Supply Chain Blog

Retail Outlet Classification in RtM Strategy, an Essential Element or a Complete Waste of Time?

Posted by Ross Marie on Thu, Nov 01, 2018

Firstly, what is Outlet Classification? It is a process of segmenting every individual outlet, meaning every point of purchase, based on a set of company specific agreed criteria that you will design, e.g. volume, location, consumer profile, footfall, opening hours, engagement opportunity etc. This will then allow you to target specific activities, resources, brands, SKU’s, promotions, metrics, etc., at a specific outlet groupings level. The main benefit of Outlet Classification is the ability to target your product offerings at specific outlet groupings, regardless of who own them or what their retail format is.


Outlet Classification must not be confused with Channel Classification. Channel Classification, which will be covered in my next post, tends to group outlets together based on format. For example, an FMCG company may service the retail outlets across a country through 4 main channels, Grocery, Convenience, Horeca and Wholesale. These 4 channels may be further split into sub channels, Convenience could be further split into Organised, Mom & Pop, etc. This is mainly based on the format of the stores and who owns them. Outlet classification focuses on specific factors pertinent to your industry and company. It allows you to become much more targeted with your service model. A specific Outlet Classification grouping could contain retail outlets from all channel classifications, but grouped together based on specific consumer profile or location criteria set by you.

Here are some examples of questions you can ask under Step 6 – Outlet Classification:

  1. Do we know all of the outlets in our geography – including name, address, etc? If not, do we have plans to reach the total target universe?
  2. Will we call on the points of sale ourselves?
  3. Will our distributors call on them or will the outlets collect the product?
  4. What percentage of outlets will we cover either directly or indirectly?
  5. What are the criteria that we could classify our outlets under?
  6. On which criteria can we classify using existing data we or our distributors have, and what criteria requires an outlet visit?
  7. Should we classify and visit all outlets, or should we focus on a subset based on a certain criteria?
  8. Do we have the skill set, coverage and resource to do this ourselves?
  9. If not, then is the service available in my market and what are the resource requirements?
  10. Are there options to do a phased on the job classification or is a specific focus and resource required?
  11. Will we have a different approach to dealing with the outlets based on size, total volume, our volume, category volume, share, display, location, accessibility, consumer profile, footfall, opening hours, engagement opportunity, owner vs staff operated, shopper entry, time spent in outlet, potential growth, TM&D opportunities, credit risk, etc?
  12. What will those different approaches be?
  13. Do current key account agreements effect how we may classify/treat/service specific outlets?
  14. What is the timing required to finish the classification?
  15. What are the criteria for assigning call frequencies and resources (people, money, time) based on the classifications?
  16. What are the training needs arising out of outlet classification?

Arguments can be made against Outlet Classification. If you are in a market entry scenario, with limited resources, with established distribution channels, you may decide that Outlet Classification at this stage would be a drain on resources. But if you are a national player looking for country wide distribution, effective Outlet Classification as part of an overall Route to Market strategy could be the difference between winning and losing in that market.

This post is part of my blog series on the 20 Steps to Route to Market Excellence model. One of the main goals of this blog series is to demystify RtM strategy and to provide FMCG leaders with a step by step guide to follow when reviewing or building their RtM plans.

The overall 20 Steps are split into 4 phases, Assessment, Strategy, Design and Implementation. This post focuses on Step 6 ‘Outlet Classification’. This is the first step in the Design phase and would be undertaken after a full review of your current RtM (Assessment phase), and the development of your new RtM Strategy (Strategy phase). You can read about the steps under the previous phases here.

I hope you find this useful, and I welcome any views and comments below. Next week I will cover Step 7 ‘Channel Classification’. Please subscribe to the blog on this page, to ensure you don’t miss the latest updates on RtM excellence in execution and the 20 Steps model. If you would like to know more about the 20 Steps click here.

Tags: 20 Steps to RtM Excellence, RtM Strategy, Ross Marie, RTM, Retail, RTM Assessment Tool, Traditional Trade, Route to Market, FMCG, Brewing & Beverages, SKU, Promotions

Essential Competitor Analysis Tips to Improve Route to Market Strategy and Execution in FMCG

Posted by Ross Marie on Thu, Oct 18, 2018

Over the last number of weeks, I have been writing a blog series on my 20 Steps to Route to Market Excellence model. You can read more about the the steps I have already discussed here. My goal is to provoke business leaders in the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) community to really think about every element of their RtM, and to question and analyse the decisions they will make (building) or have already made (reviewing). Is my RtM Strategy and Execution as good as it could be?

The 20 Steps are split into 4 phases, Assessment, Strategy, Design and Implementation. This blog focuses on Step 4, ‘Competitor Analysis’, which is the last step in the Assessment Phase, and is the last step to take before consideration of your approach to RtM strategy.

competitor_analysis_enchangeBusiness leaders today fully understand the need for competitor analysis. It is a cornerstone of any business strategy, but as with all elements of RtM strategy, it is all about the detail. Understanding what your competitors are doing, why they are doing it, how they are doing it, what their results are, and why you are different, is key to any effective sales and distribution or RtM strategy.

