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, and that makes it one of the most successful Grocery Store Marketing Strategies. 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.
Sometimes the great ideas to increase sales in retail stores are fall flat facing execution challenges. 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.
Retail transactions done online afford customers, wholesalers, retailers and even the manufacturers, the luxury of conducting business anywhere at their own convenience. With speed and accuracy, operations can be carried out smoothly - one can therefore see the dilemma traditional independent grocers face. The concerns about falling traffic in your stores are very real as over 71% of consumers trust that they can find better prices online.
So how do you as a traditional retailer survive and most importantly thrive amidst the disruption and turbulence caused by ecommerce? Below are some ideas to increase sale in retail stores.
The first key to survival is to retain and increase foot traffic in your store - this is one of most important grocery store marketing strategies. The good news is that 94% of retail sales are still conducted in brick and mortar stores. Even with the ease of ecommerce, people still prefer a physical experience, a relationship, an interaction with the product or the retailer. This is what defines us as humans - our desire to interact.
The Major Keys to Survival in this Volatile Retail Environment
One of the best strategies to boost number of customer visits in your stores is to leverage this human desire to interact and to discover new experiences. Try to re-imagine your store as an event space which your customers see as being a fun place to visit - not just the place they need to go for weekly provisioning. Promoting limited time price discounts (TPR) on popular and well known products only leads to erosion of margin.
“If consumers come to expect price cuts as the rule rather than the exception, then price promotions lose their ability to boost sales and become unprofitable. “
Consequently, one of the major keys to survival in this volatile retail environment is the creation of exceptional customer experience in your stores. Retail leaders realize that customers now have a plethora of choices available to them. Surely, the store that provides the best experience is certainly where the customers will throng to. In essence, the traditional grocers have the advantage over ecommerce giants in providing quality customer experience through in store demo and other event based marketing strategies.
According to a survey of 1,786 US grocery shoppers conducted by Food Marketing Institute.
“Among all regular food shoppers, brick-and-mortar supermarkets continue to enjoy a clear edge over online grocery retail in perceived performance on key evaluation criteria, especially in providing fresher produce (a top store-selection driver) and better customer service,”
According To a Survey
With the ever dynamic nature of retail today, there is no way you can talk about improving customer experience without including in store demos. This refined tactic helps to draw customers, boost sales of demonstrated products and also improve the sales of other products in that category. To withstand the barrage of online competitors, you have to think of an in-store demo as a network of events rather than one elaborate show. Knowing the right product to demo, duration of each demo and location for the demo are very crucial to your stores survival. In order to measure the impact of in store demos on your stores’ Sales Per Customer Transaction, you have to consider
Understanding return on investment for these promotional strategies can go a long way in attracting the sponsors for them. Analysis of data, collected effortlessly by your POS, holds the key to leveraging vendor’s promotional budgets for increasing foot traffic in your stores. Any quality in store demo agency or vendor’s field marketing organization collects valuable data specific to the demo events they conduct. Cross referencing POS with demo data can produce empirical evidence, that would entice vendors to demos in your stores all day long, and that will lift:
In retrospect, arming yourself with the right information and tactics will give you sufficient leverage in the unstable 'waters' of retail. Reaching out to your customers, giving them the very best and improving on your operations are essential tips for relieving the pressure of online competitors.