This article is a Point of View on the aspects that should be considered while evaluating and selecting processes and systems to improve Retail Execution
Retail Field Sales and Marketing industry is facing huge challenges due to sluggish economy, slow growth, rising costs of travel, larger territories etc. and is in dire need of efficiency and productivity improvement. Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.1
Much of the valuable time of Retail Outside Sales Reps or Field Sales Reps is spent in administrative tasks of reporting, following up and proving compliance.
According to a recent report2, External Sales Reps spend a whopping 23% of their time in Administrative activities and 10% in Planning and 13% in Travel whereas selling hours constitute just 22% of their work week.
Activities that Reps should focus on
The key to success of Retail Execution is to ensure that the Reps be focussed on and spend most of their time inside the stores on activities that are productive for boosting sales: meeting the customer contacts, building relationships, prospecting, generating sales, activating Points of Sale, Share of Shelf intelligence, performing store audits, conducting promos and campaigns. They should also focus on the activities that directly affect Brand Visibility and on collecting intelligence about competitive products, taking orders, promotions, mystery shopping. The systems and processes employed need to make it simple for the Reps to collect data, capture pictures, compare planograms, conduct surveys, answer questions etc.
Activities that Reps should not be required to focus on
The activities that should be automated for Reps, deserving least of their focus (although very important for successful retail execution) are route planning, driving directions, optimizing travel, reporting to the management on the activities performed, providing proof of execution to the management, collating, reconciling the data and reporting. These administrative activities are least productive from Sales and Marketing perspective and should be automated to the extent possible.
For the efficiencies in retail to go up, it is important that the metrics that matter most, Time spent in transit, Number and duration of stops, Number of meetings in person, Number of sales orders, Number of Point of Sale Activations, are measured and improved upon.
Another very important aspect of successful Retail Execution is visibility to the management on what is going on in the field. Even as the Reps should not be burdened with the mundane administrative tasks of reporting to the management, the management still needs to be in control of the field activities. According to a report, on an average,15% of promoted items are out-of-stock, 22% of promotional displays have incorrect pricing and 49% of in-store promotions are out of compliance. This leads to 70% of the time trade promotions leading to negative ROI.
Managers need to know in real time what activities are being performed by which Rep in which store. They need to be able to monitor in real time how many activities were performed successfully, how much time the Reps are spending in each store, are they taking the most optimum routes to reach their destinations. Are they following the visit plans that have been set for them by you or by themselves. Geo-tagging and time-stamping are key to measure important retail execution metrics.
You can’t improve what you don’t measure
The processes and systems deployed need to be able to measure the key metrics in real time with least intrusion to the Reps' work and give the flexibility to the managers to report on them.
In conclusion, the processes and systems adapted for Retail Field Sales or Retail Execution must
a) automate non-core, administrative tasks for the Reps, allowing them to focus on the more productive tasks that boost the sales and make performing these tasks as easy as possible and
b) give the managers real time visibility and control over the activities being performed on the field and provide them reports and power to tweak things to improve the overall Retail Execution performance.