[Webinar] The Super Coffee Story: Unlocking Field Team Success and Retail Sales Execution

How does your brand look inside brick-and-mortar stores? Are your displays and promotions set up properly? Did your products actually make it to the shelf? Are your field teams focusing on the efforts that will impact your bottom line?

We have answers in this webinar, held on August 5, 2021, and hosted by the Category Management Association. Listen in to hear from Dan Ray, Customer Success at Wiser, and Jordan DeCicco, founder and COO at Super Coffee, as they cover how Super Coffee approaches field team management and retail sales execution.

We have the recording of the webinar below. Or, keep reading for a written transcript of the entire conversation between Dan and Jordan. As always, contact us if you have any questions related to the topics covered in this webinar.

Wiser Solutions and Super Coffee Webinar

Jackie Lewis: Hello, everyone, and welcome to the CMA and SIMA weekly webinar series. I’m Jackie Lewis, Content Director here at the CMA and I’m going to be your host for today. And today, our member Wiser Solutions is joined by Kitu Life to discuss Super Coffee’s approach to retail sales execution, field team management, and its growth from Shark Tank to a national brand.

From Wiser today, we have Dan Ray, Customer Success Manager who has years of experience in retail execution management and works closely with Wiser customers to help them improve and grow their in-store businesses.

From Kitu Life, we have Jordan DeCicco, one of the three founding brothers behind Super Coffee and currently COO alongside brothers, Jim and Jake. So, welcome, guys. Thanks for being here.

Dan Ray: Thank you.

Jordan DeCicco: Thanks, Jackie, for having me on.

Jackie: Yeah. So, we should have ample time for audience questions at the end. Unfortunately, Jordan will have to drop off a little sooner than that, so if you do have a question for him, please feel free to enter that in the chat box in the upper right-hand corner of your screen at any point during the presentation and I’ll go ahead and jump in as it makes sense just to make sure we’re making the most out of our time with both Jordan and Dan here.

And then finally, we will be recording the presentation today, so don’t worry if you miss something. We will be sending it out to all those that registered over the next day or so, posting in our resource library, and following up on any of the questions that we don’t get a chance to answer live.

So welcome, again, Dan, and Jordan. And with that out of the way, the floor is all yours.

The Super Coffee Story

Dan: Awesome. Thank you, Jackie. So, Jordan, you’re at college, you want to give maybe a little … for those that haven’t heard it yet, give a little background. You’re at college, you create this organic coffee with less sugar, healthy ingredients. Apparently, your friends and colleagues love it, so you get your brothers involved and you start selling it, right? You get invited to Shark Tank, leave without a deal, and yet still take off. Now you’re in over 40, 000 accounts with over 100 million bottles sold.

So, looking back at all of that, there’s obviously a lot to be proud of, what would you say you’re most proud of when thinking back on your journey from sitting in your dorm room making coffee to where you are today?

Jordan: That’s a tough one for us. Every time we reflect, we get emotional about the story. But I do want to clarify, early on, nobody loved the product out of the dorm room that I was making, so it took a while to improve that for sure, and we got similar feedback on Shark Tank too, which I’m sure we’ll talk more about. But I think for us, the thing that we’re most proud of is building a team and a culture that has authentic values, a meaningful mission and purpose that we stay true to, and we do everything around that.

All of our products are informed by our purpose and values, all of our teammates, and it’s a really fun place to live, work, and spend a lot of time in this organization. And if the three of us weren’t part of it anymore, we honestly feel the company would still continue to do well with some of the leaders that we have in place and the team that we have in place. And I think that’s real success for our startup, coming from a dorm room, is when you don’t have to rely on the founders any more, and we think we’re almost there. But the organization that we’re creating, the team that we’re building is the best part about this right now.

The products are great, they make a meaningful impact on people’s lives, but the team is everything to us right now.

Dan: Awesome. That’s great. So, talking about Shark Tank, looking back on it, are you glad you went on it?

Jordan: Oh, absolutely. Shark Tank was amazing in so many respects, but I think that the key thing when we were making that decision at the time, we were so focused on growing the brand and we were really out building it every single day, so there was a lot of time in the trade.

But when we thought about it, it was like, ” Look, best-case scenario, obviously, they love the product, we get a deal and things go well with it, but worst-case scenario is they hate the product and eight million people still watch it, so we need them to like us, like the purpose and understand what we’re trying to do.” And that’s exactly what happened.

