Retail, CPG and Logistics
How to Optimise Permanent Journey Planning (PJP) in FMCG and Retail Supply Chains
Permanent Journey Planning or PJP is an integral part of the Retail and FMCG salesperson’s life. It is a regular, pre-planned schedule the sales representative maintains at frequent intervals to visit retail stores and customer outlets in their territory, with the objective of optimising sales and service coverage. The PJP may include plans to visit specific locations, the frequency of such visits and the objectives of the visits.
Why plan and visit regularly? PJPs give sales teams unique insights into the customers that visit a particular store and glean how often products need to be replenished. PJPs are great opportunities to interact with customers and understand their needs and pain points. Reps may train retail staff on product handling, placement, and presentation. Product concerns may be addressed and feedback collected to be forwarded to product teams back in the headquarters. New orders may be secured at locations with particularly high demands. The bonus lies, of course, in being able to gauge and analyse competitor behaviour.
In essence, PJPs build ‘virtuous cycles’ of engagement between sales reps and retail outlets. This makes optimising PJPs in FMCG and retail supply chains a vital activity, whether in mature markets such as the US (size of retail market: US$ seven trillion) or growing ones such as India (size of retail market: US$ 60 billion).
We present below some methodologies retail outsourcing companies can use to perform this activity:
- Territory Analysis: Conduct a thorough analysis of the territories assigned to sales teams, to understand customer demographics, purchasing behaviour, and market potential per territory. This analysis particularly helps in segmenting territories and in prioritising high-potential areas for increased coverage. Examples of high-potential areas that need particular attention may include locations in new developments, and locations near upcoming public events.
- Customer Segmentation: This is a key area that sales teams have traditionally focused on and must continue to emphasise. Segment your customers based on factors such as sales volume, profitability, growth potential, and strategic importance. Assign higher visit frequency and resources to key accounts or high-value customers while adjusting the frequency for lower-priority customers. For example, while cosmetics stores in malls may generate a lot of foot traffic, standalone cosmetic stores in suburban areas may yield better in terms of sales.
- Route Planning: Adroit planning of the actual route sales reps must use can save the company money in terms of time, fuel costs as well as manpower costs. Optimise the route planning process to minimise travel time and distance between stores or customers. This is where route optimization software or tools that consider factors like traffic conditions, distance, and time constraints come into play. Such route planning may be particularly useful for territories such as some US states that have small cities in far-flung areas across large-sized states.
- Visit Frequency Optimization: Determine the optimal visit frequency for each store or customer based on the stores’ specific needs and sales potential. Depending on the products in question, high-value or high-potential customers may require more frequent visits, while low-value customers (e.g., in far-flung/low-population areas) may be visited less frequently. Seasonality (e.g., pre-Christmas sales) for restocking is also a consideration for some goods.
- Performance Metrics: Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the effectiveness of the PJP. Some metrics to consider here may include sales growth, customer satisfaction, order value, or product placement. These can provide insights into the success of the PJP as well as help identify areas for improvement. KPIs are a very effective management tool across the spectrum of business, and PJP-related ones particularly so for sales teams.
- Continuous Evaluation and Adaptation: Sales leaders must regularly review and analyse the PJP performance of their representatives. Interact with your teams and assess the feedback they’ve got from customers – this will help you identify areas for improvement. Maintain a continuous cadence of adaptation and evolution of the PJP based on changing market dynamics, customer demands, or your company’s strategic business objectives. For instance, new product launches or easing out the stock of old product lines may require modifications in your sales reps’ PJPs.
- Training and Development: Train your sales representatives on the various facets of effective store visits, customer engagement, product knowledge, and sales techniques. Such continuous skill development ensures that PJPs are made more effective. Sales reps can make the most of their visits and maximise sales opportunities for your product lines. As sales teams are ‘deskless workers’ who are always on the move, look for just-in-time solutions for training such as mobile-app-based training and reinforcement learning solutions that will assist them on the field.
Considering the complexity and number of dimensions involved – physical locations that are far flung and many, factors such as visiting frequency, routing, call objectives, as well as reporting and documentation requirements – technology-based solutions to PJP optimisation are essential. For instance, PJP-focused mobile apps or software could assist sales representatives in planning routes, capturing customer information, accessing real-time inventory data, as well as generating reports in real-time. Such software reduces administrative burdens and improves the overall efficiency of the sales team.
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