What makes a best-in-class space planning software? While category management practices are changing fast, technologies must also adapt to CPG firms’ new ways of working. We asked our clients what they expected from space planning tools and got you three must-haves to look out for that will help you build great planograms to rock your clients’ world.
In a blog post about the effects of category management shifts on CPG organizations’ sales and merchandising practices, we explained how manufacturers could leverage advanced technologies to become retailers’ preferred partners. Today, new dynamics are disrupting the retail landscape. Pure players and ever-evolving technologies are impacting shopping and consumption habits. As a result, Business Insider reports that, in 2018, 30% more stores will close in the US compared to last year and approximately 25 major retailers could go bankrupt (2018).
To support their clients through this change, CG companies must reinforce their partnership with retailers by helping them increase shoppers’ average basket size. That means that manufacturers must provide them with optimized and adapted merchandising recommendations to leverage every visit that consumers make to the stores and drive sales growth. However, the space planning tools that they use to build these recommendations are often complex and can conflict with the fast-paced retail environment sales and merchandising forces must work in.
For category managers, using a space planning application is a daily activity. But today, sales representatives can also be required to use such tools. Some CG companies need their sales reps to take on a merchandising role to adapt the agreement they negotiated with retailers to the stores. That is why every planogram software should be designed to support both merchandising teams and field forces and facilitate the process they go through when they build tailored recommendations for their clients, in particular when they create planograms. We tell you why and more as we lay out these three space planning must-haves.
1) A centralized planogram library
Without a centralized planogram library, building a planogram for retail stores often begins with a blank page. Category managers manually reproduce existing planograms or sales reps create realograms directly at the store. (No kidding; this scenario where they must draw realograms manually while in store is common.) Only then can they analyze and amend the resulting planograms to build a new recommendation for their clients. This manual process is time-consuming and archaic. It also represents a challenging work for sales reps. As Benjamin Morguen, Market Category Manager at Pernod France, a client of ours, explains in an interview at the Paris IFM trade show:
“The main difference between a sales representative and a category manager is that the sales representative spends a lot of time making store visits. Hence, they have less time for merchandising activities.”
A centralized planogram library is one space planning software must-have which helps CG firms support merchandising activities effectively. Providing users with the possibility to access all planograms on- and offline can alleviate their daily workload. First, it is a real time-saver for planogram creation. For instance, at Planorama, our clients report that their sales reps and merchandising teams use the planogram library that comes with our space planning software, PlanoManager, to duplicate and modify existing planograms instead of creating new ones from scratch. By accessing their company’s planogram library on our secured cloud, sales reps and category managers can customize any planogram they want to, whenever they want to, and no matter their connectivity status.
It is an essential feature for many of our clients. Caroline Chabert, Trade Marketing & Merchandising Project Director at Ricard France, comments:
“With PlanoManager, planogram creation does not start with a blank page. The planogram library already gives us something to work from, with assortments that are already referenced, and products that are positioned on the shelves at the right places.”
The other reason why a planogram library should be amongst the list of must-haves of any robust space planning software is that it streamlines communication between field forces and headquarters. For example, when one of our users creates a planogram with PlanoManager, it is automatically saved and synchronized with the application’s library. Not only does that provide every user with access to the latest approved planograms, but it also allows for transparency and alignment between departments.
“With other category management tools, we couldn’t synchronize our data. So, we couldn’t synchronize our planograms or our product database because the tools we used didn’t integrate a sync feature on their device. That was a real scourge for us,” says Caroline Chabert.
By creating a direct channel for information-sharing between CPG firms’ field sales and merchandising teams, the planogram library helps them make sharper recommendations to their clients. In no time, sales reps can use it as a central platform and coordinate their planogram creation efforts with category managers. They can also ask them to adjust the headquarters’ recommendation to respond to the needs of a specific store promptly.
2) Intuitive features to optimize the creation of planograms for retail stores
As CG companies look to empower their teams with best-in-class category management tools, there is one essential element they cannot overlook: user experience. The role of a space planning software is to support merchandising activities, no matter where they take place. So, the more intuitive and the easier the software is to deploy, set up, and work with, the more efficient and productive space planning experts will be.
A BCG analysis corroborates that fact. Figure 1 shows that increasingly complex challenges lead to the implementation of more tools and procedures, which creates complicatedness and hinders productivity. The study reveals that while managers select new tools to empower their teams, they often fail to consider the tools’ fit in their employees’ daily activities, resulting in inefficiencies.
Figure 1: “The Vicious Circle of Complicatedness,” BCG analysis, 2016
That is what CPG companies must avoid when they select a space planning software. At Planorama, we chose to respond to this need by placing planogram creation challenges at the heart of our solution and built our space planning tool together following close discussions with key FMCG players such as Lactalis, Barilla, L’Oréal, Heinken, etc.
Similarly, features such as keyboard shortcuts or drag and drops can go a long way for the daily users of a planogram software. Providing them with simple tricks such as easy product searches or automatic product database management can also facilitate merchandising activities considerably. Hervé Poulain, Market Category Manager and Merchandising Manager at Lesieur France, illustrates that point:
“We need a user interface that facilitates the steps we go through when we build a planogram. For example, keyboard shortcuts that enable us to reduce and increase our Share Of Shelf in one click. It’s like a little trick. And having the capacity to manage the product database more easily can save us a lot of time.”
3) Instant analytics to support retailers
In addition to the features described above, any space planning software should offer capabilities that support smart simplicity. Smart simplicity (BCG, 2016) is "how you can manage the new business complexity without becoming complicated to create competitive advantage." Talking about software applications, it means ensuring an optimal fit between a digital tool and its users to facilitate employees’ activities and unleash a business’ full capacity. For space planning tools, it starts with being embed into the category management process to reflect the way people actually work. Similarly, offering integration capabilities with other category management tools - such as virtual reality or assortment optimization solutions is a direct contributor to smart simplicity. Instant analytics is another set of features that serve this objective. Indeed, both merchandising and sales teams must contribute to solving their clients’ challenges. That means that they must understand retailers’ business and shoppers to give them the insights they need and work with them on a merchandising strategy that will help them win in shopper-centric retailing. CPG businesses cannot achieve that if they do not have supportive analytics at hand to back up their merchandising recommendation.
To optimize sell-ins and sell-outs, field sales and category managers must evaluate finance and merchandising KPIs to give their client a holistic view of the effect of their planogram on the sales of the entire category. That means that CG firms’ teams must be able to import sales data into their planogram software to run reports that merge their theoretical approach to the perfect shelves with real-life metrics. This analytical feature is a way for CPG companies to implement smart simplicity amongst their field and merchandising forces. Statistics such as the number of SKUs, profit margin, product turnaround time, and so on, help them make more accurate recommendations to their clients and support their discussions. Besides, the space planning software should enable them to generate reports automatically which they can share with their clients in Excel format.
Lastly, a modern space planning tool should help CPG field forces verify Perfect Store compliance quickly. For instance, with PlanoManager, sales reps can assess both planograms and realograms against reference planograms and get comparative analytics without exporting data. They can even compare planograms in detail by checking facing variations. According to Peter Barton-Wright, Merchandising Manager at General Mills UK:
“[This feature] allows us to manipulate the planograms that we build and to double check the compliance of our realograms to create enhanced layouts and recommendations.”
Do you want to empower your sales reps and merchandising teams, as well? Watch this 5-minute video to know more or ask for your free demo.
Topics: category management