Business was a lot simpler when producers could just focus most of their attention on marketing to grow a brand. But new pressures are now forcing them to shift more energy to sales and commercial capabilities. Tougher competition is making retailers strive even harder to increase store productivity. And each year sees a rise in the number of shoppers waiting until they are in the aisle to choose a brand, often making up their minds in just a few seconds and reconsidering their choice every other time they buy.
While the number of products is continually expanding, shelf spaces are shrinking due to the rise of private labels and smaller retail formats. With increasingly complex decisions about which products to place and how to properly activate them, sales teams are often ill-equipped to make the right trade-offs. As a result, shelves are cluttered, promotions are inadequately executed, brands struggle to stand out, and sales productivity ratios stagnate, at best.
In order to gain control of the in-store experience so as to promote brand growth, winning companies typically follow three basic steps:
Leading companies determine which assets in the store, from the actual category shelf and secondary placements to promo slots and signage, they need to control and optimize to outperform rivals. For snacks or gum, for example, this might mean being present at the checkout counter in a traditional trade or controlling promotional hot spots in hypermarkets.
One maker of jam was able to boost net sales by an average of 15% to 25% within four weeks in pilot stores by taking control of in-store assets.
From strategy to brand planning, trade marketing, and sales, leading companies refocus their business routines on defining and executing against the ideal store.
This “store back” approach requires companies to take stock of constraints in shopper attention, in available storage space, and in sales execution capacity and use those constraints to develop brand strategies fit for winning at the point of sale.
Finally, leading companies establish a system to ensure that their brands are unfailingly activated in the store as intended. They lay out clear steps for sales reps to follow before, during, and after store visits to ensure compliance with the picture of success.
Scorecards measure whether or not each sales rep performs those activities in each outlet. Sell-in activities such as shelf visibility or product availability become performance metrics tied to salesforce compensation, replacing output measures such as sales volume, which may feel unattainable or lead to misguided incentives. Forward-thinking companies rely on technology solutions, such as handheld devices or online portals to monitor performance.
In both traditional and modern trade settings, the results can be impressive. In one European market, a food company saw stores that had implemented a sales excellence program achieve 70% more volume uplift than non-program stores. Another company saw a similar effort deliver an uplift of more than 15%, which shows the effectiveness of shelf marketing.