The Sharks didn’t enjoy the product, we didn’t get a deal, but eight million people, and maybe not everyone but a lot of people resonated with the brand, the story, the passion that we brought up there, and that translated into retail sales. Our buyers, our distributors love the fact that we were on the show and had some awareness and had a cool story, and when we were in stores doing sampling, we would have people come up to us and take pictures with us like, ” Hey, we saw you on Shark Tank,” and that carried over quite a bit, and we still use it and talk about it today.

We’re still the coffee brand that was on Shark Tank and that does add some value for us. We try to get away from it sometimes, but it’s a big part of our brand and our story that we love.

Building a Strong Culture

Dan: Awesome. So, let’s talk about culture for a bit. One thing I noticed right away as I was onboarding and working with your team, everyone was high energy, constant positivity, you have that throughout the team, that let’s go mentality, and not just with you, it truly was whether I was talking to a manager, or a data analyst, or a field rep out in the stores, they all had that just positive, high energy, that was contagious.

What do you contribute to your strong culture that you’ve built and how would you say that has impacted your success out in stores?

Jordan: Yeah. So, I think we should define culture too, or how at least we define it and think about it. And we honestly think about it as the collective personality of the entire organization, right, and everybody on the team contributes to that collective personality.

So, when you think about it that way, you have to be, one, really clear about what you want to be as a company, what personality you want to be or have, and usually driven by a specific set of values, which we’ll talk about, and then that can inform your hiring decisions, right? And it really does start with hiring and bringing people on who fit that mold in terms of the values that you’re looking for and what you’re trying to create in terms of team culture and atmosphere.

So, I attribute a lot of it to great hiring and then making sure that once people are on board, they have an amazing experience, we’re holding them accountable, they’re holding us accountable to the values and the purpose and the mission. And that creates a really fun and exciting culture. And I honestly think, Dan, our culture has been our biggest competitive advantage. It’s not the product, it’s the people on the team and how we work together and what we’re working towards. So, I would say it’s our biggest advantage right now.

Dan: Yeah, and I’d agree with that. Talking to the team, just high engagement all around, doesn’t matter who we’re talking with. Someone described to me once that culture is always changing whether you want it or not. And I like your definition, it’s the collective personality of everyone. So, you talk about hiring is a big part of making sure you hire people that fit that culture.

What happens when you bring someone on and realize they don’t fit the culture, maybe whether it be through low performance or just overall not fitting the personality that you’re wanting to have portrayed throughout the team? How do you handle that? How do you recognize it and then how do you handle it?

Jordan: Yeah, that’s a great question. And, again, back to hiring, we try, right, we try really hard to make sure that doesn’t happen. And so it does start with hiring, but obviously, we’re not perfect. And that does happen, especially when you’re hiring quickly and scaling fast the way we’ve tried to the past few years. But we train and coach up a lot of our managers and leaders within the organization, and the number one thing that we speak about is giving candid feedback early and often, great performance or poor performance.

You have to be really clear and specific and use data. I know we’re going to talk a lot about data, but use the data to support the feedback that you’re giving. And you should start your feedback sessions with, “Here’s what I’m seeing from you, here’s how that makes me feel, and here’s what I want you to do.” And really be clear about the expectations.

And if our managers and leaders are transparent and honest and having those conversations early and often, then it becomes pretty easy to manage because they can find the underperformers or the bad behavior, have those candid conversations, and if there is an improvement, then we have the mindset of we have to move on quickly and hopefully go out and upgrade, so bring somebody back on.

But what did we learn from that experience, right? What went wrong in the hiring process? What did we do wrong? We’re not blaming the candidate or the employee, it wasn’t a culture fit, so that’s a mistake on our part because we let them into the culture. So, if we move on from that person, how can we learn from that and then bring somebody in who will add to the culture, and then again, when it comes to hiring too, going forward.

We always try to bring people on, again, who have great values, fit the culture, but also add another level or the next level of skills to the organization too because great people love working with other great people, it attracts more talent, and it keeps feeding that culture of performance.

Dan: Yeah. And I really like how you’re constantly looking inward when an employee doesn’t fit that or is a low performer, whatever, you’re not blaming it on them, you’re looking inward. “What did we do to either find the wrong person or not get them and support them to be a high performer?” And if that means parting ways, that’s probably better for both sides, if it just doesn’t fit.