Below are some of the questions you should ask under Step 4 – Competitor Analysis. An important consideration is the availability of open source, legally available and reliable data and information – e.g. internal company data, field force knowledge, trade publications, industry reports, trade visits, etc.:

  1. How are our direct competitors executing their RtM Strategy? What is their DIME approach to distribution (Direct, Indirect, Mix & Everything in between)?
  2. What are the differences between their RtM and ours?
  3. What are the differences in their performance and ours? What is their brand distribution, volume & share vs ours?
  4. What are the factors that we believe are behind that?
  5. How are other non-competing organisations, still in our sector, executing their RtM strategy?
  6. How is that different to mine and why?
  7. Are there elements from competitors’ operations that we should look to evaluate, either positive or negative?
  8. Are there lessons to be learnt or mistakes to be avoided?
  9. Looking across the 20 Steps, ask yourself, what is their approach to the 4D’s (Distribution, Display, Dialogue, Digital)
  10. How does the competition classify their outlets, or their channels? Do they use the traditional norms, or do they target specific avenues?
  11. How do they set up their territories and what is their trade structure and FTE’s?
  12. Do they get sales data from the trade and what metrics do they measure? Do we know how they target their field force?
  13. Do they have specific planograms and trade promotions? Are they active in POS placement?
  14. Do they have a trade incentive and /or engagement programme?
  15. What is their order capture method? How are they using technology in the field?
  16. How are they leveraging Digital (with regards to sales channels, order capture, engagement, promotions, trade incentives, trade marketing, etc.)?
  17. What do we know about competitor distributor activities? Who are they partnering with? Has this changed in the last 5 years? What is their distribution effectiveness?
  18. Do we see evidence of their successful initiatives in one area being rolled out to other territories?
  19. How do they manage key accounts? What is their overall relationship with the trade?

There are many questions you could ask here, and I would encourage you to think about which are the most relevant for your markets and industries. Give Competitor Analysis the importance it deserves to gain a well-rounded, in-depth knowledge of your competition and feed this into your RtM strategy.

I hope you find this helpful, and I appreciate your views and comments below. I will pick this up again next week, with Step 5 RtM Strategy & the 4D Approach. Please subscribe to the blog, you can do so on this page, to ensure you don’t miss out on the latest updates on RtM excellence in execution and the 20 Steps model. If you would like to know more about the 20 Steps to RtM Excellence, please visit our website here.

Tags: 20 Steps to RtM Excellence, RtM Strategy, Ross Marie, Promotions, RTM, Retail, RTM Assessment Tool, Distribution, Sales, Route to Market, FMCG

FMCG Supply Chain: What is your 2018 Planning Priority?

Posted by Dave Jordan on Wed, Jan 17, 2018

We already find ourselves at 17th January so not many days left to ensure your monthly top and bottom lines are on target. Good luck with that if your business (& body!) is only just shaking off the holiday excesses. What is top of mind? The sagging month to date sales rate? The slow return to normal of the S&OP meeting schedule? The upcoming corporate audit? No. Top of mind is where to go on your summer holidays and to get this booked as soon as possible.

Get your holiday slot booked at the office and make sure you sync with school holidays and soon you will be surfing the internet checking out all the best deals. Flight only or hotel included? What about airport transfers? Do we go with full service airlines or suffer the middle of the night, cattle-class treatment on a low-cost flyer? Long term car parking at the airport? Oh, look at the kids go free offers – no I don’t believe it either; nobody gets a holiday for free, well except possibly Mrs Queen and free-loading MPs.

You may even create a dreaded Excel spreadsheet listing potential destinations and a matrix of all the travel options and applicable costs. Carefully you will fine tune the list until you really have found the best deal with the most convenient and least expensive travel. After the briefest of discussions with the rest of the family the bookings will be done and dusted well before the end of January. What a personal masterclass in forward planning!

FMCG_ACTIVITY_PLANNING_SALES_WINE.jpgYet you still have no idea on your FMCG acivity plans for the next 6 months let alone a much longer horizon. If you left your holiday plans to the last minute you would probably struggle to find something decent. Yes, if you are single or a couple minus mini debt creators then you can just turn up at the airport and see what seats are available and take it from there. You may well be sleeping on a beach or in a hostel where there are more joints than an orthopaedic ward and the only pillows are inflated wine box bladders but so what, you will cope. However, with small people in tow that last minute gambling option will rarely be entirely appropriate.

Back to your activity planning or lack of it. Some of your major in-market initiatives will be annual events around Spring Cleaning or Easter or a seasonal weather peak so being late with those is unforgiveable as they should be fixtures in your rolling plan. Other promotions will be tactical or at short notice due to market dynamics such as competitor activity or price increases (prices rarely drop do they?). Nevertheless, most of your activity planning for the next 12 months should be firm with a further 12 months of tentative plans which firm up as the S&OP process passes through each month.

Short notice opportunities are ok if you can manage the same without affecting those that have been carefully planned. Marketeers may demand a special promotion to take account of some topical and usually scandalous news or about the latest air-head to emerge from the Big Brother house. If you can, so be it but let these impact on the ones that really matter at your peril. Topical opportunistic activities will probably be sexy and raise a guffaw, but seldom do they contribute much to your top and bottom lines and they don’t impress the suits at HQ.

People outside of supply chain somehow think that promotions and special offers magically appear outside of all the usual planning processes. They don’t. If you stick in a last-minute giggle promotion, then be very sure you are disrupting regular day to day activities about which you will no doubt complain.

You should try inflated wine box bladders; great for camping!

Image courtesy of

Tags: FMCG, Forecasting & Demand Planning, Sales, Promotions, S&OP