Denys Savysko, Head of Merchandising, explains how Coca-Cola Beverages Ukraine automated its business processes and tells about the results that the effie> IT-service helped achieve.
Your company cooperates with merchandising agencies. How did your relationships change after the effie> service introduction? What does this process look like now, and how does it help your company?
I have been working with effie> for one year, and I must say that it helped us improve our performance by many metrics.
Through the effie>, we managed to enhance the efficiency of the store visiting processes, specifically in quality. Since we see the current situation and sales point locations, we optimized the time on the route, which resulted in fewer missed visits. We increased the quality of sales point visiting, revised time on the route and time in a sales point, and by keeping our productive working day as busy as possible, we made it a full value 8-hour day.
We are pleased that IPLAND meets our needs by improving its product. For instance, there were some cases when the merchandisers let many inaccuracies with photos and GPS coordinates slip last year. At the year-end of 2019, the number of such cases amounted to at least 1/5 of all reports, but it dropped to a minimum in the first months of 2021.
We have completely excluded the chance to put irrelevant photos that merchandisers often used to upload in reports since the effie> camera is now used by default. They might have been displeased, but our principle is ‘Pay for PERFORMANCE’, and we pay only for the work completed.
The planned visits situation has much improved. As a result, availability of our products at the sales points has increased – this refers to the merchandising mix. Today they are easier to control since we are now able to see the situation across the retail chains, lacking product assortment. And now we can respond faster to any given problem. Regardless of the reason for a product being out of the shelf, product availability indicators have increased significantly.
We can state the same regarding the shelf share, as correct data as per contracts are input into the service, and merchandisers strictly observe them. We have also engaged our employees in the control process: the sales representatives are to assign the tasks and oversee their execution. It is very convenient and effective because the results speak for themselves.
The control made the relationships with agencies more transparent.
The agencies considered this, communicated internally with their supervisors and merchandising teams and solved problems quickly. At least, the number of similar breaches has almost been eliminated quickly.
How does the service help to control maintaining merchandising standards?
The service helps us to streamline this process. Any new employee – say, a new merchandiser – can easily open the application and get all necessary materials including those on standards and visit steps.
We even initiated tests and made knowledge assessments on merchandising to understand which aspects we should pay attention to – where everything is all right and what we should focus on when teaching a mobile employee. The third party performs the work, but it should be synchronized with us to understand all the processes in our company.
What other processes are automated using the service?
All the processes used to be manual: the tasks were set and the schedules were drawn up by hand. There was no understanding of whether a merchandiser spent enough time at every sales point.
Now the service enables us to monitor all the processes, up to setting tasks and controlling their performance. Before, we used to do it by phone, via Viber and so on.
Any task set in the service has clearly defined terms of completion set by the task setter. Now we can see the completion date, whether it has been completed on time, as well as the reasons for non-performance.
One of your most important processes is the work with off-shelf displays. How do you work with them now?
There are many questionnaires in effie> and we can quickly and easily add questions to which we would like to get answers. Up to the point that we can create additional tests to make a slice of data by certain standards or by the availability of products, refrigerators or off-shelf displays.
Earlier I made the data sampling for the Marketing department on the situation at the sales points, for example on new shelves and off-shelf displays myself. Now they work with the analytical system and download the information for a certain period on their ownsome. By its means, marketing experts analyze whether the displays look good and meet the standards, whether the shelf or sidewall does not hinder the view of the display etc.
Before colleagues used to ask one of the employees to come and take a picture of displays, now it can be done very easy - the marketing experts can just download all data directly from the portal using direct access to the necessary information. It helps a lot in their work.
Your store checks and virtual store checks also run smoothly. Which tasks do you solve with their help?
This option is extremely useful for supervisors who diligently watch their teams. Using store check, we can precisely track what any merchandiser did at a sales point, whether they made the photo reports, when they arrived and when they left. We can monitor the distance from them to the sales point at the moment of arrival and later, that is, whether the requirement for the distance to the sales point was met. Failing the distance requirement means that the employee began or ended the visit at a distance exceeding 300 m, which is a case of non-compliance.
There is a questionnaire on the merchandising mix, which contains the question of whether the products are available. If a product is unavailable, a merchandiser must state the reason for its absence. With the service, it is easy to see why there is no product on a shelf: whether it is out of stock, the price is not assigned properly, or there is no room on a shelf for it.
We know exactly when any new product comes to shelves but is for some reason unavailable at a certain sales point. Such issues are resolved very quickly: the question is forwarded to the KAМ, which, in turn, contacts the retail chain and resolves the issue.
Similarly, we work with the cases where the product is out of the shelf by tracking the lack of product assortment. We analyze the reasons if any.
The service portal offers Photo Evaluation, which is a very exciting feature. It allows us to see clearly both our own and the agency’s work. It is very convenient to leave ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ while randomly scrolling photos and thus collect the statistics on the checked photos.
For example, an agency has an employee which evaluates photos. The employee checks that all the photos made at sales points correspond to reality and are not made using another device, etc. When they ‘like’ the photos, we can see the total number, that is, how many photos have been checked by any given employee.
The photos are also checked like that. If any photo is ‘disliked’, it is immediately assigned a task, stating what the employee should correct. Such statistics show how many photos out of the total amount meet the criteria, have a normal presence, as well as the percentage of photos returned to have an issue resolved.
We also use a chatbot. It is a very convenient option that allows for fast finding or identifying the sales point without using a laptop. I can simply come up to any supermarket and identify which point of sale it is. Using GPS, the service identifies the store, the last merchandiser visit, the merchandiser’s identity, their phone number and activities they conducted there; we can also see all the photos made during that visit.
Similarly, it is easy to assign a task to anybody: merchandiser, supervisor, etc.
You claim to have significantly improved your performance while using the service. Could you please share the results?
Today we are informed about the situation from the fields across the retail chains throughout the country. Just a year of using the service doubled the number of the sales points visited as per schedule. And if we look at both planned and unscheduled visits, their number in total increased by one-third.
Working with the product assortment, we increased the availability of products at the sales points by 15%, and the shares in categories grew by 5–7%.
In the first quarter of 2019, the number of off-shelf displays was only one-third of the target, but they already accounted for half of the fourth quarter's end. Thus, we began to control compliance with the agreements by retail chains. They often fail to comply for some reason, and we can spot it at once, so we are able to quickly respond, either by restoring the off-shelf display or not paying, having drawn up a non-conformance report.
And here the task assignment functionality is very helpful. If you look at the assignments, the share of completion grew from 35% to 75%.
Also, I should note the breach indicators. Since 2019, the number of irregularities (such as fake photos, time misstatement and fake GPS coordinates) has decreased to a minimum, and we continue to work on it.
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