Five Big Data Shifts For CPG Field Teams in 2017

Everybody’s talking about Big Data. But what does it mean to the CPG Industry?

Consider this scenario: In Los Angeles, one of our client’s retail grocer ranks among the top 10 nationally for sales of a particular baby food. But just a few blocks over, at the same grocery chain, that baby food just sits on the shelf. It might have taken months to spot the discrepancy, meaning lost sales and profits and a frustrated retailer. But this CPG company has sophisticated tools that can quickly take in and process tons of data. These tools alert the rep where sales are lost in significantly less time. So she replaces the baby food with a product that sells briskly, and sales grow in her territory.

Replicate that across 100 products in just one chain and we’re talking a lot more money.

That’s the power of Big Data.

For CPG companies with the right tools, the rise of Big Data means good news: After all, insights gleaned from quantities of relevant, real-time information outweigh those gleaned from scant, dated information. The better your insights, the better your decisions, and the more profitable you can become. But for companies who have to clean, sort and organize their own information from a pile of spreadsheets, the promise of vastly more data coming down the pike just means headaches and a greater awareness of lost opportunities.

Driven by these best-in-class CPG companies, the use of Big Data is making seismic shifts in how the industry operates. Some are still a little below the surface, but they’ll soon erupt. Here are five of the most important in 2017:

1. Data is Changing the Relationship Of CPG Companies & Retailers

We talk to a lot of retailers about what they want from the CPG industry. The number one thing we hear is: “Don’t just come in with complaints about the store’s performance or with sales pitches. Give us opportunities that will help us solve problems.”

When a rep walks into a store armed with facts about what should and shouldn’t be happening, based on collected, organized, real-time data, that’s a completely different conversation than “You should buy more cases…we can’t tell you why.” (or, simply because these items are on promotion this week).

Information culled from Big Data sets gives both rep and retailer a practical basis for mutually beneficial decisions that actually increase sales.

In fact, retailers who once jealously guarded their data are sharing it more willingly, knowing that a CPG company with the facts will be more strategic about product placement. The industry is shifting toward retailers having manufacturers police themselves, so CPG companies whose products aren’t selling will lose their spots to companies who can make better predictions.

2.    Big Data Means Each Store Requires Unique Treatment

Never before could CPG companies make the kinds of choices our baby food manufacturer made, to fine-tune inventory in two stores of the same chain in the same neighborhood. But with the use of sophisticated audit tools like MarketCheck and a new call planner system that turns a hundred facts and decisions into a quick checklist, reps can maximize opportunities for each store. CPG companies that can do that are going to set the standard as more and more adopt a more sophisticated technology.

3.    Big Data is Spawning a New Breed of Sales Rep

Best-in-class companies are working with RW3 to create increasingly sophisticated technologies. Our new Call Planner application lets reps see at a glance where issues and opportunities lie in each store and plan their routes with much more targeted objectives. They might spend the same amount of time in each store, but they’ll get maximum benefit from each visit because the tool does 50 percent of the work for them.

As a result, the skill set required of reps is shifting. The top reps are going to be very comfortable using the technology to identify problems and opportunities and act more like business analysts than sales reps. While relationship will always be key, the rep who can show and explain data that projects greater sales volume for stores will ultimately trump the rep who can’t.

4.    Big Data Will Improve Performance Company Wide

Companies that have tools to manage Big Data can set accurate benchmarks, track clear trends, set specific targets and measure performance. It’s not just reps–who no longer have to spend an entire afternoon sifting through spreadsheets (though they’re likely to accomplish more on sales calls and sell more, thanks to the convincing power of data). But the data collected by the reps and other sources, and shared in the C-Suite, will result in better decisions at the top and filtered down. Performance that is measured improves; especially when performance is based on providing what the customer wants—the desired products on the shelves when they need them.

5.    Companies Who Can Wield Big Data More Than Double Sales Volume

Two years ago, we analyzed the numbers and learned that a CPG rep with the InStore Mobile Suite and other data collection and processing tools could double a manufacturer’s same store sales volume by more quickly spotting zero scans, excess inventory, ordering shortfalls and other issues. It’s basic economics: make sure consumers have access to the items they want to buy, reduce the ones they don’t, and your sales will rise.

We’ll continue to update our research but it’s certain that with the amount of information growing exponentially and the tools being continually refined, we’ve left that 100 percent growth benchmark behind and are heading for even greater volume increases—resulting in an even bigger gap between companies that can use the data effectively, and those that can’t.

How To Jump Start  Your Data Strategy in 2017?

Like everything else, it begins with your go-to-market strategy. What are your goals? Do you want to begin with one or several accounts? One or several regions? It is important to develop your own specific approach moving forward to capture the growing opportunities and demands of Big Data. The most important thing is not to get left behind.

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Bruce is the founder and CEO of RW3 Technologies. Having spent more than 35 years in the consumer goods and grocer space Bruce has experienced the industry disruption first hand and understands how artificial intelligence, POS data, and mobile technology can transform a good organization into a great one.

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