Field Marketing, also referred to as field selling, is a discipline in direct marketing and concerns suppliers working in stores or ‘in the field’. This work, performed by field marketers and merchandisers respectively, allows suppliers to connect personally with shoppers.
The work they conduct ranges from distributing, merchandising and auditing to sampling and running promotions and special events in a store. In some cases, it can also include a mystery shopping element.
Suppliers are not obligated to complete all of these activities. They can include either a combination of the above or approach each task individually, depending on their intent and what they want to achieve.
As noted above, field marketing is a discipline in direct marketing. That said, it’s unlike the traditional form of selling because it takes place on a personal level and allows suppliers face-to-face contact with shoppers.
By making use of field marketing, suppliers can connect with shoppers, sell more product, and boost brand recognition. [Skip to How Field Marketing Drives More Retail Sales]
Of course, it does fall under the umbrella of ‘marketing’, and so there is a right and wrong approach to it. The wrong path is to treat this as a way of selling at shoppers (an Outbound method). The correct technique is to help first and sell second (an Inbound method).
Here’s an example to illustrate the difference between the two.
A supplier sets up a promotional stand with free samples for a new product line that they hope to stock in the future. They also station staff at the stand to assist with any questions that a passing customer may want to ask. Note that while they’re at the stand, they’re not hounding shoppers. The booth is also at the end of an aisle that stocks similar products but doesn’t block shopper traffic.
The same situation can also become irritating for the shopper. It’s when promotions staff badger shoppers and force them to stop when they are near the stand. That only irritates them and could lead to customers avoiding the aisle (and store) altogether.
While part of a suppliers field marketing work can include a mystery shopping element, it’s not always typical. That’s because both serve different purposes in-store.
A retailer should know who the field marketers are and what they are doing. Mystery shoppers, however, need to remain anonymous to fulfil their role.
1. In-store execution versus In-store auditing
Along with distributing, merchandising, sampling and running promotions, the average field marketer must also implement various sales and marketing strategies. Of course, they need to know how to meet their objectives without appearing aggressive.
A simple way of doing that is to organise experiential marketing campaigns and events where they can first build and then drive long-term customer loyalty. An in-store demonstration works well to create moments for suppliers to connect with shoppers. It also supplements any campaigns run by field marketers outside of the store.
Meanwhile, a mystery shopper enters a store with the goal of auditing the quality of customer service in a store. This includes, amongst other aspects, the attitude of in-store staff to customers as well as to colleagues.
Since they are secret shoppers, it’s an additional opportunity for suppliers (and retailers) to monitor if everything is up really to standard.
2. Physically improves standards versus Evaluates standards
The average field marketer enters a store with the goal of physically improving the standards. Another way of describing that is to indicate that they visit to fix any in-store problems to enhance the customer experience.
As a side note, this particular point is not about upholding merchandising standards - that’s a separate task altogether. Instead, it’s about ensuring the correct enforcement of in-store policies and rules.
For mystery shoppers, the opposite is true. They enter a store looking to evaluate if the store has upheld these said rules and standards. Has a store lived up to expectations? If not, where did they go wrong?
Depending on the brief received, a secret shopper can scrutinise anything. That includes monitoring both retail staff and field marketers to ensure they complete the work they’ve been employed to perform. Another aspect is the level of hygiene and cleanliness of a store.
3. Paid to ensure merchandising standards at up to scratch versus Paid to shop
Fixing and maintaining any in-store policies can take any store a long way towards pleasing shoppers. However, it’s only part of the solution. Merchandising standards also need to be at an acceptable standard.
It’s here where merchandisers provided by suppliers can assist. Together with field marketers, they make up a supplier’s retail store facing staff. Similar to field marketers, their role is about enhancing and looking after the in-store experience of the shopper.
If a shelf appears messy, they need to fix. Likewise, if a product hasn’t received the correct space, merchandisers must rearrange the shelf. In this instance, a merchandiser must be careful that if they make any changes, it’s in line with pre-arranged strategy.
