Before you read why you don’t get them, perhaps you want to know why you want them.
Supermarket Executives Love In Store Demos
Since you are reading this, it is relatively safe to assume that you already realize the value in store demos bring to your stores, but let me provide some numbers.
Smart grocers love demos because they draw foot traffic, sharply increase the sales of promoted products, and boost sales for an entire category of products. While Retail Industry research shows 150% boost in the same day product sales*, Food & Beverage product demos often report over 400% sales increase. Consider additional 90% - 120% residual boost in item sales over the quarter following demo event, all paid for by the vendors, and it becomes very easy to understand why smart grocers want more demos.
The lessons below are distilled by analyzing tens of thousands of demo reports conducted by dozens of CPG brands in thousands of US supermarkets over the last couple of years.
Why It's So Difficult to Schedule In Store Demo
Most supermarkets do not have dedicated demo coordinators whose prime responsibilities are to schedule and coordinate promotional events with vendors. More often than not, it is handled by a person who already have too many “hats” to wear, some with specific measurement of performance. So it is not surprising that her attention is not focused on a number or effectiveness of the vendor’s in store demos.
That leaves Vendors with a very unpleasant task of multiple calls to the same store, and pain in the neck holding the phone while waiting for a “right” person who can give them availability date for a demo event.
Since stores often use Wall Calendars and no workflows, they usually will give only one date/time slot per day for a request. They may use a Google calendar, or a generic scheduling software without workflow coordination, which won’t provide any remedial relief. The more difficult and unpleasant it is for a Vendor to setup the demos in your store, the more likely she will spend her budget funds at a store of your competitors. I do have hard data to support this statement**.
While it may not be economically attractive to add a full time, salaried employee to manage this process, specialized software for in store demo management automation is readily available for supermarkets at an affordable price. Use of such software eliminates the requirement for dedicated demo coordinator to manage scheduling process.
Too often the problems start when a Brand Ambassador shows up in your store and reports to a manager on duty asking for a designated place for the demo table. The response “I don’t know anything about any demo today in my store” deflates the Brand Ambassador enthusiasm and undermines all preceding efforts by Vendor, product Brand Manager, Distributor and your Buyer to create a successful selling event. While the space for demo challenge can often be resolved with with tactful negotiations, the lack of product inventory on hand for a demo, is a soul crasher. At this point all is lost, the Vendor is stuck with the black hole in her demo budget and nothing to show for all the money and effort. It’s time to cut her losses and go with different, more cooperative stores.
Ask And You Shall Receive
Brand managers, who control promotional budgets, frequently have no idea what stores carry their products they would want to promote. Many products on supermarket shelves are sold to the buyers by brokers and distributors, who often do not have access to the brand’s marketing budgets.
Proactive request from the store management, communicated directly to a manufacturer or via your demo agency/partner, often brings surprising number of demos with very little effort. Most samples for in store demos are purchased in store by brand ambassadors at retail price, and reimbursed by the manufacturer. If you offer to charge wholesale price for the samples, a vendor may reciprocate with an offer of multi demo campaign.
Money, like water, flows where it meets the least resistance. The supermarkets that welcome demos in their stores, i.e. make it easy to set up and execute, receive far more promotional funding and get better profit margins than the stores that see demos as distraction and nuisance.
** Request the data. Please enter “I do have hard data to support this statement**” in a message field, and will email it to you.
One of the recurring complaints you would likely hear from Field Marketing Managers and Demo Coordinators is how unreliable are the Brand Ambassadors they have to deal with. In fact, if you ever experienced scheduling a few demos, you have probably endured a Brand Ambassador's last moment cancellation or "now show".
I would like to posit that the Brand Ambassadors' perceived lack of reliability is not necessarily caused by their mercurial personalities, but by the nature of their business and unavailability of appropriate time management tools. Consider the fact that most Brand Ambassadors are independent contractors who try to earn their living selling their personal skills in small time increments. After all, most in store demos only last 3-4 hours. As such, the Brand Ambassadors need to market their services to Demo Coordinators, Brand Managers, etc. as well as delivering these services in stores and events.
