A marketplace has become a holy grail for most CPG brands. It promises to cure all brand sales ailments and bestow immortality to brands. No, we aren’t kidding.
Today, consumers are fundamentally driving what products they want. In such a scenario, any CPG brand needs to move from push-based to pull-based distribution. It means to move away from a system where sales push products to one where retailers pull products based on customer demand.
Consequently, a B2B eCommerce platform becomes an obvious choice. It enables brands to provide the best service to customers. It brings efficiencies in the business, whether in inventory held or margins to be made, that eventually transform to a pull-based distribution.
However, building and scaling a marketplace is no different from an Indiana Jones adventure. The journey is replete with ambushes set by wily adversaries. Allow us to present an Indiana Jones-like roadmap complete with smart strategies that can be deployed quickly to grow your sales explosively.
So you have got your retail execution in place, but how do you go deeper? How do you optimise your RTM spend in the fragmented retail environment? How do you ensure that all customer personas are engaged through this channel? What should you do early in the journey? We know that all you want to do is focus on sales. But what you may not know is that it is simply a function of improving a set of key performance indicators.
Our integrated roadmap is a detailed quarter by quarter plan focused on key growth KPIs and supporting product capabilities for your marketplace.
Before the Indiana Jones Roadmap
Aka Sales Growth Roadmap. Sales Growth is a function of a structured journey by improving key operational KPIs. However, before embarking on any improvements, your business ought to have already built capacity in the market.
What is the pre-requisite market capacity?
You have already made a start in retail execution and have been focusing on market penetration. You have already gone through the process of acquiring retailers and encouraging them to come on to your platform. You have made concerted efforts across several channels. You are executing digital marketing and ATL activities to drive brand awareness of the channel. You have activated your sales teams to educate customers about the opportunities available to them and onboard them onto the platform. These are the first steps to explosive sales growth.
In the first three months, you have to make coordinated sales and marketing efforts to drive user onboarding, user adoption, resolve objections, manage channel conflicts and ensure your customers know the benefits of the model.
The focus for any business is to drive volumes from any platform while bringing down costs. It enables you to pass on better margins to retailers. Consequently, your business model succeeds, and you achieve your forecasted quarterly GMV.
As we have mentioned before, increasing GMV is a function of improving operational KPIs.
- First, onboard retailers
- Second, make sure the retailers are active on the platform for their weekly replenishments and continue driving volumes. So WAR (Weekly Active Retailers) becomes the most important KPI in this quarter.
There are three things that retailers typically want:
- Assortment: To receive a large portion of the inventory from the most profitable channel
- Pricing: Good margins across their basket and
- Great service: Right products at the right time to avoid both over and under-stocking.
In short, a great set of products at good prices with a great service. However, it’s impossible to achieve all three at the same time in the best possible way.
To drive WAR, make assortment your primary focus in this quarter. Bring a great range of products to your platform. From a marketplace context, it means you might even choose to buy products from the open market in the short term. It won’t be profitable but to drive WAR you must target your investments here in this quarter.
Don’t fret about margins as much in this quarter – I know it’s hard but you need to get your CFO on your side. Also, don’t worry about the timeliness of your service as much – but make sure that you drive 90%+ fulfilment. You may want to deliver on the same day or in 24 hours. However, as you are picking up products from the market, reacting to demand without any historical demand data so achieving your target OTIF is going to be challenging. Just ensure assortment is there at competitive prices with 90%+ fulfilment.
In this quarter, the KPI to achieve is WAR and activity is assortment.
Let’s all your efforts in the first quarter have got you 10,000 retailers on the platform, of which 2,000-3,000 are weekly active retailers. It means that now you’ve started to build a sustainable business. This momentum allows your category teams to showcase brand pull and onboard sellers which will help you address your availability and margin challenges.
This quarterly focus also makes time for your category managers to onboard sellers and deals with the intricacies of onboarding them – legal requirements, margin negotiations etc. That is why onboarding sellers is one of the two things to focus in Q2.
The second quarter is also the time to focus on logistics. To ask, what is happening in the last mile? Hopefully, you have already got your basics right. It has given you an understanding of market demand. So in Q2, double down on logistics while working with a single partner or multiples or through your own fleet.
The goal of this quarter is to focus on the next operational KPI – Turn Around Time (TAT) – moving you closer to your goal of same-day delivery.
In this quarter, the KPI to achieve is TAT and activities to focus on are seller onboarding and last-mile logistics.
You have weekly active retailers, a reasonable level of service, a good range that has improved since onboarding sellers on the platform. You also have six months of historical data, which helps you understand the retailers’ demand and predict their baskets better. By working with the sales teams, you can gain insights into the share of retailers’ basket.
In Q3, you start focusing on the share of shelf. So essentially, go after depth. In the first two quarters, you focused on acquiring width in the market and numeric distribution. Now, you can go after weighted distribution. You can acquire a larger share of the retailer’s basket because you have a good range in the marketplace. You’re also able to do this because you focused on seller onboarding in the previous quarter.
It would not have been possible if you had tried to drive share of shelf too early in the process while buying from the market. You would have had too many losses to make good on them. By focusing on seller onboarding in the second quarter, you can manage your costs better. This is why your finance team will allow you to continue to focus on share of shelf and pass the promotions.
So at the end of the third quarter, your service levels have improved, your assortment has gone up, and now you have a larger share of the retailer’s basket. You’re in this sweet spot of the best assortment, best pricing and best service to retailers. This is what retailers want.
Your successes in the digital channel have also boosted the outcomes of your sales and marketing digital campaigns. It also provides you with deeper insights into the retailers’ journey on the platform and understands what products work well. You have accrued valuable data by the end of the third quarter.
The fourth quarter is all about Scale! Scale! Scale!. This quarter, you can drive scale because you have a good range, good pricing and good logistics. You’re able to push and grow that GMV. It is a combination of your digital marketing, continued nurturing from sales teams and targeted promotions. All your processes have become data-driven and geared towards building scale – what price to offer to which retailer and when. Now, you’re in a position to improve your margins.
So at the end of year one, you have achieved the penetration you wanted. Beyond this point, there are other growth journeys that you can take. One could be about doubling down on optimisation since you have the data to look for insights. You can also optimise your channels – direct or distributor and reduce the costs. You have more control over your RTM spend, bring savings from elsewhere and start growing this channel.
You can apply this roadmap for every micro-market you want to scale your operations too. However, before you dabble across markets we recommend getting this rhythm right and then scale even in parallel using this winning formula.
Sales are quite simple – Disciplined focus on a set of KPIs and ruthless execution. Good luck on your digital RTM journey.