Jordan: Yeah, 100 percent, Dan. And the last thing I’ll add there too on looking inward is not only on the hiring process, but also, are we setting them up for success in the role, right? Do they have the tools that they need? Were they properly coached up on shelf space out of the gate or did we leave them out to dry?

So, how do we set this person up to succeed in their role across the board is something that we look at too, and then again, ultimately, those candid conversations sometimes can be seen as tough, but to your point, it’s the right thing to do, it’s respectful, it’s honest to have those conversations with employees to make sure that it is the right fit.

And if it’s not, again, it’s the right thing to let them leave the organization because it’s not a good fit. So, you’re not doing them a favor by not giving them the feedback or by keeping them in the organization.

Retail Sales and Execution Management

Dan: Yeah. Awesome. So, let’s actually switch gears to retail sales and execution, and when we say retail sales and execution, that’s including sales starting from the headquarter account, meeting with the buyers all the way down to the shelf.

Can you talk to us a little bit about what has made your team successful? What tools, when you talk about equipping your team, making sure they’re set up for success, or whether that be from a training perspective, or what have you. Obviously, we know Wiser Retail Sales and Execution management is a part of that, for those that are unfamiliar. Shelvspace. When Jordan and Super Coffee first joined on, it was called Shelvspace, we’ve merged with Wiser.

So, we know that you use that, but specifically, what within that is what you would say maybe a must-have, and any other tools that your team finds valuable as you’re selling and executing at retail?

Jordan: Yeah. And I think it’s important to understand our philosophy too and just how we think about the business that we’re in.

We like to say like we try to flip the org chart upside down and really build our business from the bottom up. So, from day one, we’ve always put extreme focus and amount of resources and time and attention to supporting, in the field at the individual account level, because that’s where the flywheel really turns, right? So, instead of trying to build from the top down with impeccable key account management resources, we try to build and put more resources in the bottom up.

And we think that the key account management actually becomes a lot easier if you have extraordinary execution at the account level. I think a lot of brands focus on the key account management maybe a little bit too much, they do a great job of getting products in front of buyers and in stores, but then they don’t really have a plan to help get that product off the shelf. So, that’s how we think about it. And then in terms of the tools and the resources, there’s not really a harder job than field sales in the beverage industry. It’s so competitive.

You’re going up against titans every single day, and we’ll talk about our team’s focus is out there versus say a Coke or a Pepsi reps, focus on the difference there. So, we have to provide them with clear expectations and then ways to measure that. So, the dashboards that Wiser provides too and easy ways to measure their output and give them feedback on that, right? If we didn’t have that, it’d be really hard, right?

Because the feedback conversations start with data, and we need a lot of data. So, we’re looking constantly. We purchase a lot of data as well from all the syndicated sources, a lot of panel data as well to understand our customers a little bit more, and then all the internal data that we’re using in terms of the tools and the tracking systems.

Another thing too, Dan, that we strive to do actually is really preach financial literacy, and all of our financial reporting gets shared out to the entire company on a monthly basis, and we talk about it openly because we want them to see the impact of their work and the trade every single day and how it’s adding to the health of the business, or if we have a bad month, “Hey, here’s where we overspent or underperformed and where we need to improve,” and people really take ownership of that and respect that and make improvements based on that. But again, we put a lot of time and energy into coaching up our field teams, a lot of time into recruiting.

We have over 70 field reps full-time and then about 100 part-time, and they’re in stores every single day with our distributors every single day and creating beautiful pieces of work like you see here.

Dan: Yeah. Well, when you talk about that feedback and setting up your team for success and making sure they understand the impact, one thing I’ve noticed from the team is how well you’ve utilized those when you talk about key indicators and bring that back. I stole a few screenshots from your platform within Wiser. This is one of the leaderboards which a lot of brands have really taken on, and especially your team, this is just a way to track whether or not you’re on pace.

And I look in and month after month, your team is always well exceeding their goal. And I see how you’ve focused your team to always be looking at this, where every day they can see if it’s red, they’re not on pace to hit their goal, if it’s green, whether that be on day one or halfway through the period or whatever, so they always know where they’re at. I’ve seen that constantly talked about and referred to in the team.

When you talk about different indicators, this is one of your team performance dashboards that I see the team always referring to as well, and just making sure that you’re able to roll up as a company what your key indicators are, see trending, see staff ranks, and just providing that feedback on a constant basis.

