Category & Insights

How the Scale of Outsourced Merchandising Teams Have Met Consumer Demands During COVID-19

Posted on 29th September, 20204 min read

The images of chaos and unrest in the grocery aisles remain fresh in our minds whilst the nation teeters on the brink of the second wave. Unfortunately, Victoria has become the unwilling control patient and is firmly in the grip of the worst pandemic we’ve seen in over 100 years.

Retail stores and suppliers need support to fill shelves and meet consumer demands, and what we’ve recognised is that they need people and technology working together to achieve this.

COVID-19 has invoked a sense of urgency amongst all retail markets, changing consumer buying behaviours permanently for the foreseeable future while simultaneously propelling innovation within retail service industries ahead by years, in the span of five months. When it comes to the retail industry and supply chains, we’ve experienced challenges and rapid transformation from consumer packaging and regulations, through to COVID-safe practices and restricted in-store activation.

Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, called out merchandising services as “essential” and vital to supporting retailing in general. As erratic consumer trends emerged, the focus was shifted away from ‘non-essential’ activities and instead, shelf maintenance and stock availability were of paramount importance. The volume of work our merchandising services activate are upwards of 20k hours per week,  and now more than ever, ensuring the safety of our team is our No 1 priority.  All agencies have been doing a pivotal job in supporting brands and retailers during this challenging time.

Flexible, outsourced models offer scale that can respond

Before COVID-19 hit Australia, brands have had difficulties providing at-scale, cost-efficient and speed to market merchandising solutions to non-metro areas due to the sheer size of our country and its geographical layout. In recent times, state and suburb-specific lockdown measures and a restriction on the numbers of sales reps allowed have further emphasized the need for scope and localised approaches to retail merchandising throughout metro locations.

Strikeforce’s outsourced merchandising services are working side by side with retailers like Woolworths, Bunnings and Coles and continually support brands and suppliers, covering all trading channels, with over 3,500 merchandising and sales experts calling on stores weekly across Australia.

Our unique store data insights and analysis, coupled with our people are what help us maintain the deepest and widest coverage of grocery and home improvement — it is also what helped us remain flexible through the pandemic. As an Australian-owned company with over 50 years of heritage as a privately owned business, we understand our community, continuing to localise responses across the nation.

By having a flexible merchandising team servicing 99.9% of Australia and New Zealand, our clients experience multiple advantages.

A decrease in unproductive travel time, agility to cope with activity on short notice when the inevitable resourcing gaps appear, and an unmatched level of passion and brand advocacy; all done with targeted data-led precision.

Combining scale with data-driven precision

The future scope of merchandising services lays largely in the hands of an organisation’s ability to scale, the precision with which they do so, and of course, data-backed insights. Scale is a core component of our offering — it allows us to ramp up efficiency within smaller territories and provide unparalleled coverage to brands. With 50 years in the field and the capacity to respond to industry demands utilising our holistic retail service and activation solutions, over time, our team has gained intimate store-by-store knowledge through increased frequency.

Merx, our in-house developed cloud-based app, gives us real-time updates and remote control of any team on the field.

From availability of staff to field outcomes as they happen, Merx actively contributes towards the ability to be in multiple places a day, with the optimal route, conducting efficient, data-informed business.

However, our precision is also broadly attributed to our Category and Insights team who turn data into predictive and retrospective insight to better inform our teams. Measuring against a set benchmark is how we  spot anomalies, implement changes, and consistently adapt — even in unprecedented times.

Merchandising services will continue to develop with precision, and will require an end to end solution that comprises a heavy investment in strategy, space planning, technology, promotional mechanics and most importantly, on-shelf availability. Acknowledging that the supply chain will continue to be tested by an evolving hierarchy of consumer needs will help discover new goals for your business. Plan ahead, keeping in mind ‘the new normal’ and accommodate for adaptability within your strategy, as we all weather through this storm.