From Riverbanks to Retail Shelves: Distribution Dynamics

by Rituparna Nath

September 14, 2023 | 01 min read


Does distribution feel like a river flowing harmoniously or does it feel like pouring beer into a glass that requires a strategy?

While we strive to have the former and build the ideal environment for retail, the latter tends to be the reality mostly.

In order to achieve the ideal state, turn back to the natural geography and recollect the journey of a river.

A river, when near its source, is on the upper course. Here it flows the fastest. When it flows further into the middle course, the river slows down, eroding and depositing. Finally when it reaches the last or the lower course to meet the sea, it’s the slowest.

Comparing this to the distribution landscape:

River = Products
Upper Course = Primary Sales
Middle Course = Secondary Sales
Lower Course = Tertiary Sales

But with this logic, the flow of products would slow down as it reaches the market.

Instead, if we consider: Flow = Control & Visibility; it becomes a more fitter comparison.

The only fundamental difference between the flow of a river and the flow of distribution should be that each time a product flows further downstream, supply chain control & visibility should increase.

Instead, when products go ahead in the distribution channel to reach the market, control & visibility over each sales action keeps reducing. Very little is known of which products are going where and when, how are they being sold, etc.

So obviously when the salesman walks into the stores with the company’s products, it does feel like they’re pouring beer into a glass with caution. A little too much and it might overflow.

When rivers overflow they tend to disrupt lives and land. And when distribution moves in the wrong way, the same happens to the market and the business.

But then how to achieve the ideal state of distribution?

The answer lies in the middle course.

A river slows down in the middle course to get busy pouring itself for building ox-bow lakes, deltas, meanders, waterfalls, V-shaped valleys and other amazing natural elements. All depending on the need and ability of the land.

Similarly, products going from distributor warehouses to outlets need to be placed according to what the market needs. Some outlets might need a better product depth to grow, while some might require new product lines to survive.

Even the salesmen – the ones bringing the products to these stores, need to be set on the right course at all times to ensure the downstream supply chain moves in harmony, towards greater profitability.

Also, during the time spent in the upper course (distributor’s warehouse), the river (products) needs to plan for what lies ahead and be prepared to roll as the terrain changes.

But nature is yet to give us these powers. That’s why we need route-to-market technology. A digital infrastructure that brings end-to-end visibility in the downstream supply chain, increasing control and creating the ideal downstream distribution ecosystem.

Built on the base of retail intelligence, RTM technology makes it possible to pour products into stores with perfection, every single time. Depending on the terrain (the pulse of the market), it shows how each action for every product should be taken.

To explore how it gets done, tap on the button below, or contact us.

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