So, Jordan, I know you’ve got a flight so worst thing is I make you miss your flight that got kind of moved around. So, the moment you got to go, just let me know. But looking at some of the key indicators, what would you say are the most important. We got several different screens, and I see that every now and then it’ll change a bit, you got the leaderboard, you got your team performance, you’ve got your photos, you’ve got this report that gets sent out to the team. There’s a lot of indicators that people can use.

What would you say are the most important key indicators for your field team that you pay attention to?

Key Indicators for Field Teams

Jordan: Yeah. I mean, this tool is incredible for us. I mean, these are all of our leading indicators, which are our pride and joy, and field sales are leading indicators, and then the financial results are obviously the lagging indicators. For us, we look at, obviously, quantity of visits too. We do want to make sure we have a lot of accounts, we got to be seeing them, especially the top tier accounts that we classify as priority A. And then additionally, quality is there too, and we measure quality by all the metrics that you see here.

So, orders, cases ordered, displays are a big part, right? We need to stand out in stores. We don’t have multimillion-dollar marketing budgets yet. And then additionally, cooler placements as well, obviously, huge for beverage. We like to say cold is sold. And you’ll see a lot of Coke, Pepsi coolers at the front of store, and we need to compete with those guys, so we do our best there. And then again, programming, to your point. We try to be dynamic too. While these six are definitely cooler at all times, we can tie in incentives or other programming metrics as well.

Say if we had a running at Target for a month, we can put that in and track that and make sure we’re executing against it, and the images here, obviously, that tie to that, again, our verification that things are going well and looking good, and we can also help enforce or guide merchandising standards too. So, if we are building 100 case display, we can actually make sure that it’s merchandised correctly in a way that drives the most value or it’s in the right part of the store.

So, we’re able to give those guardrails and guidance to the team in real-time too, which is great. And we get a report that comes out every day with this information, and then obviously, the teams that have been there during the day. So, all of these I would say are the core six, but then there’s other things that we can tie in if we’re running specific programs or incentives as well.

Dan: Yeah. If you look across the board, you’ve got a mix of … you’ve got just straight efforts for, right? Which is just simply, how many store visits did you do? That’s just straight effort. You don’t even have to be very good and you can at least do that. And the rest of it is all, “How am I impacting, as a rep, the finances?” And that’s going to be through placing, and pre-orders, and cases ordered, and the setting up displays. I’m seeing a lot less of like, ” How much time did you spend in-store?

When did you start your day? When did you end your day? And more on, “How did you impact the brand at each store that you visit?” The last thing that I’ll just point out, you mentioned the automation and the real-time data and using that. This is a report that I see gets sent out to the entire team every day. And then you talk about the data.

We’re starting to actually integrate distribution data from your distributors and having that visible both on web and on mobile. What’s your key takeaway of, what’s your vision of using store-level data as part of the sales process?

Jordan: Yeah. I mean, our store level data is really sacred to us, and how we spend our time and energy and how we think about hiring and just looking at opportunities for the business in general too. I mean, if you want to compare, obviously, SKU performance, you can understand what SKUs you’re doing well and how you’re maximizing your profit in each store and by SKU or category, right? We play in multiple categories now too and it’s easy to do a quick analysis in terms of which one is more profitable or driving more for us. But it also allows us to tell a story to the retailer, because usually, we’re performing in the top 10 to 15 percent of all SKUs, but we don’t have a lot of SKUs on the shelf.

So, our goal is obviously to convince the retailer to get us more SKUs in the store, so we need to go in and tell a really clear story of how we’re performing by SKU, by store. And again, it starts here, and then, again, if we’re doing our jobs here, it’ll scale up, we’ll see a report in the IRI data four weeks later. So it’s really clear or really important that we’re clear about how we’re tracking it on a daily basis with our internal teams and our distributors, because our distributors we’re sharing these reports with as well, holding them accountable.

Because if weren’t performing well here and we’re seeing the growth up into the right at the store level, we know it’ll show up in the IRI data, we could paint a really clear story at our next key account or category review with our buyers. So, it’s all connected, but again, flip the work chart upside down, starts inventory and how you’re performing and executing every day, that’ll jumpstart the flywheel, you’ll retain customers, that way, hopefully, the product’s great, and then again, you’ll hopefully earn more space in the store at the next category review, and then you can kind of repeat that cycle.

So, leading up to category reviews, you’re bringing in more and more, you’re capturing more data and more share in the store, and hopefully, the buyers are rewarding you and your team for the work that’s gone in at the field level.

Dan: Awesome. How are we looking at time with your flight? Is there a delay or do you need to go?

