The word ‘frontline’ has become very commonly used in the last few weeks due to the Covid19 health pandemic. The work done by frontline people including first responders such as ambulance and fire brigade, primary health care providers, and emergency room personnel such as nurses and doctors has helped in saving countless human lives. Our salutes to them for their selfless devotion, even with limited PPE or resources such as test kits or ventilators, and sometimes at the cost of their own lives – no expressions of gratitude or goodwill will be adequate.
At a more mundane level, the hard work put in on an on-going basis by the frontline soldiers (salesmen, merchandisers, and field auditors) in the CPG/FMCG industry is very often not fully acknowledged or appreciated. Hitting the road every day, making numerous calls (as high as 30 to 40), dealing with different types of customers, and achieving the company’s objectives despite many push backs are all part of their objectives/targets. The appreciation when targets are achieved is often minimal and muted while the criticism for not meeting the targets is harsh and loud.
Some aspects of the salesman’s daily routine have been made relatively easy with the advent of technology. Sales Force Automation (SFA) tools have eliminated the need for manual updating of tasks such as client’s purchase history, ordering frequency, payment history, and a few more aspects – this makes the process of taking orders much faster and easier freeing up the salesman to do other tasks such as inventory checking, basic merchandising, relationship building with the customer, etc. A great step forward in making the salesman’s life more palatable.
But what about another, possibly more aversive chore that is part of the CPG/FMCG daily routine – be it the salesman or the merchandiser or the shelf auditor – on-shelf merchandising in the outlets on their route/beat plan? Not only is it time-consuming but made more complicated by frequent changes in planograms driven by a number of factors like new brands/variants/SKU’s launched by the company, new promotional campaigns, unauthorized shelf rearrangements made by competitors and so on. It is virtually impossible to commit to memory all permutations of outlets, product categories, and planograms specific to each.
Manual recourse has been and continues to be available but is time-consuming in terms of the feedback loop especially when the shelf audit is done by a third party using a manual system.
Image recognition apps like ShelfWatch have increasingly come to the rescue of the CPG/FMCG frontline soldiers. The task is made much easier and faster as the app lists all the tasks to be done for each product category in each of the outlets on their route/beat plan. A category relevant planogram, relevant to the outlet type, as agreed between the company and the retailer, is available on the app. The frontline soldier ensures compliance, clicks photos of the relevant shelves, uploads to the cloud where the ShelfWatch algorithms validate compliance to the planogram. Within minutes, while the frontline soldier is attending to another product category, the app gives feedback to validate compliance or if not, actions needed to be taken to ensure full compliance. This enables a quick rectification and minimizes potential loss of sales while the frontline soldier is still in the outlet.
The capabilities of ShelfWatch extend far beyond checking planogram compliance. Please visit our website for further information on how ShelfWatch can help your frontline soldiers.
- Saluting the CPG/FMCG Frontline Soldiers: The Retail Execution Heroes - April 25, 2020
- Managing In-Store Execution During Crises - April 8, 2020
- Case of Orange Juice and The Importance of In-Store Execution - April 2, 2020