6 years ago I started my first role in FMCG. Up until this point, my only experience of this industry was (like many people) as a blissfully unaware consumer doing my weekly shop, expecting the products on my shopping list to be on the shelf when I walked into my local store. I genuinely never thought there were complexities beyond shelf replenishment and checkout.
How wrong I was.
My first eye opener was being introduced to the concept of field marketing. The idea that brands had to support their own in store activity or have ‘feet on the street’ to simply understand if their products were on shelf seemed completely alien to me. Surely this was just a given? Surely it is an automated process? Surely this is a duplication of efforts?
It wasn’t until I spent time with suppliers and field teams that I became aware of the ‘black hole’ suppliers face daily. Book stock errors, general replenishment challenges, extra displays, implementation, compliance, stock in trade, balancing stock/availability/waste - the list goes on.
Any fellow salesperson knows we operate on a ‘needs based’ approach so I felt unable to offer a solution until I fully understood the problem. My curiosity around these challenges consumed me - I found myself asking more seemingly obvious questions ‘why did these issues occur in the first place and why wasn’t there a more proactive solution?’
I realised, regardless of size of supplier, the challenges were the same - speed to insight, consistency, vast amounts of data, ability to analyse and physical time to process. Or you could say the classic problem - data rich, insight poor.
Of course field marketing can be a valuable solution if you have a specific action to carry out such as replenishment or implementation, but in my experience, despite suppliers best efforts, they are seeking field resource to get visibility of what is happening in store and to understand the problem.
The challenge then becomes how many stores can you visit frequently enough to build up a complete picture of performance which is near enough impossible when you consider this would require daily visits to all stores across the estate. That’s before overlaying other factors you would then ideally want to know such as service levels, depot stock, EPOS sales, ROS and ranging.
I often say that when I moved to Atheon it was like a lightbulb moment - I finally got the answers to my questions. Seeing the Flow-of-Goods played back in a visual way meant that suppliers could not only see the action to take, but they could have the freedom to explore and understand their data.
True insight can only come once you get all the context in one place to tell a story. That is the key to being data led and driving lasting change.
The demands on the industry have never been higher - both from a global perspective to reduce waste, improve efficiency and accurate forecasting, to huge shifts in consumer trends such as plant-based living, vegan, free-from and 0% alcohol.
Now, more than ever, we need the right products, in the right stores, at the right time. That is why our launch of SKUtrak store insights is, in my opinion, truly game changing for our industry. Giving suppliers complete visibility of store/SKU performance alongside daily insight into where their biggest issues are and why means suppliers are empowered to make complex decisions confidently to drive the most valuable actions.
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