Proposition – A ‘P’ added by Unilever’s framework

A proposition emphasises the USP of any product. Crafting a simple, focused and clear winning proposition can be complex and time taking.

A framework to derive your brand’s USP

Consequently, marketers and sales teams strive to extract learnings from the past, and drive bigger and better innovations for the future. A successfully crafted proposition creates an imprint in the target consumers’ minds to the point that they think of the brand synonymously with the product. Example: The brand, Vaseline and the product, petrolatum, Sharpies and permanent markers, Band-Aid and adhesive bandages…

Chapstick and lip balm

The USP may be product purity, awards associated with the product, value for money, a cause that it stands for etc.

For some brands, it involves creating a narrative around the product. Its aim could be to educate the shopper, to awaken an emotional response or a call to support a mission driven cause. Eg: Tony’s Chocolonely, whose mission is a 100% slave free chocolate.

Most companies focus such propositions on their star brands and SKUs. This way, the benefits of customer loyalty and sales could even extend to different, newer versions of the same product resulting in a sales boost of the overall product category.

How do you communicate your value proposition?

These days, the proposition is most commonly communicated on e-commerce sites, whether that is the retailer’s site or one that is direct to consumer.

In store, proposition is often communication through shelf barkers/talkers. Gondola end displays are used as well. 

Stocking hero SKUs near or at check-out counters is another way to augment brand visibility and communicate proposition.

Crafting succesful propositions

So what are the elements of great value propositions? We have 5 for you to consider.

  1. The rule of 3: Propositions that sell more than three benefits often fail as consumers and shoppers fail to see the key benefit. Also, consumers/shoppers start questioning the assertions of the proposition and consequently trust the brand less.
  2. Emotional or mission driven appeal vs functional benefits: Focussing on a brand’s functional benefits commoditises the product and makes it easier for consumers to switch brands. To maintain share and to encourage more consumers to buy your brand, focus on the emotional or mission driven aspects of the proposition. Mission driven brands have been shown to retain market share even in the most challenging of circumstances.
  3. Include consumer and shopper benefits: Often times, the shopper is different from the consumer. For example, when parents go shopping for breakfast cereal for their children or when a woman buys shaving products for her male partner or when a man buys feminine care products for his female partner. It is key for the proposition to appeal as much to the shopper as the consumer.
  4. Sustainable differentiation: Ensure that your proposition remains relevant for the long term as well as the short. If your point of differentiation focusses on the problems of today and is not expected to be relevant beyond a certain period, your brand is likely to lose appeal beyond that period.
  5. The value proposition for your customers (for those brands that are not just D2C): The above 4 elements are often well thought through as a part of the organisation’s marketing and innovation process. However the value proposition for the customer is less thought through and often purely financial in nature. An effective customer value proposition combines both financial and emotional considerations and is often laid out when the customer is evaluating a brand or a SKU for listing at stores.

If you’d like to learn more about crafting successful value propositions for your brands, email me on veena@salesbeat.co

Process – A newer addition to the traditional 4Ps

So you have a great product and you have defined and validated your target audience(consumer segment). How do you deliver your brand/SKU to the customer(brick & mortar/online) and make it available for your target consumers to buy? The next P, Process, covers this aspect.

The sales process followed in any organisation influences execution in store and how the brand/product is perceived by the consumer. As for your customers, it is crucial to make sure you’re easy to do business with, meaning you’re efficient, helpful and timely. 

The sales process followed directly impacts execution, including delivery of your brand/SKU to customers, in-store availability, placement on shelf, how communication with the customer is managed, new product launches and so on. An effective sales process will include all aspects of the 7Ps and describes the series of actions or fundamental elements that are involved in delivering the SKU to the customer, for the consumer to buy.

By making sure your team has a good sales process in place, you will also save time and money due to greater efficiency, and your standard of service to customers will remain consistent and high, which is excellent for developing a great brand reputation and to build a great relationship with the customer.

The more seamless and personalised your sales processes are, the happier your customers will be. Customers typically feel frustrated or dissatisfied by late shipping, additional costs, poor communication or a lack of support and when brands/SKUs run out of stock in store.

Every part of the customers’/consumers’ journey has to be seamless and efficient. 

