As far as mobile based Field Force Solution is concerned, there is no second thought that FMCG companies are the one who have pioneered this initiative and others have followed them. At the same time, it is a fact that some of those market leaders have stuck to the same solution which they conceptualized more than 10 years back keeping in mind business scenario and technological capabilities prevailing at that point of time. Unfortunately, their solutions have not evolved much to keep in pace with business priorities and technological evolution. So any FMCG company, irrespective of its market share, should not just blindly follow the market leaders and should take a more wholistic and futuristic approach when they plan to roll-out a field force management solution for its employees.
The best way to list down the ‘must have’ features is to first figure out what will be end objectives of such an initiative. Broadly there can be five goals:
- Managing availability
- Managing visibility
- Minimizing expiry / return
- Better control on distributors
- Enabling deep penetration across geography
Once the end objectives are clearly noted, once should brainstorm what features the solution must have (both on the app and on the web interface) which will help in meeting these goals. While doing that, it must also be kept in mind that the same solution must be capable enough to be used by merchandisers as well as sales executives so that consolidated data can be seen in one single solution only. Based on our experience of serving multiple FMCG brands across the globe, we are listing down some features which must be there in an FMCG SFA solution:
Order Capture: This is a very obvious and most important feature to have when you want your sales executives / sales officers to use a mobile solution. It must be capable of being integrated with distributor billing system (DMS or ERP) with readymade APIs available. This will not only help you to maintain timely replenishment to the retailers, but will also help do some predictive analytics in terms of SKU or region wise demand.
Order Fulfilment: A major problem faced by the FMCG companies is not having clarity on whether distributors are able to fulfill the orders on time or not. A complete visibility of order fulfilment will help in improving retailer confidence on the brand and can also help in finding indicators to capture inefficiencies in the distribution network, if any.
Retailer Stock: For any FMCG company, it is absolutely important to maintain sufficient availability at the outlets. Not just from retailers’ point of view, but also for the end customer his brand loyalty can be impacted if he sees his favorite brand is out of stock more often than not. So there must be complete visibility of critical and alarming stock levels so that the same data can be corelated with order fulfilment to initiate necessary actions.
Product Expiry: While maintaining high availability can boost your sales, an excess of it can result in significant loss, especially for perishable products. Also, for such products, freshness matters a lot to the customers. So, the solution must be able to capture details of SKUs which are expiring in near future. It can not only save you from immediate losses, but can also help in predictive analytics for regional demand planning.
Promotions & Offers: Promotional activities play a big role in FMCG sales and companies usually spend a huge money on the same. It is particularly important to track if these promotions and offers are clearly visible to the customers when they step into the outlets. These can be POSMs, sampling, store-in-store or any other activity. Tracking the same will help in taking quick and immediate action in case of any default.
Share of Shelf: Importance of visibility need not to be separately spelled out for any FMCG company. Are your products occupying enough shelf space? Are they placed in ‘Hot Zone’ (especially if you have paid for the same)? Ideally for any product, you should always have a share of shelf which is higher than your market share in that segment. The solution must be capable enough to provide you that insight.
Trade Schemes: While you run your schemes to entice the retailers, it is not very uncommon in FMCG industry that those schemes are not always completely from distributors to the retailers. In fact, many a times retailers are not even of such schemes. The field force solution must have capability to create such schemes and make it visible in the app when the sales person is visiting the retailer.Data Analytics & Visualization: At the end of the day, you would like to get insights about the market from all the various data being captured. So the solution must have some powerful data analysis capability so that you get everything on a mouse click. For example, it is very important to know whether you have enough coverage in the interior part of the country or not and a heat map can show you that information quickly. Or it can help you in creating a more effective Beat Plan if the solution is powered with a capable analytics engine.