We are in the last month of 2020 and is that a collective sigh that we hear? Is 2021 going to be any better? Thankfully, two global developments have brought some cheer, and markets are responding in kind. Thank you, Joe Biden and COVID-19 vaccine.
All the optimism almost makes us forget about the dark months of March, April and May. Our supply chains had hit rock bottom, RTM and distribution channels had faltered, and retail shelves ran empty. Even our most loyal customers switched to other more available brands. It was a shock to the system.
However, some sense of normalcy was restored when brands changed their route to market strategies and adopted new practices. Here’s our pick of the top five practices.
#01: Early investments in technology
Brands that had already started digitising their supply chains were readier to tackle the disruptions of COVID-19. The technology and business processes that they had already put in place helped them to quickly respond to challenges, tide over snags in their distribution channels and ensure availability even in times of lockdown.
For instance, in the first two weeks of the lockdown when outlets struggled with availability, brands like UNIBIC, Chings, Jyothy Laboratories Limited (JLL) and Fena ensured availability. They did so by focusing on real-time insights, identifying outlets that were operational during the lockdown and ensuring continuous supply to such stores.
Another creative but simple innovation was the “Find the Store” feature that brands unlocked for consumers. iD Fresh and Godrej Consumer were among the first CPG brands to do so. It deepened customer loyalty for the brands while also ensuring availability.
#02: Self-ordering apps for retailers
With social distancing amidst lockdowns, many brands enabled their retailers to send their orders directly through self-ordering apps. Over 50 Bizom customers downloaded the Retailer App and rolled it out to their retailer network. However, such brands continued to rely on distributors and their field personnel to manage different aspects of their supply chains.
The upside was that brands gained direct access to retailers which had been a challenge until then. They could now send notifications on product launches, trade schemes and promotions directly to the retailers’ phones.
Brands could also make secondary scheme money transfers directly to a retailer by knowing what quantities he’s picked up using a GRN (goods received note) capability on his app. It beats the inefficiencies of waiting for a distributor to raise a claim and then waiting at least a month for the brand to validate and process it.
Direct access to retailers has also given brands deeper insights into demand and enabled them to work more efficiently with their sellers to ensure order fulfilment with Just In Time distribution.
#03: Enabling remote retail execution
In times of social distancing, brands directed their frontline workers in sales to service retailers over the phone and through B2B eCommerce platforms. They trained and mentored their sales teams to look at daily analytics dashboards to understand what was right for their retailers.
In the new normal, sales teams are becoming smarter with the use of analytics and data-driven intelligence. Just ask one of our brands who converted “inventory to data”. Or ask Rajiv Sawhney, who demystified all sales myths with data-driven insights.
We also facilitated sending WhatsApp messages and regular intelligent push notifications to retailers on their app to ensure they never lose touch with the sales teams and brands. This way, brands’ teams could focus on a targeted agenda of increasing the brand’s width and depth in the market.
#04: Agility in distribution channels
The disruptions caused by COVID-19 is propelling more and more CPG brands around the world to greater digitisation and making data-driven decision-making a default business practice. Starting with distribution channels, brands are identifying whitespaces and driving penetration while integrating direct retailer eCommerce.
They are also focusing on providing best in class service by creating a connected ecosystem and increasing transparency and visibility into the supply chain for both the sellers and buyers.
By digitally augmenting their existing RTM practices, brands are also lowering their cost of sales.
#05: Creating the contactless customer
COVID-19 also created contactless customer. Brands quickly realised that they would have to reinvent their trade models to reach such customers. The kirana stores which had shown their resilience to continue providing service and ensure availability for their customers during the lockdowns became heroes of the ecosystem.
Brands were quick to capitalise on the development and rolled out various tech and apps for their kirana stores and retail outlets. They enabled their retailers to offer better contactless service to consumers with WhatsApp transactions and digital payments. It created a cadre of loyal and engaged consumers both for the brands and retailers.
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