By Bennett Smith –
It’s no secret that e-commerce plays a large role in consumer-focused brand strategies. This trend will certainly continue to increase in 2017 and beyond. However, according to global retail analytics company RetailNext, 94% of all purchases are still being made in store. People still like to touch and feel products, and there is still an immediate gratification of buying a new product in person. Services like Amazon Prime with their two-day free shipping just can’t compete with the ‘right here and now’ proposition of in-store purchases.
In 2017, we will continue to see more investment in new sales channels outside traditional ‘brick and mortar’ retail. But with so many options for point of purchase, we’re beginning to see these new channels denigrate brand loyalty. No matter how strong a company’s omni-channel sales strategy, it is very difficult to be everywhere in the market at once. Simply having your products available for purchase isn’t good enough anymore. The algorithm that drives consumer purchases in 2017 is now more complex than ‘is the product on the shelf at the retail outlet?’ Yet having your product in stock remains the most import prerequisite for making sales. So, what should a consumer products company be doing today? Here are a few thoughts for 2017 and beyond.
Retail as a Brand Definer
The numbers clearly show that customers are still heading to physical retail locations to make purchases. They still love picking up, trying on and physically engaging in the buying process. But how do you demonstrate to a potential customer that your product isn’t just a ‘fast food’ option meant to satisfy their need for instant gratification? How do you instead show your customers that your product is there to delight and serve them? The answer varies depending on a number of factors, but everything matters – from the way the product is presented in stores to the promotions being offered on the product.
Understanding and demonstrating this concept is essential at the most basic of levels of product promotion because it inspires brand loyalty and keeps customers coming back for the unique experience they can’t get online. Companies need to do everything they can to convince consumers that their relationship is not purely ‘transactional,’ but instead an authentic connection between the brand and the individual’s life. Your product promotions are the best way to do this, but you must ensure that the promotions are being implemented and implemented correctly in the stores to be truly effective. Your product must stand out more than the competition, and be seen in the correct places where customers make the buying decision for the product you offer.
Right Place – Right Time – Right Price
The quickest way to lose sales is to not have your product available where your potential customers are making their purchase decisions. This is such a simple concept, yet some of the biggest brands in the world are still missing the mark when it comes to getting their products in stores. The primary reason for this is lack of resources to ensure that each and every store is in compliance with your approved promotion plan, and even the ability to train your field reps appropriately as promotions change and evolve.
One manufacturer found themselves losing millions of dollars in sales at several retail outlets because of EDI errors. The EDI software was failing to order because of ‘phantom stock’ situations, and the manufacturer’s shelf space was sparsely stocked week after week. Every week, the sales rep would come in and the onsite systems would show inventory being readily available despite nothing being on the shelves or in the stock rooms. This consistent error in availability was having a severe impact on both the manufacturer and the end retailer’s bottom line because inventory levels weren’t turning at their optimal levels.
Enabling your field teams with real-time insights can ensure that these kinds of issues are limited in scope and more importantly, rectified as soon as possible. Spring’s mobileRetail application gives reps instant access to a store’s purchase history. They can see which products should be on display and even submit orders for new products using their mobile devices. mobileRetail also lets you take things a step further by setting up in-store audits that reps are notified to complete when they enter a particular store. The app guides reps through the process of checking current stock and pricing on every product, validating product distribution and accurately accounting for in-store inventory.
With these tools, field teams become revenue-generators instead of shelf stockers because they can confidently present a coherent, real-time business case to a store manager and take action to immediately address any issues they find. While many variables go into having your product in the right place at the right time for the right price, your field teams can be your greatest asset when enabled with the right tools and data.
Retail Is More Than a Purchasing Channel
Today, retail locations are much more than channels for purchasing consumer goods. In fact, they may be the best place for companies to share the vision and story behind their brand. Are you a beverage or food brand that uses your retail execution strategy to advocate the company’s core lifestyle beliefs? Or are you a luxury brand whose designer labels and premium materials say something unique about a consumer? Or maybe you are a clothing brand that gives consumers the attitude they need to conquer their goals?
Your marketing department spends a great deal of time and money to create promotions and displays that convey your image, so it’s important that those initiatives are perfectly executed in the store. Spring’s mobileRetail application guides your field reps to follow best practices in the store to ensure that your goals are achieved in each retail outlet. Reps are presented with the data required to perform their job, and are guided through every task required in the store to increase promotion compliance in the stores. With mobileRetail, manufacturers are seeing a 20-minute reduction in each store visit, meaning reps can visit more customers per day and significantly increase their number of outlets with ‘perfect store execution.’
Spring Mobile Solutions offers cloud-based, out-of-the-box mobile applications designed to optimize medium to large field force operations. Our mobile products enable our customers to quickly implement solutions that improve retail execution and drive productivity and revenue.
Spring Mobile Solutions has offices around the world and provides solutions for global consumer goods companies including Unilever, L’Oréal and Coca-Cola. Find out more on our Solutions page.