Jordan: I think I got to jump now, unfortunately. I wish we could do this all day. These are really fun conversations, but again, if there’s any questions, follow-ups, things like that, happy to answer via email. I’m jordan@kitulife.com, so feel free to reach out. And Dan, if there’s anything on your end that you want to follow up with, just let me know.

Dan: Yeah. Awesome. Thank you, Jordan. We’ll let you go. I really appreciate the time.

Jordan: Cool. Thanks, guys. Have a great day, everybody. Have a great weekend.

Jackie: Thanks, Jordan.

Dan: For everyone else, Jordan has agreed if we want to ask any questions to him directly that he’s going to be willing to answer those after. We’re going to send that to him. So, I’ll turn it over to Jackie to just open Q&A, there’s also some thoughts that we have to just kind of wrap up, key takeaways. But were there any questions that came up during, Jackie, that we want to pose?

Jackie: Nope. So, we don’t have any questions in the queue right now, but yeah, just like Dan said, please enter them. Even if you do have some for Jordan, I know he dropped, but we can get those over to him and get those answered for you offline. So, I did want to reiterate that. And I’ll be on and stay on here in case there’s other questions that get submitted. How’s that sound?

Key Takeaways from Jordan

Dan: Yeah, perfect. So, feel free to jump in. There’s a few, probably five to 10 minutes just thoughts as talking to Jordan, and in general, talking to several other … we work with some amazing brands, we work with distributors, brokers, retailers themselves and boiling all that up of, what are the best practices? What are the differences between the companies that are excelling at retail sales and execution and the ones that aren’t?

So, specifically to the takeaways from our conversation with Jordan, empower your company with a strong culture. Startups shouldn’t rely on the founders forever. I really liked how he said, “We have built this, our goal is always to build this so if we leave, it’s going to run just fine without us.”

Set clear expectations with field teams by using data. Don’t send them into the field without support. We’re seeing those leaderboards and the automated reports that get sent out on a daily, weekly basis. There’s just constant feedback being had throughout the company about what is being accomplished, and it’s almost always used in a positive nature. It’s not about a big brother, it’s about celebrating the wins that Kitu is doing out in the field.

And then grow your teams by leading by example. Poor management can break even the strongest field teams. And he talked about looking inward. He’s not blaming the field team and sales teams when they’re low performing, he’s looking at, “What did we do to fail them?” So, when you look at that retail sales and execution at a high level, the biggest difference that I’ve seen between the two really comes twofold.

One is, how they think about retail sales and execution. A lot of companies think of retail execution as kind of like monitoring and compliance, it’s the last part of the process, it’s kind of like the necessary evil. They don’t really want to spend much money until they have to, it’s an afterthought, versus the companies that we see excel and win that battle of the shelf, that’s where the rubber meets the road, they can spend all this investment upfront, but if they don’t make sure it hits the shelf, then literally all of that is for naught.

It’s those that use retail sales and execution as their strategic advantage, as their competitive advantage. So, how do you get there? The second part of that is the way they approach retail sales and execution. So, one side, it’s how they view it and prioritize it and infuse it in every part of the process so it’s not at the end of the thing, it’s throughout the process, from forecasting to getting your trade budget, to selling out at the key account, to getting with your distributors and brokers, all the way to programs with the retailers and getting on the shelf.

So, the second part of that is, how do they approach this? One of the biggest pitfalls that companies I see make is they turn retail execution into a one-off running around. I talked to CPG sales executives when they first come on with Shelvspace and Wiser is at first they feel like this on the left, where it’s just them at the center of chaos. One executive told me, he felt like they’re constantly running around like a chicken with its head cut off.

That was a very graphic way to describe it. That’s how we felt. But when we boil all this up, we find that there’s actually a method to the madness. It’s not always chaos, even though it may feel like that, and there’s a lot of different ways you could break it out, but here’s one way to look at it.

It’s really analyzing what you have and the data that you have, creating a plan, executing, and reporting back on that execution. So, what we try and help customers do is take them from this approach where it just feels like everything’s a fire drill and there are these one-off initiatives that aren’t getting done, to what is a systematic and proactive approach to retail sales and execution?

Because the fact of the matter is, you’re never going to be 100 percent ever with retail execution. And so, if you’re treating everything the same, if you don’t have a systematic approach, it literally is like you’re chasing your tail and there’s just no end to it. Versus, do you have a way to properly prioritize what is most important, what is the biggest impact as far as your execution? Do you know what your execution is? Even just knowing what your execution is holistically can be difficult to answer, then knowing what to do about it and actually prioritizing and doing it, that’s the systematic approach that we talk about.

