The Covid-19 pandemic has taught the world many things, not least of which is the fact that many of our processes and regular business practices are inefficient and can benefit significantly from digital transformation.
The distribution channel is no different. Digital solutions have the power to not only empower the sales force, but the entire channel workforce, including promotions and service teams. The key is to have a solution in place that enables effective management and tracking, without micromanagement, giving the workforce the tools they need to be productive in this new world environment.
Empowering the sales force
One of the challenges around Covid-19 has been the need to allow workforces, such as sales teams, the power to work more autonomously, rather than the traditional clock in, clock out system we have all become used to. With these teams operating in a more remote capacity, management needs to adapt. Rather than clock-watching or micromanagement, sales teams need the tools to be able to prove their activity, which can easily be enabled via digital channels.
Digital solutions also remove the need for paperwork. This not only supports Covid-19 hygiene protocols, but it also improves efficiency, since data is captured at source instead of paper-based forms needing to be logged digitally at a later stage. Beyond the sales team, the same solutions can be used to manage service teams, merchandisers and even promotions, giving enhanced line of sight into areas that have previously lacked visibility.
With the right tools in place, all areas of the workforce within the distribution channel will be able to do their jobs more effectively. In addition, distributors will be able to monitor these areas in a way that simply was not previously possible. The added benefit of this, is the fact that, with digital processes in place, there is now performance data available for analysis, which can in turn be used to drive insight for further improvement down the line.
Harnessing the power of data
With all areas of the supply and distribution chain driven online, there is now significantly enhanced line of sight in all areas, from manufacturing to retail, sales to merchandising. Even the promotions area, which has traditionally been challenging to manage effectively, can be enhanced via digital channels to better monitor and determine Return on Investment (ROI).
Armed with this data, manufacturers, distributors and retailers will be able to make use of intelligent dashboards to interpret data against key performance indicators and deliver real-time actionable insight. Structured reports can be pulled at any time, and automatic alerts can be configured if any exceptions occur. This enables real-time business management, rather than the reactive approach that was the norm in the past.
Digital transformation of the supply chain and distribution channel will also enable data to be utilised for predictive analytics, enabling more agile and effective decision-making across the board. Ultimately, this will drive insight and optimise efficiency.
The world has forever been changed by Covid-19, and the retail and distribution chain needs to adapt. The end goal, in this ‘new normal’, is a technology solution that will enable distributors to manage the entire workforce, from merchandisers to service teams to promoters, without micromanaging them.
Andrew Dawson is managing director of MACmobile, a software solutions house deploying logistics, stock management and order invoicing solutions across Africa. Clients include Coca Cola, Unilever, Schweppes.
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