Regularly assessing, adjusting and adapting your sales processes will help to structure your sales efforts so that your team can function at optimal efficiency. A great way to do this is to borrow from the tech industry. Map your customer and consumer journey on a regular basis. How does your brand get to the final user? What are the various steps in the journey to the final user/consumer and what process do you have in place that facilitates this? Prioritise elements that overlap with the customer/consumer experience.

The more specific and seamless your sales processes are, the more smoothly your sales teams can carry them out. If your sales team isn’t focused on navigating procedures, they have more time to build great customer relationships, enabling the business to grow.

Some elements to consider are as below: 

  • Is your customer carrying the right levels of stock? If too little, how much more needs to be ordered and why? If too much, how can you help the customer reduce this before stock needs to be destroyed/written off?
  • Is your logistics solution cost-efficient and timely? What does your scheduling and delivery logistics look like?
  • Will your customers run out of product at critical times?
  • If you are an e-commerce business, do items ship reliably from your website?
  • How often do you meet with the customer’s team and how do you communicate price changes, POS artwork changes and packaging changes to customers?
  • What technology do you use? How can your customer access it? Do they need access?

If you get more than one complaint about any element of the sales process, understand what’s going wrong and develop a solution. 

When you get your sales process right, your sales team will

  • be more productive, manage more customers and also have better relationships with customers as a result.
  • maintain or gain market share for your brand. Fewer customers delist your brand/SKUs as your team responds immediately to consumer needs/feedback.When people love your products, they experiment less and so remain loyal to your brand.
  • receive feedback from customers and consumers, and ensure it reaches relevant decision makers within the organisation. Feedback helps you change what needs to be changed, and helps your business grow.
  • sell and deliver the right volumes of your brands/SKUs so your customers are neither overstocked nor understocked.

This includes any technology sales teams use in their normal course of work. This ranges from sales intelligence solutions teams use to calculate sales volumes through to merchandising apps that monitor shelves.

If your sales process is efficient and any sales technology you use is in keeping with the process and with market conditions, your brand thrives and so does your business.

If you’d like to learn more about how to set up an efficient sales process or how to maximise sales team productivity using the right sales technology and tools, email me on veena@salesbeat.co

Product – the most important element of retail execution & the marketing mix

Product is, probably, the most crucial component of the 6Ps. It originates directly from your consumer through an unmet need that they have.

This can be a physical item, a service, a platform or software. It is produced at a cost and is made available to the target audience at a price to help fulfil the need. Whatever the nature of the product, it always follows a lifecycle. A company can increase its competitive edge by ensuring a thorough understanding of the potential lifecycle of the product for proactive launches of product extensions or timely re-launches. Re-launches help the brand/product to remain relevant in a changing market or at the end of its lifecycle.

Product lifecycle

The 4 commonly used stages are introduction, growth, maturity and decline.

We like the hubspot model as it breaks this down into 6 stages – development, introduction, growth, maturity, saturation and decline.

Development: The development stage of the product life cycle is the research phase before a product is commercially launched for wider consumption. In the FMCG context, this is when the innovation team develops/conceptualises the product and the branding in collaboration with the R & D team, with key consumer focus groups providing feedback.

Introduction: The introduction phase is when a product is commercially launched. In the FMCG context, this is when marketing teams begin building product awareness amongst consumers and sales teams reach out to potential customers. Typically, when a product is introduced, sales volumes are low and demand builds slowly. This phase is dominated by advertising and marketing campaigns educating both the consumer and the customer (supermarket/wholesaler/distributor etc).

Growth: During this stage, consumers have accepted the product in the market and customers are beginning to buy in. This is the stage when competition begins developing.

During this phase, marketing campaigns often shift from getting customers’ buy-in to establishing a brand presence so consumers choose them over developing competitors. Additionally, as companies grow, they’ll grow distribution at existing and new customers.

Maturity: Once the brand/product gains strong foothold in market, it enters the maturity phase, with gradual slowdown in sales. The brand/product is already the market leader and demand grows only at the replacement rate.

Saturation: This means that a majority of the brand’s/product’s target households will own or use the product. At this stage, sales grows more or less on par with population. Price competition becomes intense and the brand/product teams focus on retaining shelf space and even their listings at stores.

Decline: If the product/brand doesn’t become or retain its position as the preferred brand for consumers, it enters the last stage – decline. Usually, this happens to strong brands only in the case of industry transformation. Eg. Kodak. Sales will decrease during this time and the only way to win at this stage is to innovate and launch a new or transformative solution.

