Attaching photos of the event helps managers visualize the event more effectively




Actionable Insights

Recording the results of all promotional events, either small or big, will prove to be beneficial for the future.Be sure to identify exactly what you are measuring your promotion’s success by beforehand — is it the amount of product you give away? The amount you sell in the coming weeks following the promotion? Identifying your measurement for success ahead of time creates a clearer end goal for your reps and will allow you to accumulate more data over time, in turn providing valuable insights on what is working well and what needs improving.


The Competitor Report Essentials:

Brands that invest in field sales teams have also given themselves an inside track on competitive intel. Innovative brands use their field teams to report on competitors’ price point, shelf position, market share, and more. Here are a few examples of what you should include in your field team’s competitor report:

  • Identifying Competitors: Who are your biggest competitors in this location? Which items are they successful with?
  • Competitor Price: How does your competitor’s pricing differ with yours? Differences in sales between brands could be a result of strategic pricing. Collection of this data will help managers determine the price per territory.
  • Competitor Promotions: Do they have any promotions or events? What’s the duration? Promotional activity by competitors should be tracked and matched if necessary.
  • Competitor Photo: This documentation will show merchandising efforts and packaging design by competitors.
  • New Competitor Threat: Your rep may notice a product that is similar to yours that could be a competitor. The addition of a note section here could allow the rep to substantiate their concerns.
  • Indirect Competitors: Who are they and what are they doing right?




Actionable Insights

Competitive data allows managers and business owners to check industry trends in real-time. It provides insight on a micro, in-store level. For instance, after much competitive analysis you find that in Boston, CVS end cap displays are the most coveted place to be among beverage brands. It also delivers macro insights; such as learning that your beverage competitors are all experimenting with coconut water. Additionally, competitive pricing is another important attribute of competitive reports. If the competitor that has a similar value proposition as yours and recently lowers their price, you need to be aware of it, and the only way to collect this knowledge in a timely manner is through the reporting done by your field reps. This is why reps should be reporting on metrics every visit they make to a store, not just when conducting a formal report. Make clear to your reps your expectations for your reporting structure to be sure you are getting the most out of every in-store visit.