So, if there are 100 problems out in the field, or more likely 100,000, you know the 1,000 that is going to impact the business most and the other 99,000, you’re ignoring, because if you try and solve everything, you’re never going to get the ROI out of retail execution that you’re looking for.

So one last thought. We love to end early. Again, we’ll open it up for Q& A, but one last thought here. One of the things that we do and take our customers through is, what we have gathered from our customers, we really follow the lead of the brands that we work with, because we work with some amazing category leaders, and blowing that up of what is the best-in-class retail sales and execution. And we’ve created kind of this measurement stick where we look at … really, what it comes down to is automation and data intelligence.

How do we automate workflows and infuse store-level data intelligence throughout the process? And so we have this measuring stick that we can grade each one of our customers and show them where they are at today and where they can make adjustments to get to more automation, more data intelligence. I loved when Jordan talked about, he talked about category reports. He says that plays a big role, but that alone doesn’t tell the whole story. That can tell you where you are in ranking, but how do you get from five to two?

What stores do you need to go after? And that’s where he talked about, he starts with the store-level data. So, he talked about store-level data at shipping, distribution data, depletion reports, scan data reports, down to the store, down to the product, it’s audits and pictures, how to aggregate all of that to get the picture of where you are and where you need to go.

So, we take this approach of starting with basic information capturing to them prioritizing setting goals, then getting and activating a store-level data, and then getting to a point of full automation and predictive retail execution, and we do that across three functional areas, again, in terms of retail sales and execution.

One is the retail field teams, one is at the retail headquarter and distributor level, and then the third is how you’re leveraging your third-party teams. You can’t just rely on your own team, right? You got to work with the brokers and with the distributors and the retailers. How are you incorporating that and collaborating with the third-party merchandisers, crowdsourcing? All of that falls into this third-party team, how are you leveraging that to supplement your own sales team?

So, I won’t go through all these in detail, but just you can kind of see we take each one of those functional areas, we show you from that plan, execute, and report and analyze the process that we saw earlier, that systematic approach, would kind of show you what we see, what is best practices, add that conversation of where you are today versus where you want to be.

Like I said, it’s not about getting everybody to 100 percent in every functional area, it’s about identifying what part is going to have the greatest growth so that you can go through and move from needle A, starting point, to two, and then two to three, that crawl, walk, run approach to getting to that systematic approach.

Closing Q&A

Jackie: And there was a good question that came in that ties on to this slide actually around how does distributors, brokers, and brands use the data differently? So, do they access the same kind of toolkits, or do they have their own solution built for them within the platform, or how do they all think about using it?

Dan: Yeah. It’s a great question. At the end of the day, there’s each player in the industry. You’ve got the manufacturer or supplier of a brand making the product and selling it, you’ve got brokers that are focused on selling it, some of them will also do retail merchandising, you’ve got dedicated merchandising teams, you’ve got distributors delivering the product and all the different DSD models, broadline distribution, then you’ve got the retailers, all of them have differences and what their focuses are, but they also have similarities, and at the end of the day, everyone wants the best products to be promoted and executed at the shelf that consumers most want.

When that happens, everyone wins. At the base level, there’s some level of it doesn’t matter who you are, you got to get down to the store level of what’s being executed at the shelf, what products are being delivered, what products are being scanned, and at what store. So, we start with that and everybody benefits.

Then from there, the only difference is how you’re acting on that. A broker is going to act on it differently than maybe a brand or a merchandiser or a retailer, and so that’s where the differences stay, as we first create a system of how all store-level data will be put in one place.

That’s helpful for everyone. Then from there, we look at workflows and figure out what do we do, what’s the take-action item, and then what can we automate? And that’s when it changes between each one of the players.

Jackie: Got it. Perfect. Yep, that makes sense. A lot of the data that they care about is all the same, so you probably just organize it a bit differently depending on the user type, I would imagine.

Dan: Yeah, exactly.

Jackie: Okay. The next one that came in, can you talk about the data transport side of feeding Shelvspace?

Dan: Yeah, no, good question. So, on our side, we support multiple ways. We can do flat-file integration, we can do FTP, we can do a straight connection via API, and we have instances that work for both for all examples. The key that we do is we work on depending on the data source. Every data provider will have different options.