It goes without saying that functionally, the product must be able to perform its function as promised and it must be available when the consumer needs it.

At this moment in time, availability in store is proving to be a bigger challenge than others. This is driving consumers to look towards what they already have for solutions and in the cases of some products/brands, is speeding up the onset of the ‘decline’ phase before the products/brands even get to the ‘saturation’ phase.

Why is availability at risk?

2021 has been a challenging year for the grocery sector. While the HGV crisis was not specifically driven by the pandemic, it only made it worse. This has caused unprecedented levels of stock outs in supermarkets. And then there is the legacy of COVID on consumption behaviour.

Covid has had a lasting impact on our lives, from the increase in home based working (driving higher consumption of toilet paper and cleaning products at home vs the office) to cooking meals at home instead of eating out (increased demand for oil, salt, cooking ingredients at the supermarket vs at wholesalers/distributors to the on-trade). People have realised that cooking at home during the pandemic has helped significantly with savings. The same goes for consumption of beer, wine & spirits at home instead of at the on-trade. These are behaviours that are expected to last, especially as the impact of price inflation is felt at home.

The above changes, combined with just in time ordering and production followed by retailers and by suppliers in this sector is putting pressure on availability.

As 2020 demonstrated, at one point, availability trumps price and brand loyalty. And, at the risk of using an over tired idiom, out of sight, out of mind.

Promotions and retail sales

This is probably the most complex of the 4 (or 6) Ps.

Promotion includes all those activities that involve communicating the benefits and features of your brand/product.

Through it, you let potential customers and consumers know what you are selling. In order to convince them to buy your brand, you need to explain how it solves their problem/what it is, how to use it, and why they should buy your brand.

An effective promotional effort contains a clear message that is targeted to a certain audience and is done through appropriate channels.

The audience of your promotional activities include, but are not restricted to:

  • Consumers
  • Customers where consumers can buy your brand
  • Influencers
  • Collaborators

The key objectives of promotional activities are:

  • Building awareness
  • Creating interest
  • Providing information
  • Stimulating demand
  • Differentiating the brand/product
  • Reinforcing your brand

You may choose multiple channels to reach your target audience and achieve these objectives. There are 5 elements to the promotional mix and are as below:

Advertising

This mode of promotion is usually paid, with little or no personal message. Mass media such as television, radio or newspapers and magazines is most often the carrier of these messages. Apart from these, billboards, posters, web pages, brochures and direct mail also fall in the same category. While this method has traditionally been one sided, advertising on new channels such as the internet may allow for quick feedback from your target audience.

In order to pick the optimal advertising channel:

  1. Define objectives – What are you seeking to achieve and your end goals of the campaign?
  2. Decide on the budget – How much are you willing to spend on the campaign?
  3. Adoption of the message – What message are you trying to convey?
  4. Review past campaigns for effectiveness – If your company has done other campaigns in the past, go through post campaign evaluation notes for how effective they were.

PR and Sponsorship

Public relations (PR) is usually focused on building a favourable image of your business. PR or publicity tries to increase positive mention of the product or brand in influential media outlets.

You can do this by doing something good for the neighborhood and the community like holding an open house or being involved in community activities.You can engage the local media and hold press conferences as part of your promotional strategy.

Through these press conferences, you can engage with newspapers, magazines, talk shows and new media such as social networks and blogs. This could also mean allowing super users, or influencers to test the product and speak positively about it to their peers.

This may or may not be paid. For example, sponsoring a major event and increasing brand visibility is a paid action. Sending free samples to a blogger then depends on their discretion and opinion and is not usually swayed by payment.

Previously this has been the least used channel by brands, especially the large ones; but is becoming increasingly important in the current world we live in.

Events & Experiences

Through events, you can make your product known to both your customer and your consumer. These include industry events targeting trade (supermarkets, wholesalers, distributors, restaurants etc) or consumer facing ones. This even includes tasting experiences you may decide to hold and is commonly seen in the beer, wine and spirits industry.

Personal selling

Direct selling connects company representatives with the consumer. These interactions can be in person, over the phone and over email or chat. This personal contact aims to create a personal relationship between the client and the brand or product. Some personal sales strategies are incentive programs, sales representations, samples, sales meetings, and trade shows.

These days this is common in sales of high value consumer goods like consumer electronics (think Apple store), art galleries, high end wines and whisky etc.

