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Route to Market & Supply Chain Blog

9 Step Formula to Reinforce Your FMCG Channel and Distribution Strategy

Posted by Ross Marie on Tue, Feb 14, 2023

Arguably the most important element of any Route to Market strategy for a consumer goods company is its Distribution Strategy. Very often, when results are not coming in, the distributors get the blame and may even be replaced. Too often, their replacements perform in a similar fashion. Why is this?

rtm-8-steps-dist-channel strat-in-postAlbert Einstein is widely credited with saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results”. If the foundation of your distribution strategy is flawed, the same poor results will likely be delivered. The foundation I am referring to is a well-thought-out and implemented Channel Strategy.

When you are reviewing or assessing your Route to Market and distribution partners, you must do this in light of your channel strategy, otherwise, you may be asking the wrong partners to deliver the wrong things in the wrong areas.

Here are the 9 key areas on which to focus when building your Channel Strategy:

1. Channel Type

Identify the relevant channels of distribution for your industry or sector. These may be, for example, Modern Trade (MT), General Trade (GT), Horeca (Hotels, Restaurants & Cafe's/Catering), Specialist, Vending, Wholesale, and many others.
I have discussed channel classification in detail in an earlier post that you can read here. They will almost certainly encompass both online and offline channels. 

2. Measure, monitor, report, and reward according to distribution channels

What gets measured gets done, and what gets rewarded, gets done faster. Ensure the entire organisation understands the role these channels play, and how to get the most out of them. Make sure your organisation is set up to drive performance across all channels.

3. Competition

Identify which channels are growing across the total industry or market (Including all competitors).Having external data and information can be crucial here, otherwise, we can tend to focus too much internally, and may get a clouded impression.

4. Size & Trend

Understand your size/scale and relevant trends versus competition in each channel. You need to know your share vs the competition in each channel, including the recent trends and likely projections.

5. Success

Recognise and understand your likelihood of success in each channel. Do we possess a specific strength that we can leverage in specific channels, or do we have a specific weakness that we must recognise and understand?

6. Profitability

Map out your profitability across each channel. Look at your own percentage Gross Margin (GM) across each channel, compare this to your national GM and the likely GM of your competition/total market. This will have qualitative elements but will be crucial for you to estimate. Understand your Total Cost to Serve (TCTS) across all channels.

7. Portfolio

Examine your brand portfolio and set SKU distribution targets by channel. You will need to look at the past and likely future market trends by channel.

8. Priorities

Using all the above elements, set channel and geographic priorities, and make strategic decisions accordingly. You must have channel priorities. If every channel is a priority, then you do not have channel priorities.

Having considered the above 8 points, we can now move on to the selection of distributor partners.

9. Partners

Identify Distribution Partners (DPs) that can deliver against your channel priorities.This is the point where you are ready to either look at and assess your current distributors or begin the macro process of identifying potential partners by channel.

If the above points 1 to 8 are either ignored or not considered, and we simply move straight to point 9 and identify distributors, we risk failure by relying on hope. That is hoping that our chosen partners will do this work for us, and get it right. This is not likely.

At this point, you might want to look at our 8 Step Guide to Drive FMCG Distributor Excellence.


What should you do now?

Further help and resources

Tags: Route to Market, Traditional Trade, RTM, Ross Marie, RtM Strategy

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Implementation Guide - 20 Steps to RtM Excellence


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Distributor Assessment Guide

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Indirect Distribution: FMCG  Distributors vs. Wholesalers


8 Steps to Drive Distributor Excellence




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