A mystery shopper is paid to shop a store. For that reason, they visit with the goal of stress testing everything. When it comes to products, they enter with set questions. For example, are the products on the shelf easily accessible? Can they find what they’re looking for without asking for help? How do the shelves and the products thereon appear?
4. Enters store as an employee versus Enters store as a shopper
As much as field marketers enter a store to fix a problem and uphold standards, it’s crucial to point out that they arrive as an employee. That means that regardless of what they do in-store, for however long they are there, they must adhere to all policies and procedures.
Because mystery shoppers visit stores incognito, they don’t have to comply with store policy. Of course, that doesn’t mean they are a law unto themselves. They do have their rules and regulations to follow and breaching them can result in severe consequences.
For example, there is a reason why they don’t announce themselves to any store manager or staff. As soon as they lost their anonymity, any data or findings that they collect can become contaminated and thus unusable.
The fact that field marketing allows suppliers to connect personally with shoppers means it’s a golden opportunity to drive retail sales. After all, shoppers are more likely to purchase a product from a company or person once they’ve had personal contact with them.
1. Fixing any in-store problems
As mentioned above, field marketers have many different responsibilities, chief of which is to improve the standards of a store. And if the store isn’t living up to those standards? Then they are responsible for fixing it.
For example, they should check store and planogram compliance.
By reviewing the product layout against a signed off planogram, they’re ensuring that all shoppers have a convenient experience while in a store. The result - and this is where it drives sales - is that the more comfortable a shopper is, the more likely they are to increase their basket size. They’ll also return and tell their friends and family of their positive experience.
That’s not the only problem that field marketers and merchandisers should fix if they find them. Product presentation is just as vital and works together with placement to drive sales. Thus, if they discover any merchandising errors, they must correct them.
For example, if they notice that there is a gap on the shelf, they need to ensure the right product fills the space. If a high-selling product needs more space to grow and merchandisers find that a slow-moving item has too much space, they must do something before it’s too late.
2. Introduce product sampling and in-store demonstrations
Experiencing a product first-hand acts as an ideal ice-breaker in that it reduces shopper hesitation.
Therein lies the power of product samples. More importantly, it’s the fundamental reason why it works so well in boosting sales.
For example, offering shoppers a product sample means they get to test it risk-free. If they don’t like the product, they haven’t spent anything, so there is no shopper remorse. If they do like it, they’re more receptive to purchasing it there and also in the future.
In-store product demonstrations, meanwhile, also help increase the possibility of more sales. To get this right, suppliers do need to aware of their target market. It’s not worth creating an experience around a product and placing it in a store if that store doesn’t cater to the relevant market.
On the other hand, they need to consider the products they promote. If it’s for edible groceries, field marketers must be mindful of all hygiene standards and wear protective clothing to avoid any allegations of wrongdoing.
3. Placing and monitoring in-store promotions strategically
Besides product samples and demonstrations, the next best option is to place in-store promotions.
These promotions can take many forms. They include advertising banners used to draw attention, either to information about a product offer or towards the actual shelf. Flyers, pamphlets and product brochures work just as well. So too can a well-placed shelf talker or call out.
That said, it’s vital that suppliers don’t place a promotion in-store for the sake of it. Instead, they must be strategic. One example is to set a banner near the category linked to the product.
Another example is to place a promotion in a high traffic area to benefit from any footfall. Similar to the promotional stand with promotional staff, it must not block or frustrate shoppers. Any promotion should instead find the balance between catching shopper attention but not irritating or hindering their shopping trip.
4. Collecting data and turning it into actionable insights
While data is crucial to retail business; it's the same for a supply business.
It’s a known fact that field marketers and merchandisers conduct store visits, check product layouts and overhaul any mistakes that they’re able to fix. A large part of completing any or all of these activities successfully comes down data collection.
After all, its only once a supplier has access to data that they can begin to understand how to move their business forward.