Direct marketing

Direct marketing allows you to promote the product or service to an individual consumer.

This strategy allows greater adaptability of the product and the messaging to the needs or interests of the consumer.

The main direct marketing channels are:

  • e-mail
  • internet
  • telemarketing
  • mail
  • e-commerce

Sales promotions

These are usually short term strategic activities which aim to encourage a surge in sales. These could be ‘buy one get one free’ options, seasonal discounts, contests, free samples or even special coupons with expiration dates.

Promotions can vary by target demographic and need to be carefully evaluated for each store, consumers in the location and time of the year.

Key considerations when designing the promotional mix for your brand

Whenever a brand/company sets out to design its promotional mix, the brand team needs to consider the following points:

  1. Stage in the brand/product Lifecycle – Eg. At the launch stage there may be a need for more aggressive and informational advertising.
  2. Nature of the brand/product – If a brand/product is not new in its usage or function, there may be less need for information and more focus on brand equity creation.
  3. Budget – This is fairly self explanatory. For those with large marketing budgets, TV ads and large billboard campaigns may form part of the mix and those on a shoestring budget may rely on other elements of the mix to create awareness.
  4. Cultural Sensitivity – If a product is to be launched in a new international market or even a new region in a country, it is critical to take into consideration local sensitivities. These include both cultural and religious considerations.
  5. Target Market Composition – The people who make up the target market need to be considered before committing to a promotional mix. What media do they consume the most? How and where do they shop?
  6. Competitor Actions – The methods your closest competitor uses influences your mix as well.

If you’d like to learn more about how to derive the right mix for your brand, the different channels for promotion or how markets or regions can influence mix, email me on veena@salesbeat.co

Pricing strategy and pricing

Price is the only KPI of retail execution that creates revenue, while all of the others are costs.

FMCG companies need to be very clear about pricing objectives, methods and the factors that influence price setting. The pricing team needs to know if their brand is losing or gaining market share at the current price offered for the product. This requires data collection and its subsequent computation to gather actionable insights. 

If you need to price a brand or a SKU in a new market, it makes all the difference in the world if you can understand consumers’ willingness-to-pay. As price affects the value that consumers perceive they get from buying a brand, it can be an important element in their purchase decision.

Understanding willingness to pay is a key element of pricing in all sectors. However, a lack of widely available information in the FMCG sector makes this challenging.

One of the biggest challenges faced by FMCG companies is setting a price or prices (depending on channels) that unifies all internal objectives:

  1. one that simultaneously boosts top-line growth,
  2. is aligned with the brand positioning,
  3. and increases penetration & growth

This is further complicated if the route to consumer is not direct i.e. the brand is sold through a supermarket, grocery store, wholesaler or an e-commerce aggregator. In this case, the company needs to set their recommended price for consumers and set their customer’s prices based on the margin they are likely to take. Usually, at this point, there is an element of negotiation with the customer.

All brands selling through aggregators (supermarkets, convenience etc) need to negotiate optimal prices with buying directors

An FMCG company may implement all the best practices of a perfect store and still not succeed if their product pricing is not competitive, and if pricing is not communicated on shelf or (for some countries) on pack. Similar to availability, it doesn’t matter how much shelf space has been secured in store and how effective the point of sale material is, if the consumer encounters an absent price tag. The risk of lost sales is very high. Pre-covid, we’d have said that an absent price tag equals a lost sale, especially for a new brand.

An absent price tag impacts sales

However, 2020 taught us that availability trumps price.

If you’d like to learn more about pricing for FMCG brands in the retail environment or more about retail execution, email me on veena@salesbeat.co

Place/Placement – where do consumers find your brand?

As you can tell, this is a KPI most applicable to brick & mortar stores. Where the brand/SKU can be located in a store has an outsized impact on sales.

There are 3 components to this:

  • The aisle (where on the shop floor) where your brand can be found
  • The arrangement on shelf
  • Share of shelf

The aisle

When consumers walk into the store, they usually have a list of brands/SKUs they’d like to buy. Based on previous in-store experience or based on aisle labels, consumers can then locate the shelves on which these brands/SKUs are stacked. It is key that brands and SKUs are placed in the most intuitive aisle/shelves as it maybe hard for consumers to find it otherwise. If this happens, it is likely that the store/brand may lose the sale.

