Technology developments have the potential to redefine ‘business as usual’. In the right hands, powerful mobile devices, connected to high-speed networks, can drive innovative approaches so Direct Store Delivery (DSD) practices are crisply executed, store-aligned, and consumer-centric. Greater brand presence at the shelf showcases products for shoppers, strengthens category presentation, and accurately reflects strategies set by retailer and consumer packaged goods (CPG) trading partners.
Companies know the roles their brands play in select categories and the need to align with shifts in customer needs – store by store – and in local consumer demand. They work more purposefully and positively to protect their brand sales, profits, and market position. And in this new paradigm, everyone who touches a store on behalf of a brand is capturing data that can help CPGs make better strategic and tactical decisions. Better on-shelf brand display is an aspiration shared by CPG manufacturers, so it makes sense that any opportunity to optimize shelf presence is in everybody’s best interest.
DSD must transcend the barriers imposed by rigid roles that have traditionally isolated the tasks of drivers, sales reps and merchandisers. Not only can drivers now do more in store, they can alert supervisors and central headquarters, as well as sales representatives and merchandisers in their regions, to any field situation they observe that requires prompt attention. Schedules can be reprioritized in real-time based on a constant flow of in-store information. DSD brands follow one of three sales and merchandising models: the driver does all tasks in one store visit; or two-tier (sales representatives take the orders, drivers deliver the next day, the rep returns to the store days later to build displays and merchandise); or pre-sales (sales representative schedules an order to be delivered and merchandised days later).
Empowering DSD personnel to play an integral part in brand health provides field managers with more options for improving in-store performance. They’ll also use the greater information power to collaborate with retailers on multiple levels as to:
- Leverage DSD capabilities to enhance in-store merchandising
- Coordinate with retailer marketing departments to “unbundle consumer insights and bright both the innovation and consumer demand to life at the shelf”
- Drive sales, improve stock rotation and ease product choice in the store, and reduce unsaleables
As food and beverage distribution outlets expand in numbers, DSD brands will be pressed to service more stores more expediently – and they’ll aim more intently to optimize routes and in-store tasks. The ability to augment POS data with near real-time insights on in-store conditions puts DSD brands in an optimal information state to deliver the customization retailers seek. Brands that consistently bring stores this edge often earn a warm seat at the category leadership table. This gives companies the ability to optimize the value of their mobile representatives by integrating on-road and in-store activities to best address their customer needs and business goals.
As CPG companies move to replace and update expiring technologies, more of them think broadly about ways to produce more within their organizations, drive costs down, build program compliance and share essential data quickly.
The fast pace of technology advances keeps CPGs seeking more robust solutions for their DSD teams. Devices with capabilities on this checklist will equip brands with the informational power and industrial engineering their teams need in the field:
- Well-supported sales and merchandising functions, such as compliance, distribution and share-of-shelf checks, competitor price checks, shelf resets, consumer intercept surveys, delivery and invoices
- Web-based integration with SAP to ensure invoice prices are 100% accurate based on back-end systems
- Pre-sales functions
- DSD solutions on a ruggedized PDA/smartphone
- Choice of tablet or laptop, which is sales and merchandising focused
- Choice of a cell phone for simpler field condition audits
- The ability to barcode scan the outside of case cartons
- Modern, scalable architecture that could fill needs for the next decade
- Rapid deployment
DSD not only allows companies to blend the activities performed by delivery drivers, it also allows the driver’s role to be integrated into an end-to-end field operations process. By using mobile technologies and applications that interact across field managers, sales reps, in-store merchandisers and drivers, companies can respond more quickly to brand performance issues in the field. These may be related to out-of-stocks, new product launches, in-store promotions and point-of-sale display, share of shelf or competitor activity. Coordinating field team members to address these issues in a timely manner (that can have a positive remedial impact on revenue and brand performance) is a significant challenge.
New thinking about the role of the delivery driver as an agent of in-store brand presence – and of DSD as an integral part of the consumer demand chain – can be a powerful lever for competitive advantage.
This kind of thinking is no longer just wishful. The availability of powerful handheld devices, Tablets, Smartphones, high-speed mobile networks and innovative applications provide the tools that can drive game-changing initiatives and uncover new opportunities for forward-thinking companies with DSD.