So, for example, VIP we connect directly with their FTP, versus like a Crescent Crown, where we direct via the API where it just connects on a daily basis, versus like a Unified will have their SPO reports or POD reports that you just click on download and forward to us. So, we work with you on where are you getting the data? What is the template that’s the easiest so you’re not having to manipulate it, you’re not organizing, you’re not merging? We do all that.

All we do is set up the easiest process on your side, whether that be automated, or someone clicking a button and hitting forward, that then gets into Shelvspace and Wiser, and then from there, we integrate it all. So, if you have five different sources for scan data, and 10 different sources for distributor data, all of that gets merged together to a single store for each data source.

Jackie: Perfect, perfect. And if I remember correctly, that data then is available even if you’re offline to access it, right? Which is great, because if you’re in the field and you’re not sure what kind of WiFi you’ve got or whatever, that’s a nice little perk too.

Dan: Yeah, exactly. Just to kind of go back to one of our screens here that Jordan allowed me to share is, this is the aggregate view, but if you look on mobile here, what we do is when you go into the store and load it on your device, meaning as long as you’ve got a connection and load at one time, whether you’re at home or in the store, it saves cache, that when you’re in a store or if you’re offline or whatever, you can see store-level data. At this King Kullen, I know exactly where they are in total, as well as SKU by SKU, where are we up? Where are we down? When do we need to focus?

All of that is at their fingertips and the same tool that they’re using for auditing and everything else so that they can have that fact-based conversation with the store manager.

Jackie: 100 percent. That’s great. That’s great. I’m curious about how did you see store-level execution change during COVID across all the clients you work for? Did you see some dramatic dips as people started stocking up and then you slowly saw it recover, and maybe where are we at today with all that?

Dan: Yeah. It was definitely an interesting time. Luckily, the companies we work with, they weathered it really well. At the end of the day, a lot of this data, if you exclude even the photos and audits, a lot of the data is coming in regardless of whether you have people out in the field, so you’re still able to manage the business.

What we did with some of the customers is, those that grounded their team, we created a virtual workflow where it’s, “Hey, if you can’t go into the store, you can at least look at the data, make a phone call and say, ‘Hey, mister store manager, I’m not seeing scan or distribution data,’ or whoever the contact is that you have, a distributor rep, I know you’ve got to deliver, so you’re one of the frontline workers, can you make sure XY and Z?”

And it was interesting because especially at the height of COVID, when the very beginning when it was just chaos in retail stores, everybody was buying everything, our customers and brands were the ones that were actually able to benefit from it because they were able to come in, and for those that were allowed working or used our on-demand and crowdsourcing, they were able to come to the retailer and say, “Hey, I know it’s chaos in your shelf. Do you want me to help fill it with this product?”

Especially, a lot of our water brands. And the retail manager didn’t care what was authorized, didn’t care what’s, the manager is like, “Yes, please fill my shelf.” And so, they were able to cut out what they had to but still keep the front line in some ways when they felt comfortable, when the rep felt comfortable, they had protocols that they implemented, but at the end of the day, they actually ended up being better off due to COVID, despite some of the challenges, than before.

Jackie: That’s great, that’s great. Yeah, what feeds the shelf audit photos? Are those just reps in the store that take those and submit them into the system or do you have other sources for those?

Dan: Yeah. It goes back to the strategy around, let me pull it up here, what I call the three functional areas. So, you have your field teams, then you have those that are selling at the headquarter account, managing the distributor, and then you’ve got this third party. And so, whether you have one person on your field team, sometimes I get CEOs that are going out in the field every now and then taking pictures, or the VP of sales, or even the key account managers.

It’s not their full-time job, but before they meet with the buyer, they might want to go into a few stores. You want to give them something that’s quick and easy, it’s not just stored on their phone, it actually goes into the system, right, this store-level repository where everything being taken, every photo, every survey is going into here.

But then whether you have a big field team or not, you want to leverage these third-party teams, and there’s just a ton of options out there. Whether it be crowdsourcing, that’s a new method that’s being really garnered and adopted by a lot of brands and companies is, how do we take this model of hiring a rep can be very expensive, and if you only need one account for a certain promotion period, it doesn’t make sense to hire a rep, but that doesn’t mean you need to go blind. And so that’s where you use crowdsourcing.