It is equally important to also place your brands/SKUs on shelves adjacent to complementary products, to encourage impulse sales. For example, the consumer who walks in to buy baking powder to bake a cake, may end up buying cocoa or icing sugar which is placed adjacent to the baking powder. Another example is the instance when a customer buys a dip that’s placed in the crisps(chips)/snacks aisle.

The arrangement on shelf

Important shelf arrangement KPIs are:

  • eye-level product placement,
  • sequence of products,
  • point of sale materials,
  • adjacencies (which we touched on in the previous section),
  • planogram compliance and
  • category separation

In a store, shelf space allotted to a brand is limited. Eye level shelf space is prime real estate in this context as this encourages trial and impulse buys.

Eye level is ‘buy’ level

Also, given the space constraints, sequence of placement becomes important as this can have a major influence on sales. Many brand owners prefer to place associated products near their ‘hero SKUs’. Eg: placing conditioner right next to their hero SKU, a shampoo. This encourages impulse buying and may encourage a consumer to switch brands eventually.

Point of sale (POS) materials are perhaps the most under-utilised levers. POS materials are usually present on or near shelves in the form of posters or shelf talkers. They may also be free standing display units like the ones seen at at the end of an aisle, close to the entrance of the store or near the tills, where people are likely to make an impulse purchase while waiting to pay. They often introduce a new launch, a promotion, or the value proposition of the hero SKU. Challenger brands usually are great at this.

A great example of point of sale material

A Planogram is a detailed schematic about how products will be placed on shelf. There are 3KPIs that relate to this:

  1. Availability
  2. Placement in the right area and with the right sides facing the consumer
  3. Sequence of placement (i.e. sequence in which the brands’ various SKUs will be placed on the shelf)
There are several apps available to monitor and ensure planogram compliance

Category separation becomes important when there is a key differentiating factor between other brands on the same shelf and yours and even between your own brands. Eg: you may want to place your biodegradable toothbrushes separate from your regular toothbrush SKU.

Colgate has placed its charcoal infused biodegradable toothbrush SKU in a shelf ready unit

Share of shelf

This refers to the space allotted to your brand/SKU on the shelf, by the store. While this is part of the planogram, it is important to address this separately. Enough shelf space needs to be bought or negotiated for your brand, so that your product is displayed practically and advantageously. 

Here, Warburtons Toastie has 10 facings across Medium, Toastie & Super Toastie

You may have heard others referring to facings as a key metric here. This is a key part of shelf space and refers to how many products in your SKU face the customer.

As with the ‘P’ from last week’s blog, Product, today’s ‘P’, Placement also assumes availability of the brand/SKUs in store. Here, we are not just referring to presence but also having enough stock in store to meet consumer demand.

If you’d like to get more information on any of these KPIs, discuss this in more detail or understand how availability can be solved for, especially within the context of today’s fast changing world, email me on veena@salesbeat.co

Product – availability & distribution

Today’s blog is about Product and all the factors associated with it.

The product (brand or SKU) placed in a store is extremely important. Even in the case of large retailers like Walmart or Tesco, not all stores are the same. Each store in a retail chain has a different mix of consumer demographics, dependent on location.

Size of store/store format is a factor that influences this ‘P’.  Another factor is packaging and artwork.

For example, a convenience occasion focussed brand/brand extension with high sustainability credentials aimed at the AB demographic would be far better off launching in stores in & around the city than anywhere else in London. 

Another example is stocking only single serve or sharing size SKUs in city convenience stores and stocking sharing, value added and multipacks in supermarket/hypermarket formats. This is dictated by space constraints in store and also at the homes of consumers.

A convenience store format is more focussed on stocking core products than in product extensions
Hypermarkets will be focussed on maximising sales top get the highest ROI and so will stock a large assortment of SKUs

Retailers typically divide their products into three categories:  

  • Core items that customers always expect you to have in stock and ready for them to buy;
  • Line extensions which are different options to the core product; 
  • Related products or services that make the initial purchase work better.

On-shelf availability is a key factor for this ‘P’. The consumer should be able to find the brand/SKU they want, whenever they want it. This relates directly to the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ principle. 

If a consumer does not find the brand/SKU they want, they will look for a different brand or even a substitute. This leads directly to not just a loss of sale, but also to a share loss. 

