Strategising on the Shelf & Beyond

Australian Grocery is quickly catching up to other parts of the world with retailers working with CROSSMARK and suppliers to help us all ensure On Shelf Availability (OSA), Lost Sales Values (LSV) and other emerging systems to help us place orders in their supply network.

A Q&A with CROSSMARK Director of Commercial Operations Charles Stevens.

In what ways does CROSSMARK contribute to the grocery industry?

CROSSMARK is the largest provider of merchandising/professional sales services in Australia.  We are not your typical 3rd party provider with other 3rd party bolt-on technology for operational deployment and reporting.  Quite the opposite, we have spent years fine-tuning our own local operational IP that allows our clients the very latest in reporting and ROI transparency. We provide rest assuredness in coverage and we have preferred supplier relationships with Coles, Woolworths and are also doing work on behalf of Metcash. With these key relationships our field teams have more insights given to us from the retailers that allow us to be more effective in each call.  Gone are the days of just walking in, setting up a display or pulling product forward.  We have built our entire infrastructure and company resources to help our clients know when to call and what is best to do in that call.  We focus on saving time and money for us and our clients, and with our operational overlay of 98% of Australian retail market combined with our technology, we are setting the future of Merchandising not only in Australia, but in the world.    

How the needs of the grocery channel differ from other retail sectors? How does CROSSMARK tailor services for grocery retailers?

Australian Grocery is quickly catching up to other parts of the world with retailers working with CROSSMARK and suppliers to help us all ensure On Shelf Availability (OSA), Lost Sales Values (LSV) and other emerging systems to help us place orders in their supply network.  Around 5 years ago, CROSSMARK started to prepare for these changes and worked with a major retailer to develop their approach in sharing data.  This was done based on CROSSMARK’s long history of working closely with Walmart in the United States over many years.  We are now seeing the fruit of the our local and global relationships and the technology provided to our field teams can work with stores not only to fix a problem once, but fix problems more long term so repeat visits are cut down.   

CROSSMARK also has the largest in-house Business Intelligence Team working with both suppliers and the retailers to take that data even further and exciting times are ahead in Grocery with future automatic deployment based on data that is minutes old, not weeks.    

What types of solutions does CROSSMARK provide to its clients?

CROSSMARK works with numerous clients across numerous categories in all areas of Grocery.  Because of our unique operational structure we do not use traditional structures which see field staff calling on multiple brands and categories at once.  Our model allows for different calls by SKU by store on different days. Gone are the days of being in store on the day that we can stack as many clients in one call; many times we deploy complex tasks for different categories for individual stores on any given day. CROSSMARK recently completed a very complex project with a retailer and a key supplier using a new type of data to deploy staff focused on data that was by store by SKU and required calls to be made at specific times of the day.  The results saw this category grow by 19% in controlled stores.

What trends are affecting brands in the grocery channel and how can external marketing and merchandising services help?

The pressure to be on shelf at all times with little stock being held in stores and the retailers’ warehouses mixed with fewer deliveries each week to stores, will lead to many suppliers and certainly traditional 3rd party field models unprepared to cope with the pressures.  The need for speed and coverage in very short lead times that will be required as the majors push to become more flexible to compete with each other.  That is why collaboration will be the focus and the suppliers that work and can provide the majors with that flexibility (companies like CROSSMARK with our retailer supplied technology) will fare the best.  

How can external marketing and merchandising services benefit grocery retailers?

CROSSMARK is in a unique, pole position working with the retailers in building trust and service levels over a number of years.  The retailers we work with have can have very short lead-times – but they can trust that the entire network or cluster of stores will be done on time, and it will be done right the first time.  CROSSMARK is working against the tide to improve traditional perceptions of ‘lower quality in using 3rd party field providers’ by developing systems, reporting and processes that take the guesswork out of ROI when calling on stores.       

What trends in retail do you see influencing merchandising and shopper marketing in the year ahead?

There are a lot of challenges facing the consumer with the retailers having shorter and shorter supply chain pressures to hold just the right amount of stock for just the right time.  This tends to mean more promotions resulting in frequent out of stocks.  In a recent promotion by a major soft drink supplier an out of stock for a major half-price promotion resulted in shelves across many stores being empty for 2 days.

However, by working with multiple points of data - i.e. store data/store performance data, CROSSMARK deploys to the right store at the right time, which is a major driving force in ensuring ROI-based merchandising. CROSSMARK’s unique technology and approach ensure that stock is available when shoppers are looking for our clients’ brands.  

It is widely known that both Coles and Woolworths are constantly moving the cost to suppliers but also trying to keep product on shelf with a knife’s edge of supply. We see the best results when suppliers and retailers treat us as equals and as an extension of their internal account teams.  Fast and open communication is the key to use the full operational potential of our BI and field operational teams.

What lies ahead for CROSSMARK?

CROSSMARK has invested heavily in our own field deployment tool that works effortlessly incorporating all forms of data and it sends that data instantly to the hands of our staff in store. This ensures the right decisions that lead to the right cost effective actions are taken in store and our clients see this ROI from their live reporting. Our uniquely developed system also automatically assigns coverage for staff in all channels, so our coverage stays above our clients’ KPI expectations. It also provides geo-mapping and photo screening, which ensures staff quality and cost are constantly being monitored.  

Also having been first to lead the industry with our Metcash sales team approach, which uses a unique integration model process, CROSSMARK is well placed to provide cutting-edge, cost-effective and flexible Field Sales Teams that are armed with that latest technology and having real impact in store. All of this combined means that the future is truly bright for CROSSMARK.  

We are always looking for continuous growth based on business’s ongoing re-shaping of execution needs and the need for flexibility and agility to deliver outside of our client’s core field teams’ resources.  

This excerpt feature is from Retail World's May 2018 issue.