It is impossible to estimate how many hours a Brand Ambassador has to market their services to get a single demo for which she can earn $60-$140. This reality forces them to continuously work with multiple Brands, conflicting times and constantly changing dates.
Demo scheduling is a very fluid process that requires a lot of flexibility from all participants, from Brand and Field Marketing Managers to store personnel, product distributor, to Brand Ambassadors. However, the last link of this chain, the Brand Ambassador, is the least equipped to deal with the demands of flexibility. The byproduct of a flexibility is uncertainty. In the case of Brand Ambassadors it is the uncertainty of being paid for their efforts, while everyone else is paid their hourly salaries. If the changes to dates and times create a conflict with their commitment to other brands they work with, they are the only link in the demo chain who is not getting paid.
Consider the fact that most Brand Ambassadors use a phone, email, Google Calendar and spreadsheets to manage their business commitments and activities, and you will see a picture of a juggler, desperately trying to keep all the "balls" in the air. It is only a matter of time and gravity before some of these "balls", i.e. demo commitments, come down crashing to the floor and cause the last moment cancellations or "no show".
Event Management Software
There are myriads of project/task/shift/etc management services available online today. However, all of them are designed for the owners of these business processes, who are in a position to control steps, tasks and communications. Not for the last link of the process chain, Brand Ambassador, who is on the receiving end of all that "flexibility". Besides, many Demo Coordinators do not use such services either because they do not offer enough specific help for the demo management process, and are not a good fit for other demo management tasks.
Use of the right tool for intelligent scheduling and coordination of ever changing demo requirements can go a very long way to reduce the frustration and "flakiness" of Brand Ambassadors. Additional benefits include:
- increased productivity of a Demo Coordinator who can manage 400-500 demos per month
- controlled automated communications with all involved parties
- greater availability of Brand Ambassador time to you because the use of such a tool reduces the uncertainty of Brand Ambassadors being paid for their time and efforts
- automated generation of BA invoices, payment statements and BA tax preparation documentation
- online demo reporting and data collection for subsequent analysis supporting Field Marketing ROI calculations.
Field Marketing is More Effective
Field Marketing is more effective than any other form of advertising because it can measurably impact sales in a very direct and accountable way.
“Half of my advertising budget is wasted away. Unfortunately I don’t know which half” is the quote attributed to John Wanamaker, Philadelphia retailer and marketing pioneer. Even with the advent of digital advertising it is difficult to account how ads exposure and clicks translate into actual unit sales.
Difference Between Solid ROI and Lost Sales
“Per our study (Adweek), in the U.S. 39 percent decide brand choice inside the store and that decision is most frequently triggered by a product demo versus other activities. Twenty-nine percent of shoppers buy products impulsively in-store. How would you rework your marketing if you had this information about your brands?
Activating brands in-store is the single biggest investment most manufacturers should make today, and using a shopper insight-based approach will be the difference between solid ROI and lost sales.”
In Store Demo Campaign
Any field marketing manager can easily figure out the complete cost of in store demo campaign. Understanding factors that contribute to return on this investment is a little more challenging. Most brand builders realize that the product sales during in store demo are only one piece of this puzzle. While it is easy to measure it is only the tip of the proverbial value iceberg.
Another contributor to in store demo profitability is the product residual sales uplift that often lasts weeks after initial event. You need help from the grocer’s POS data or your distributor”s sales reporting to detect and measure it. Keep in mind that grocers benefit greatly from your in store demo investment, as these events lift sales of an entire product category and promote more traffic in their stores. Your demo reports data also has value to both grocers and distributors, and can be used to incentivise them to pool your information resources together as it enhance the value of this information for all.
Brand Awareness contribution of In Store Demo
Lastly, the brand awareness contribution to profitability of in store demo is often targeted, but rarely measured. We have borrowed a methodology from CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost) calculations as it is commonly used in digital marketing to simplify brand awareness contribution estimates and incorporated it into the Demo ROI Calculator available free of charge.
To build this Calculator, we analyzed data collected during thousands of in store demos, including sales numbers for demonstrated products, day of the week variations of foot traffic during the events, and number of shoppers who tasted a product without purchasing it. We also looked at follow-on sales of these items for four-five weeks after the events. This data is a critical asset in your drive to secure more and better shelf space in the stores.