In the lead up to next week’s blog on the 2nd P, Place, we would be remiss in not mentioning new product launches. New brand launches or product extensions should be in stores where the target consumer is most likely to buy or sample it. These new SKUs or brands should be in high visibility areas in store and if relevant, with complementary products. Eg. new dip brands or flavours placed next to chips/crisps or in the snacking section. More on this next week!

If you’d like to learn more about the first P, Product and getting your KPIs to a healthy place, email us on veena@salesbeat.co.

Retail execution in FMCG

Excellence retail execution has been a focus for FMCG companies for several years now as they all concur that retail excellence results in increased sales and market share. Each company has coined its own term for this.

‘Perfect Store’ by Unilever, ‘Golden Store’ by P & G, ‘Right execution daily’ (RED) by Coca Cola and ‘Flawless Execution’ by PepsiCo.

The concept was popularised in the early 2000s by Bain & Unilever to maximise ‘sell out’ in store (i.e. maximising sales to us, consumers!) Unilever adds an additional ‘P’ to the 4P framework by Jerome McCarthy. Their 5 Ps for ‘Perfect Store’ are:

Product – The ‘type’ of product or brand sold by the store is important. For example, a 24pk of a snack brand will not sell as well as a single serve or sharing size does in smaller convenience stores. On shelf availability is an important KPI to consider when it comes to products. The consumer should be able to find the product on shelf when they come in to buy it. The ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ principle applies here. They discourage customer loyalty and can spur the switch to a competitor. When brands have their finger on the pulse of retail execution, they can avert out-of-stocks before they happen.

Tricana – An example of flawless on-shelf availability and placement

Place – The placement of the SKU/brand on shelf determines volume of sales. Again, the out of sight, out of mind principle plays a key role here as placement on the highest or lowest shelf is not as desirable as eye level placement. ‘Place’ covers the number of ‘facings’, the shelf space allotted to the brand and placement of the brand alongside complementary brands/products (Eg: placing icing sugar, flour and baking powder together or ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise together ).

Price – A brand may implement all the best practices of a perfect store and still not succeed if pricing is not right. The price should not just yield companies a healthy margin, but also be competitive vs other brands/SKUs in the same category. Also, it is key that the price is indicative of other qualitative factors that differentiate the brand from competition, but more on Proposition later. To complete the circle on Price, for pricing to effectively drive sales, it is important to ensure that the price tag that communicates the pricing is on shelf close to the product.

Communicating price and promotion

Promotion – Promotions are an effective driver of sales. Promotions are mostly made for star products and new product launches. However, these days, it is common for brands to run promotions for certain times of the year that are conducive to sales of the brand. Eg: Wine sales in the run up to Christmas; Chocolate sales in the run up to Easter etc.

An excellent example of ‘Proposition’ – Communicating the differentiating factor

Proposition (the 5th P added by Unilever) – In addition to the 4Ps from the 4P framework, Unilever has a 5th one – Proposition. We touched upon this in ‘Price’. It is important that the brand has distinguished itself from competition and gives consumers a reason to choose your brand vs completion. Proposition is usually communicated through shelf ‘talkers’ aka shelf ‘barkers’

Retail execution is critical for consumer goods brands to win in today’s competitive market. Consumers have limitless options in virtually any category they’re shopping for, so making products available and appealing to consumers is essential to winning share. We’ll delve deeper into each of the 5 Ps in the next few weeks.

To learn more about how a data driven approach can ensure the 5Ps are executed and to learn more about retail execution, email me on veena@salesbeat.co

Demand planning vs sales intelligence

If you ever do a search/have done a search on Google for sales intelligence for FMCG companies, you’ll find several academic articles on how AI can benefit sales teams in FMCG companies, along with links to several companies that provide AI driven sales intelligence to any other sector than FMCG.

And if you search for demand planning solutions there are an abundance of them, those that use AI and include seasonality, holidays etc to provide forecasts. Ironically demand planning is not used by sales teams. In fact, one of its input factors is a sales forecast from the sales team!

So who uses Demand planning software?

The supply or production planning teams typically use demand planning software to ensure there is enough stock of the final product produced, so that they can fulfil orders and meet demand. Typically, the annual sales plan drawn up by the sales team is one of the inputs into the demand planning software/application. According to an article by Gartner (Aug 2019),  demand planning is typically used by the Sales & Operations Planning team (S & OP team) and focuses on a tactical horizon from 3-24 months.

