Revenue is driven by a number of different factors in retail and FMCG markets — constantly evolving customer expectations, rising market competition, omnichannel trends, location demographics, and the effectiveness of supply chain elements, especially timely and effective distribution of goods to retail outlets from where the end customer buys the products.
Typically, this is how distribution works in a retail/FMCG business. Once manufactured, finished goods are sent to company warehouses and distribution centers situated across multiple locations for storage. From these warehouses, goods are shipped out and sent to retail outlets, local shops, and supermarkets for sale. This retail distribution is an ongoing process and is carried out by the brand’s sales representatives over a long period of time.
Sales executives build relationships with retail storekeepers, understand market dynamics and consumer demands with time, and visit each store at a predefined frequency to replenish stocks as required. This whole process of planning regular visits to retail stores for the distribution of merchandise is commonly known as a sales beat or a Permanent Journey Plan (PJP).
In the retail and consumer goods market, it is crucial to plan PJP intelligently and effectively, so that
- there is neither over-stocking nor under-stocking of merchandise in the retail stores
- multiple sales executives don’t end up going to the same stores unnecessarily, and
- every resource working on the ground can be productive
What are the challenges in Retail/FMCG sales beat planning?
An efficient distribution system is the backbone of a successful consumer goods supply chain. But, logistics management is quite complex, and brands often face some common challenges in the permanent journey planning of retail or consumer goods.
High dependency on human intelligence
Although beat planning is an integral part of the FMCG/retail distribution process, it is usually done manually, involving hours of human brainstorming and pen and paper planning. For a small-scale business, it could be a feasible option to plan sales beats manually, but when it comes to managing hundreds of sales reps across multiple locations, and catering to different types of retail markets, manual planning becomes cumbersome, error-prone, and inefficient.
Suboptimal route planning
Permanent journey planning is done in a way that during a single beat day, a sales rep should be able to service multiple retail locations and cover a certain number of areas. This requires diligent mapping of retail stores and accurate route planning. However, manual route planning processes are inefficient and lead to extra miles driven, greater fuel consumption, and higher logistical costs.
Inaccurate allocation of distribution duties
When planning a permanent journey plan, logistics managers must also assign the right sales executives to service each retail outlet. Companies often struggle with allocating duties to the right personnel and also end up over-burdening some sales executives, while leaving some others under-utilized. Manually allocating distribution duties to sales reps doesn’t take into consideration real-world constraints or work preferences of the on-ground staff, causing ineffective beat planning and frustration among employees.
Lack of real-time visibility
There is also a lack of on-ground visibility in the distribution stage of FMCG/retail supply chains, making it difficult for managers to keep track of ongoing beat tasks and monitor sales reps’ performance. Due to foggy visibility, managers have to spend hours coordinating with executives via phone calls or SMS and have little or no control over on-ground constraints such as traffic, zone restrictions, etc.
Locus’ FieldIQ for Optimal Permanent Journey Planning
Digitization of PJP and smart logistics technology can establish a strong and efficient distribution process in the FMCG/retail supply chain. Locus’ FieldIQ is an AI-enabled platform that automates and simplifies the complex task of sales beat planning. FieldIQ enables efficiency and consistency at three levels — Permanent Journey Planning, Dispatch Planning, and Territory Planning.
Permanent Journey Planning
FieldIQ generates the most optimal beat plans and identifies the ideal frequency of visits required to service all retail outlets effectively. The solution takes into account several business constraints such as executive skill-sets, real-time traffic conditions, and customer-preferred time slots to come up with the most cost-effective and fuel-efficient distribution routes on a day-to-day level.
Optimal Dispatch Planning
The solution is also capable of determining the most ideal dispatch plan for multiple categories of retail and consumer goods merchandise in the best-suited delivery fleet, ensuring maximum vehicle capacity utilization as well. Automated dispatch planning also takes care of assigning the most optimal routes and delivery tasks to the right agents, considering their availability, and servicing location preferences.
Territory segmentation is a crucial part of sales beat planning. FieldIQ enables accurate mapping of every salesperson to a specific geography or territory, in order to maximize their serviceability and eliminate the problem of overlapping of salespersons in a single area. The solution also provides a holistic view of on-ground operations in each territory, offers predictive alerts, performance analysis, and other valuable insights for better decision making.
Smart and efficient Permanent Journey Planning (PJP) is fundamental for successful inventory management at retail stores, fulfilling dynamic market demands, maintaining serviceability levels, and improving the performance of sales representatives.
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