With data, a supplier can better understand their target market and adjust any of their marketing endeavours. They can know what shoppers expect from their product and whether or not the product lives up to expectations. And then there is the point that they can discern the effectiveness of any promotion they’re running.
Of course, it’s not just about monitoring and improving a strategy. A supplier can also use data to persuade a retailer to allocate more shelf space to their products so that they can grow their market share.
Managing a team of sales reps is not an easy job. It’s a task that becomes that much tougher if suppliers attempt to go it alone, without any field marketing software.
1. Suppliers can automate the store visit cycles of their sales reps
The size of a supplier’s field marketing team dictates whether they need software or not. When it’s small, and there are only a handful of sales reps, it is easy for suppliers to manage their team efficiently.
However, the time will come where they need to expand the team and thus their operations. And when that does arrive, it becomes a nightmare for a supplier to control the operation effectively. That’s especially true if a supplier is intent on setting up their team call cycle manually while also attempting to organise who on their team visits which store and when.
Fortunately, field marketing software can help. Such specialised software can schedule and track the store visits by a supplier’s field marketers, merchandisers and sales reps automatically. More than that, once completed, the software will remember and repeat any unique patterns that are entered into it so that suppliers don't have to monitor store visits continually.
2. Suppliers can audit their brand representation in-store
The whole point of why field marketers and merchandisers visit stores is to monitor compliance. If they don’t visit, how will they know if a suppliers’ products get the representation in a store that they deserve?
The short answer is that they don't know.
Of course, one could argue that software isn’t necessary to audit brand representation in-store. But that’s not necessarily true. Such a straightforward exercise could soon become complicated and inconvenient.
How do you record product representation on the shelf effectively if not with software explicitly built for field marketing work?
With the right software, a field marketer can take a few photographs of the shelf, and answer a few customised questionnaires about both the brand and product layout. What’s more, they can simultaneously collect data about competing brands in the store and use it to better any future strategies.
3. Suppliers can audit store compliance with planograms
Besides checking brand representation on the shelf, field marketing software can also assist with auditing store compliance.
If a supplier has invested in and built planograms for a retailer, their merchandisers can visit stores with the approved planograms in hand to ensure proper implementation. As noted above, if there is a mistake, they can correct it. That’s a good enough reason for why suppliers should get involved in planogram generation.
Here’s another reason: real-time store compliance reporting. When integrated with specialised category management software, once a merchandiser has finished checking store compliance, they can upload the evidence to a centralised dashboard, which anyone can view live.
4. Suppliers can improve mobile workforce efficiency
As a field marketing team grows, it becomes increasingly difficult for any supplier to manage them efficiently. That’s especially true if the group comprises of over 100 field marketers, merchandisers and sales reps. And they all have different roles to fulfil.
In the past, it was a matter of having to believe a sales rep if they said they had visited a store. But not anymore. With technology and specifically specialised field marketing software, a supplier can now monitor if a sales rep has indeed visited a store.
Using the GPS technology found in their mobile phones, suppliers can track anyone on their team throughout the day. Similar to the real-time reporting mentioned above, a supplier can know where their staff are at any time.
That includes using GPS tracking to visualise the routes that each team member takes to and from a store.
5. Suppliers can collect meaningful data in a central database
Once a field marketer or merchandiser has visited a store, they will undoubtedly have gathered data that a supplier needs to analyse. The information collected can help guide any current or field marketing strategies.
A way of sending that data is by using Email, Dropbox or event WhatsApp. However, each of these is limited and not built for collecting data collected from the field. Imagine a supplier receiving hundreds of WhatsApp messages and emails from their team and that team already numbers in the hundreds. It’s inefficient.
It’s far easier if all of the information collected is in a central database, which is fit for purpose. With field marketing software, a supplier can store meaningful data. What’s more, it can help them to visualise it too.
After collating the information, the software even suggests changes that a supplier should consider for better efficiency. The software can also conduct a stock check audit, checking both stock count on the shelf as well as in the storeroom.