Demand planning and how it feeds into the S & OP process

The primary goal of demand planning is to ensure availability of stock on the supply side. The process results in a plan that feeds into the Sales & Operations Planning meeting that agrees on the stock that needs to be maintained at a company warehouse level to be able to meet demand for the period being planned.

Now here is why demand planning is not the same as sales intelligence. Have you ever planned your grocery list 3 months in advance? Also, have you ever known a supply team to influence a buyer’s decisions?

Sales intelligence in FMCG

Even a few years ago, sales intelligence in FMCG would have been complex and time taking. Insights teams would look at similar information as marketers do when considering innovations or ad campaigns. However, due to the sheer volume of information, and the time it takes to process the information and gain insights, this happens only for new product development or for market entry initiatives.

Due to recent advances in AI, it is now possible to build applications that process the same quantum of information on a daily basis to provide valuable insights to sales teams, helping them take advantage of opportunities that were never identified by the strategy team or by the demand planning application.

Sales intelligence cycle

Sales intelligence apps are used by sales teams who actively sell into customers.

By empowering sales teams with information on what consumers want and are likely to buy in the next 4-6 weeks or even days, sales teams can ensure 100% in-store availability of the brands they sell. Providing timely sales intelligence helps sales teams take advantage of opportunistic upsides that are in line with long term strategy, leading to increased revenues of up to 40%.

To learn more about FMCG sales intelligence software/platforms, email me on veena@salesbeat.co

Reducing stock outs of personal care & hygiene brands in store

Last week, we focussed on how to reduce stock outs of food & beverage brands in stores. This week we are focussing on personal care & home care brands.

You may think that personal care & home care brands are immune to these fluctuations as consumer buying behaviour is a result of frequency of use and this remains more or less consistent. However as we saw in 2020, consistency & predictability are of the past. Climate change and the pandemic have forced us to behave in ways we have never imagined. These changes in behaviours and their unpredictability have caused brands to go out of stock in stores as companies and sales people rely on out dated information to inform them of consumer demand.

So how do you go about understanding optimal orders for personal care & hygiene brands? For a start, lets look at some of the key drivers of sales for the different categories:

Skin care brands

If you are a salesperson working for a company selling skin care brands, frequency of use is key to understanding demand. Frequency of use is driven by habit, nature of work, if they are office based, home based or site based etc. Now look at how covid/lockdowns have impacted this. How are people interacting with these brands/products at home and how are they expected to interact with offices/restaurants opening up? How have closures of spas impacted sales of skin care products and brands?

Hair care and colour

This shelf is deceptive. While the shelves look relatively full, several colours have gone out of stock. And when it comes to hair colour, consumers are usually reluctant to switch brands, hair types or colour!

Here is one time when historical sales is a good starting point. If you can get hold of store level depletions data across all colours and brands in store, you can get an understanding of the rough split of past demand for various colours. Now look at the drivers – how your target consumer uses your brand and the associated occasions – at home, work, social etc, and then apply how these occasions have changed during current times and its impact on sales.

Personal hygiene

Personal hygiene brands have been impacted by covid & by lockdowns. We separate the two as both these elements, while linked, drive different behaviours in consumers. While the pandemic itself has driven an increased consciousness of personal hygiene and keeping immediate surroundings clean/disinfected, lockdowns have led to a more relaxed stance toward personal hygiene at home.

While previously, the average consumer would have taken a shower at work after a run, the very same consumer now doesn’t think twice about changing into work clothes to attend a meeting immediately after the run and shower only at the end of his/her work day. Think of how else covid and lockdowns have impacted consumer behaviour directly associated with your brand.

Vitamins and supplements

Here’s another category that has been directly impacted by the pandemic. Consumers are more concerned about their immunity now and this has in turn benefitted the vitamins and supplements category. To understand the increase in demand for specific vitamins/supplements within this space, consider what the consumer uses the vitamin/supplement for, consumption occasion, consumer age etc

Diapers/Nappies

Here’s another category like hair colour where consumers are unlikely to switch brands and they definitely will not switch sizes! But you can get an understanding of demand by looking at number of births for a start and then at whether day care/play-schools are open or closed.

Now that you know the key drivers and you have your consumer persona from the marketing team, put them together to get an understanding of consumer demand and depletions in store. And before you ask me, these are real photographs taken just last weekend.

If you’d like to discuss any of the drivers of categories in more detail, feel free to email me on veena@salesbeat.co