The holiday season has always been good to consumer brands, as shoppers across the U.S. ramp up their spending habits to buy gifts and stock up for seasonal festivities.

It’s no secret that a strong holiday showing can make a company’s year and single-handedly push it into the black. For brand manufacturers, retailers, and consumer packaged goods companies, it’s an opportunity to drive revenue to new heights.

There’s no reason to think that the 2017 holiday shopping season will be any different. Analysts predict an uptick in consumer spending over last year, further bolstering brands’ coffers. As reported by Reuters, Deloitte expects 2017 holiday sales to increase as much as 4.5 percent over 2016’s figures.

To capitalize on these circumstances, brands need on-the-floor updates and insight into shelf and display conditions at all times.

Keep up with the Joneses

The holidays are an incredibly competitive time of year for brand manufacturers. With Black Friday and other seasonal promotions, it’s a veritable race to the bottom to cut prices and win over in-store shoppers. Brands need to know what their competitors are doing and how they are pricing similar offerings.

Getting that floor-level insight requires boots on the ground, and many frontline employees are stretched too thin and simply do not have the time to cover numerous stores in a single day. The crux of the problem can be traced back to the manual processes teams often use to carry out their day-to-day duties. These include taking down inventory, facing, and share-of-shelf figures by pen and paper, and filing reports manually. It’s not unusual for field teams to require an “office day” every week where they process and submit their findings to brand administrators.

That slow-paced workflow prevents relevant stakeholders from receiving actionable insights into store conditions. They may not flag a competitor undercutting their products’ prices until an untold amount of potential sales has already been lost.

Maintain well-stocked shelves

Another important factor to consider is the amount of inventory turnover that occurs during the holiday season. As products fly off the shelves, those spaces need to be filled with the same SKUs. If stores are completely sold out of particular items, however, employees will simply plug in similar product lines from other brands. For individual locations, this is almost a nonevent – inventory ran out, so other items were displayed in its place. These instances of shelf void amount to lost sales, as would-be customers buy a competitor’s product instead. The longer a store goes without reordering and restocking inventory, the more costly a given incident will be for the brand as it loses out on potential revenue.

Staying on top of shelf conditions and consumer buying patterns requires frequent updates from frontline employees. At the end of the day, they are the eyes and ears of your brand, and they are the ones who will flag shelf voids, inaccurate inventory counts, and store compliance issues. The key is providing them with the tools to record, compile, and disseminate that information as quickly and effortlessly as possible. With the right execution management solution, field teams can visit more stores and log more reports than ever before.

Ensure compliance with store employees

Brand manufacturers and retailers alike love the holiday season because of the massive uptick in shoppers. That being said, store resources are often strained to the breaking point trying to keep up with demand. Most retailers turn to part-time, seasonal help to pick up the slack and provide a quick influx of labor. According to CNBC, Target alone plans to hire 100,000 additional staff members to fill the gap – a 40 percent increase over its 2016 employment numbers during the same period.

Seasonal workers can be problematic for brand manufacturers. They are less experienced than veteran full-time employees and may not be as familiar with retail shelf and display agreements. This may lead to certain SKUs receiving fewer facings than what had been previously agreed upon between the corporate retailer and the consumer brand.

The only way to avoid such situations is to have your field staff catch those compliance violations and flag them with store managers. Establishing a more efficient and direct line of communication between frontline employees and administrators enables brands to more effectively identify these instances and correct them.

Monitor store conditions

The one common factor here is the need for regular, in-store audits to verify compliance, identify shelving gaps, and work with employees to address them as quickly as possible. High-quality field management solutions allow frontline teams to conduct their work more quickly and efficiently, tackling more tasks per visit and reviewing far more stores in a given day.

The holiday season moves pretty quickly, and so should your field teams. Execution management software provides the tools needed to remove bottlenecks and clear the way for brands to respond dynamically to changing store and market conditions.

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