Six Steps to Next-Gen Retail Execution and Monitoring

Mila Budeva
Mila Budeva
Jan 23, 2017

The good news for CPG execs is that rapid developments in cloud, mobile, social and analytics technologies have presented  an opportunity to improve the customer experience through digital transformation.The bad news is that a focus on digital customer experiences at the exclusion of internal process improvements and operational excellence is creating a digital gap: we have digital customers but not digital workers.

Without a balanced approach to going digital from both the inside and outside, investments in customer engagement risk redundancy.

A slick online experience backed up by a sloppy in-store experience takes us one step forward and then two steps back.

This digital gap is evident throughout the CPG supply chain and gets more pronounced the further upstream you go.

Field sales processes are an excellent place for CPGs to start digital transformation that improves customer experience on balanced foundations, from the inside and out.

In this post we summarise 6 crucial capabilities for next-generation field sales and marketing. All are enabled by advancements in mobile, cloud, social and analytics capabilities, and are rapidly affirming their implementation as a pre-requisite for the highest in-store standards, from on shelf availability to perfect store metrics, brand visibility and outlet coverage. Before we go into each one in detail, here they are:

1. Data Intelligence, or 'Retail Activity Optimisation'

2. A friendly and modern user experience 

3. Everything in one place 

4. Configure locally, deploy rapidly

5. Omni channel retail execution

6. Social and Gamified 


1. Data Intelligence, or 'Retail Activity Optimisation'

In 2011, Gartner coined the term “Retail Activity Optimisation” (ROA), defining it as the implementation of data analytics and advanced modeling by CPGs to improve the performance of field sales and marketing teams. For data to be truly useful to field sales and marketing teams, it needs to be actionable. For a field rep under time pressure, 'actionable insight' does not mean a complex data dashboard. It means clearly directing reps to the priority stores and actions so they can maximise their impact in-store.

Retail activity optimisation can apply to all routes to market. In modern grocery, for example, analytics on 'sell out' data provided by EPOS systems allows us to guide reps directly to the out of stock SKUs and incompliant promotions. In traditional trade or convenience channels where sell out information is less readily available, tailored insights about the optimal product and promotion assortments to 'sell in' to each outlet type will be more useful. The right mix of data sources can enable 'dynamic call files', prioritising store visits according to the highest incremental turnover opportunities in the market.



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Of course, field reps should also be informed and empowered to make their own decisions based on what they see and experience on the frontline, and so it is also important to display key metrics and insights about status and performance of stores, categories, brands and SKUs in a user-friendly way. Some call this 'on the fly analytics', which helps reps to have data-driven conversations with store managers and build the business in store.


2. A Friendly and Modern User Experience

Steve Jobs once said that 'design is not just what it feels like and looks like. Design is how it works'. In addition to an intuitive presentation of insights and priority activities, it must be equally as intuitive for reps to follow the steps of the store call and record the actions taken. With a well designed and intuitive interface, performing actions and recording them are one and the same thing, reducing the burden of 'data capture' and other administrative tasks.

Furthermore, with an intuitive process-driven interface, field reps can be guided through the steps of the call, one activity at a time. This kind of activity guidance ensures maximum impact in-store, improving both the productivity and experience of field reps. Remember, happy workers make for happy customers.


 3.Everything in One Place for Users

The list of new in-store and retail execution technologies has grown to such an extent that there is a risk of overcomplicating - rather than simplifying-  the life of a field rep. From IoT and crowd sourced insights to image recognition and augmentation, which are used to automate audit tasks and provide visual selling aids to store managers. Clearly, having to switch between a bundle of apps is not a simple experience for field reps. To realise the benefits and ROI in the field, the core field solution needs flexible integration capabilities to bring all these tools and insights into one intuitive process driven-interface for field reps. Mobile CRMs and forms applications lack such capabilities, whereas a BPM based productivity and collaboration solution excels at brining multiple capabilities into one workflow.   


4. Configure Locally, Deploy Rapidly

Gone are the days of lengthy and costly on premise software installations. Forward thinking IT departments are leveraging the  latest cloud and SaaS solutions to build enterprise architectures which enable business users to configure solutions locally, and deploy them rapidly. With a more decentralised approach to solution configuration - enabled by friendly self-serve functionality - it is important to ensure that variability does not lead to inconsistency. Variable store call processes on the frontend should be supported by a consistent data schema in the backend, allowing for meaningful analytics across call cycles, territories, channels and markets. 


5. Omni-channel execution

Cloud solutions which can be configured locally and deployed rapidly enable companies to make use of all types of field resource, from dedicated and tactical field teams, to members of the crowd and their distribution networks. Keeping data consistent and accessible for all types of field resources enables their collaboration, co-ordinates their efforts and ensures adherence to the same best practices and highest standards.

For example, on Zaptic, a field rep can schedule a promotional display set-up with a delivery professional, who, also on Zaptic, can access step-by-step guidance even when offline.Similarly, a member of the crowd or micro-entrepreneur can be scheduled to audit promotional compliance or perform basic merchandising activities. Automating measurement with data analytics, outsourcing measurement and other basic tasks to the crowd enables experienced field reps to focus on the value added actions. 


6. Social and Gamified

Gamification rewards reps for their in-store performance and motivates them to work towards higher personal goals, translating into greater business achievements. In Zaptic, for example, reps are awarded points and badges for the actions taken in-store. Ticking clocks tell users whether they're keeping to schedule during store visits, and daily leaderboards about intervention performance incentivise reps to go the extra mile in-store. Of course, all this fun and games can be bought to life when tied to cash rewards or the latest widescreen TV.

To re-cap, CPGs and retailers invest many hundreds of millions on using mobile apps, social and analytics to improve the customer experience, but the experience of workers throughout the supply chain - including field reps - is too often forgotten. A lack of digital investment in bricks and mortar, operational excellence and the worker experience risks undermining entire digital transformation efforts. It's time to close the digital gap and there's no better place to start than the sharp end of the supply chain with field sales and retail execution. Better worker experience creates a better customer experience. The two are intrinsically linked. Happy workers mean happy customers.


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