Five Attributes That Set Modern Retail Execution Teams Apart

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By Luke Shave, CPG & Retail Global Industry Marketing Lead, Microsoft Cloud & Enterprise Group; James Caudill, VP of Product Marketing & Channels, AFS Technologies on November 3, 2016

Suppose you’re a retail merchandiser who needs to check promotional compliance at five brick-and-mortar stores in your territory. This means prioritizing which stores to visit first, mapping a route, and creating an itemized list of audits to conduct. Even with the best laid plans, travelling between these stores can be time consuming and conducting the actual audits can be painstaking and tedious. It’s no wonder that most consumer goods (CG) manufacturers spend an inordinate amount of time prepping for their site visits to ensure they make the best use of their time and perform thorough compliance checks.

Once a merchandiser arrives on site, they often have difficulty accessing the resources and mission-critical information they need to effectively conduct a compliance audit. Without mobile access to information about promotions, planograms, and audit criteria, remaining efficient seems impossible.

Even if merchandisers overcome mobility challenges and gain access to the data they need, many CG brands have difficulty finding an efficient way to process the information gained in real-time during site visits. Once they successfully acquire information from the field, there’s still the challenge of figuring out exactly how it can be used to generate meaningful business insights.

All of these roadblocks have to be passed in order to reach the CG organization’s ultimate goal: leveraging big data to provide great customer experiences and thrive in the digitally-dominated marketplace. It’s a tall order. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to make your efforts more effective.

So what does it take to be more successful?

Staying competitive in today’s increasingly digital marketplace means adopting new technologies that enable a customer-centric consumer experience. Until now, providing these experiences required time-consuming and costly investments in complex, custom-made solutions.

But new technologies are making it possible to adapt to customer needs rapidly and effectively, driving increased responsiveness to trends and demand. Enhancements in data analytics and communications tools are enabling consumer goods manufacturers to be more dynamic in their approach. Below, we outline five traits of brands that utilize these technologies and tools to drive more effective retail execution.

1.      Plan efficiently to spend more time in store

One in two CG manufacturers rank increasing efficiency and productivity as one of the most important trends impacting labor*. Planning is crucial, but it doesn’t have to consume all your time or effort. By using recent point-of-sale data you can more easily decide when and where to conduct visits. Real-time POS transactions and on-hand inventory data can help improve sales by 10 percent*. Scheduling can be further streamlined by adopting analytics programs which crunch data and recommend on-site activities that are most likely to maximize ROI.

Many organizations are moving toward full automation of planning activities, giving employees hours back for activities that require more nuanced, human decision-making. Ultimately, this frees the retail execution professional from the confines of their desk, enabling them to spend more time in-store.

2.      Cut cords and access materials anywhere, at any time

The world is going mobile and savvy CG brands are taking note. Sever cords that tether your reps to desks and equip them with mobile devices that enable them to access mission-critical tools, applications, and data from anywhere, at any time.

Utilize mobile-optimized applications and productivity tools to disseminate knowledge and marketing information via mobile repositories. Provide employees with the latest product and sales data instantly and fully integrate physical and digital storefronts. These advances will enable employees to be more efficient while on the go.

3.      Take the guesswork out of compliance

Winning customers at the shelf requires consumer goods organizations to have utter dedication to brand guidelines and marketing compliance. Empower every field team member to be an expert by providing access to a central database of information for planogram requirements, promotional materials, deployment instructions, and more.

New technologies also help streamline audits on the ground. With recent advances in machine learning and image recognition technology, some programs even have the ability to take photos from the field and automatically process whether a given promotion meets compliance standards.

4.      Improve analytics continuously

Use data to provide insights that help you do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. From improving inventory efficiency by reducing out-of-stock rate to testing innovative process improvements, organizations are empowered by data to execute more effectively and efficiently. Don’t settle for unproductive processes — great retail execution is all about attention to detail. Small process changes and efficiencies can add up to huge savings.

For example, if a brand is seeking to raise the performance of struggling locations, they can inform their strategy with data rather than conjectures about what works and what doesn’t. By capturing best practices from high-performing locations, organizations can develop a checklist to assess low-performing locations and inform what needs to be adjusted immediately.

5.      Dare to share real-time insights

High-performing teams don’t keep their best practices a secret – they share these insights broadly. Knowledge-sharing is an integral aspect of the retail execution process. From planning, to visits, to post-visit activities, your entire process is data-driven and information can be shared with colleagues, management, and partners to drive business excellence.

Once you’ve determined where you have the greatest opportunity to increase performance, ensure it is shared with your broader team by delivering self-service access to performance information through user-friendly dashboards. Improving your communications and knowledge sharing infrastructure enables you to cascade best practices across your organization and gain valuable insights from people on the ground.

Microsoft solutions in the retail space

What do these 5 attributes have in common? They are all enabled through a host of Microsoft and partner technologies designed to help the consumer goods industry succeed. Developed in partnership with AFS Technologies, Retail Execution is designed to assist CG brands across the retail sales process.

The solution offers an industry-specific set of features that empower field sales and merchandising teams to address the costly disconnect between store/shelf strategy and actual retail execution. The app offers features for optimizing order capture, carrying out product audits, tracking stock levels, monitoring compliance during promotional campaigns, and displaying comprehensive listing and pricing to support granular scenario compositions across chains, regions and product categories. Ultimately, the solution helps CG companies to achieve their main aims: enhancing the service they provide to their customers and realizing revenue potential.

Next Steps

If this sounds like something that could make a difference at your organization, you can take it for a test run today by visiting Microsoft AppSource.

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