These are challenging times for all of us. As we try to find new ways to ensure business continuity with minimal impact, digital is going to be a big saviour. Gone are those days when enterprises went digital for higher revenues, improved efficiency, cost reduction. Now digital is going to be the way to do business.
Order taking is one of the most important activities for a CPG company. With sales teams unable to go on their journey plans, it poses a big challenge for CPG companies to get timely orders and fulfil them. Also, all the demand forecasting models have become redundant as this is an unprecedented scenario and the machine learning models cannot predict the demand when the demand cycles themselves have undergone a complete change. As we work with increasingly more CPG companies, our conviction is getting stronger that order taking process will undergo a permanent change and the supply chain at CPG companies will have to become more agile with more frequent and smaller orders and fulfilments. CPG companies will also have to factor in cash build up cycles of retailers which are also getting shorter and the assortments which are getting thinner day by day.
Digital order taking as a concept is rapidly evolving. As organizations deploy solutions to meet urgent requirements they will, in the process, learn about other factors that impact retailer adoption. We are happy to share our learnings gained while working with different CPG companies in India and overseas. Following are top considerations for efficient digital order taking
- Reach — Best of solutions will not cut it till they are not good to be within retailers’ mobile phone in no time. This may require a significant spend on getting the message across. Asking users to download and install apps will not work. Remember, like you, there are other companies which the retailers would be placing orders with and your share of his attention would be low so try to keep it as simple as possible. The Reach problem is solved by connecting with retailers on WhatsApp or LINE Messenger or SMS.
- Ease of use — One key point that you must be mindful of is that your retailers are not very tech-savvy and most of them would be extremely uncomfortable if you try to engage with them in English. So one solution fits all markets approach will not work. You need a solution which could connect with retailers in their own language. This is exactly what our sales teams have been doing for years. They talk the retailer’s language. While I mentioned in the above point that WhatsApp, LINE Messenger or SMS would be great for reach, but they are extremely difficult mediums to take orders. Imagine with a minimum of 30–40 SKUs, retailers typing each line item. It will be wishful thinking to assume retailers would do that.
- Authenticity — New solutions evoke inquisitiveness which could lead to unintentional or incorrect orders. You would not want to end up in a situation where deliveries happen, and the retailer declines to accept orders entirely or partially. In these times, this is going to be criminal wastage of resources. Our users are going to be new and most likely not very tech-savvy too and hence sufficient checks need to be built to ensure that the digital order-taking is full proof.
Messaging platforms have deep inroads into our society and no matter how old or how technically challenged one is, the person knows how to message on a mobile phone. There cannot be a better way to reach and connect with the retailers than the messaging platforms. But what after that and how can retailers order on the messaging platforms. Well, there is no need to forfeit a solution when there isn’t any (until these messaging platforms start supporting rich HTML content). The best way would be to lunch a micro mobile site through a link shared on the messaging platforms. User experience can be curated on these sites to make the entire order taking process easy. Use messaging platforms for reach and mobile sites for task fulfilments. Also, don’t miss the 2nd factor authentication wherein the order placed needs to be confirmed by the retailer on the messaging platforms.
The mentioned consideration and solutions have been the foundation of our Field Sales AI platform in which mobile site gets replaced with a multilingual conversational bot that also assists the retailer with any queries they may have. We have seen significantly higher retailer adoption with conversational bots than mobile sites.
Let us not look for temporary solutions to solve only our current problems. It is an opportunity to revolutionize age-old and inefficient order taking process. We have been championing advance predictive order intimation to the retailers on messaging platforms. The concept is to send the orders predicted for the outlet in advance so that the retailers are prepared with the quantities for different SKUs by the time salesperson reaches them. This requires a deep behavioural change of retailers. But this is the time to drive that change. This will save the time of both the retailer and the salesperson. Retailers will be able to focus more on their customers than spending a lot of time with the salesperson. The salesperson will be able to build a better rapport quicker and be able to drive objectives such as higher sales, selling promo products, expanding assortment, and selling ignored products. Once a digital connect is established with retailers, SKU stock out scenarios could be better managed with timely supplies from the nearest distributors too. In the current scenario, retailer SKU stockouts go partially or completely under the radar of CPG companies. We foresee the CPG order taking moving in this direction as we move out of the lockdown scenario.