Wiser has, they’ve got hundreds of thousands of people signed up ready to do this gig type work where they just need to go take a photo and verify something, then you have merchandising teams that will actually go in and merchandise. And so the approach we try to take is, it doesn’t matter where it comes from, just like our sales data, we can integrate audit data. So, any time you use any third party company, crowdsource, merchandiser, or whatever, it can all be integrated into Shelvspace, the photos, the surveys, and into the Wiser retail execution platform as if it were your own team, right?

It doesn’t matter. When you look at it, if you don’t know whether, “Oh, this came from a crowdsource team versus this my own team,” it doesn’t matter, it all just comes to the same place and rolls up the same way.

Jackie: That’s great. That’s great. Yeah, the more data points, the better. I’m sure they all feel like sort of that first graphic of chicken with your head cut off because all these retailers have so many stores, so it just feels overwhelming to try and get your head around retail sales execution when you’ve got 4,000 Walmarts alone. So, having it all kept in one repository and as many data points as you can get all there and easy to find is, I’m sure, a huge advantage.

Dan: Yeah, exactly.

Jackie: All right. So, final one actually just got submitted. So, do you have a plan that would be a fit for a small company? So, it sounds like you do definitely work with small companies, if you’ve got the CEO and the VP of Sales sometimes in the stores and doing some of this work, so maybe talk a little bit about that model and how you work with very small teams.

Dan: Yeah, for sure. We definitely work with emerging brands all the way to category leaders. In fact, sometimes emerging brands are our favorite to work with. We worked with Essentia when they had five people on their sales team, and now they’re 150 plus, they’ve grown massively. But they started with us and they were just hitting their stride. That was I think about five, six years ago.

Talking Rain, same thing. Kitu is another example. They came with us pretty early about a year and a half ago, which is crazy to think that they’ve grown that much in just a year and a half. But when they first onboarded us, they were just really starting to build out their field team.

So, it’s those emerging brands that we like to catch early, and we understand that not all of them are going to make it, and that’s okay. What we do is try and support you so that you have the best chance, and then the ones that go crazy are the ones that end up, for us, being real fruitful and real exciting. So, a standpoint from emerging brand is, like I mentioned, first of all, giving something simple that their team, taking that administration work off their hands early on.

So that’s just having an app that you can roll up photos and start basic. But then we also connect them with these third parties. So, we have companies that it’s like a three-man team, and they’re running the whole national sales, but they’re running it through these third parties. They’re not having to hire a rep for every market at $60, $70, $80,000 a head, they’re able to take the budget of a $60 to $80,000 rep and spread that across their entire distribution channel using these third party and merchandising teams that, again, all roll into Shelvspace.

And that’s probably the biggest key, is that they can switch, right? Now, there’s not one answer that works for everybody, it depends on a certain area, it depends on the retailer, depends on the promotion, depends on the brand, depends on the category, and what our customer is able to do is pivot from one, whether it be, “Oh, I just want to do a crowdsource team. Okay, now I want to do a merchandising team. Okay, now I want to build up my field team.”

All of that you can pivot back and forth, and it all ends up in the same platform and managed essentially the same way.

Jackie: Totally. Yep. That’s great. Awesome. All right. So, that is the last question that came in. There’s a few around the recording. So, I just wanted to remind everyone, we will send the recording out afterwards to everyone that registered. If you have any follow-up questions for Dan or for Wiser or even for Jordan, feel free to just hit reply on that email. We at the CMA will get that and pass it over to the correct party. So, with that, thanks for joining today. And any last comments from you, Dan, before I close it down?

Dan: No. Well, maybe the only one thing is, feel free. Happy to do this for any company that wants to kind of just compare what their current process is to what it could be, so happy to go through this assessment with anybody, so just reach out. I think last time I counted it was about an 88 point, think of an 88-point inspection on your car, we’ll do the same thing for no cost. But yeah, please reach out if you have any questions.

Jackie: Love it. Love it. All right. Thanks, everyone, for joining and hopefully we’ll see you next week. Our next webinar will be on Wednesday of next week around recruiting and this state of sort of recruiting and the job market within category management and shopper insights.

So, very relevant to I’m sure everyone on the call as well as the rest of our membership base. So, we will see you then, hopefully. Thanks for joining, Dan, and for bringing Jordan along, and we will talk to you soon. Have a great rest of your week, everyone.

Dan: Thanks.

Jackie: Bye.

Matt Ellsworth

Matt is the Director of Marketing at Wiser Solutions, a retail analytics provider with an emphasis on data quality, data accuracy, and holistic in-store and online solutions.

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