To survive and prosper today, Consumer Products manufactures and suppliers must be ready to win when it matters – in that first moment of truth when a shopper enters a store or stands at the shelf ready to make a purchase. Success in this brief moment, repeated hundreds and thousands of times every day, rests on having the right product, in the right place, with the right price or the right promotion, at the right time.
For Consumer Products companies that get it right, the final link closes between the supply and demand chains, delivering the value promised by manufacturing and logistics optimization, trade spend programs, and brand marketing campaigns. For companies that get it right consistently, the rewards stretch out into the future. They include reinforced brand loyalty from satisfied customers, stronger relationships with retailers, and less risk of being overtaken by the competition.
Technology advances come and go. But once in a while, new tools and smart thinking converge at exactly the right time, transforming how we do things in a way that makes progress very difficult to ignore. The convergence of mobile sales force automation software, handheld devices, and wireless technologies are changing the way Consumer Products (CP) companies manage their retail execution operations.
Mobile sales force automation solutions for retail execution are now in use every day, supporting winning field forces around the world. Forward-thinking companies, large and small, are quickly seizing this opportunity. Beyond the obvious gains in efficiency (and reductions in cost), they recognize that these new solutions give them the ability to harvest rich information from the field – information that was previously unavailable.
Top executives increasingly favor this field empowerment-and recognize the resulting ‘Instant Field Intelligence’ as pivotal to their success. Instant Field Intelligence (IFI) refers to the harvesting and transmission back to head office of real-world data from the field.
IFI adds a vivid new layer of intelligence that helps explain data gathered from traditional sources, (e.g. scan and transactional data). Because information is ‘real’ (i.e. based on direct observation), is available immediately, and can be routed to managers across the business, it allows for quick remedial action in the short-term and better longer-term planning.
For example, it helps companies:
quickly remedy out-of-stocks during promotional cycles
match product supply to precise local demand
investigate causal factors for atypical new product metrics
respond rapidly to high-priority service requests
It also answers vexing questions:
Is a retailer complying with promotion POS display?
Does the category planogram have holes?
Are items incorrectly priced?
Did a delivery go astray, or are goods in the backroom? Are they damaged?
Is a store manager in-step with a chain HQ directive?
Is freshness an issue?
IFI is everything brand managers did not know before – it is the direct link between in-store conditions and actual brand outcomes in specific stores and sets the stage for brand superiority at the shelf.
By Devin Mason