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The Asian distribution dilemma

Asia, with a rapidly growing middle class and urbanisation, presents an enormous opportunity for FMCG manufacturers.

Overcoming the limitations of an unwieldy Asian distribution network is the core challenge. However, an investment in good technology is the differentiator for those companies taking full advantage of the region’s growing retail landscape.

It is a lack of visibility into what is going on in the marketplace and being hamstrung by inefficient paper–based processes or outdated technology that is the problem most suppliers are looking to address.

Consumer goods companies generally employ a local distributor for Asian operations. This presents suppliers with a couple of key “middleman” challenges:

  • Using a distributor that is not fully vested in your products but also selling those of your competitors.
  • Dealing with a high volume of small distributors many of whom only have a handful of reps each.

How do you maximise sales through this type of distribution channel, encouraging on mass, a few hundred small distributors, to prioritise your products over another company’s? This is hard to achieve without visibility into the distributors reps activities.

What you need is timely information on:

  • Where distributors are selling?
  • How many calls the reps are making on your behalf?
  • Where the opportunities for your products are?

Gaining visibility into field activities can be achieved. Providing reps with the right technology that gives them detailed information about store conditions, sales volumes and promotions can help drive in-store activity and sales. Prescriptive information captured by reps in the store can be fed back to head office in real-time, uncovering sales opportunities, spotting problems and trends to either quickly address concerns or take advantage of opportunities.

For example, reps will be able to supply an automatic checklist of product items in store, information on competitor pricing, product placement, take photos of their in-store work allowing managers to check standards in the field are being met. They can do all this while in the store giving them more time to move on to the next one. Head office can supply reps with a list of standards for stores – optimal product placement, best practice guides for executing the perfect store visit – all available while in the store itself.

Creating a live flow of data from the field is what consumer goods companies need – no matter who manages the reps in field – you will know what they are doing and what is happening in the store. This information allows for measurement of sales effectiveness and the ability to make knowledge–based decisions. Now turn this into an action plan – provide reps with simple to understand performance metrics and you get a more accountable and productive sales team.

Forty four per cent of the world’s population lives in Asia and represents 30 per cent of the world’s retail growth through 2017, now that’s an opportunity. Investing in today’s technology – providing your distributors with the complete toolkit – mobile devices and software to deliver time and cost savings benefits as well as higher standards and new capabilities will enable FMCG organisations to capitalize into 2017 and beyond.

Kerrie-Anne Turner is VP Asia Pacific & MD Australia with StayinFront Group Australia.

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