With a solid communication process after audits are performed, it allows us to close the loop on current issues, store by store.
McCormick & Co. Improves Retail Execution with Flowfinity
Improving sales and ensuring merchandising excellence across the country
Region: North America
Company Size: Large Enterprise
Industry: Consumer Packaged Goods
Function : Retail Performance Management, Field Service
"McCormick needed a standard core audit procedure, where everyone across the
nation agreed that this was how they wanted to measure retail execution."
- Steve Warrington, US Consumer Products Business Systems Manager, McCormick & Co.
McCormick & Co. wanted to replace a paper-based system for performing retail audits used to gather information about McCormick brands in over 28,000 retail stores across the US. The existing system was inefficient, with significant delays between performing audits and delivering results to retail managers.
McCormick deployed Flowfinity Actions to conduct retail audits of in-store merchandising compliance using smartphones, allowing field representatives in the field to exchange timely, critical data more efficiently with head office, sales executives, brokers and merchandisers.
McCormick sees the impact of using Flowfinity Actions for Retail Audits in improved sales due to:
- More time on selling
- Better broker management
- More visibility into operations
- Merchandising excellence
Replace a cumbersome and slow paper-based audit system
McCormick’s U.S. Consumer Products Division is responsible for the sales performance of McCormick products in retail stores, which is strongly linked to how the products are displayed on store shelves. The division uses retail audits to monitor the quality of in-store product displays managed by their merchandisers, in this case, third-party brokers.
Previously, retail audits were paper-based, requiring retail operations managers to handwrite their observations and manually enter the data into spreadsheets at the end of the day or week. With this process, it took extended periods of time to collate and communicate audit results to retail sales managers. Given that retail conditions change so rapidly, this made it difficult to influence performance at the store level.
The paper-based audit process caused difficulties in accurately measuring broker performance. If an audit revealed that a retail section did not meet pre-defined goals linked to sales, it often took too long for the results of that audit to reach the broker in order to effect change. As a result, many opportunities for addressing observed issues and initiating corrective action were lost.
The Consumer Products Division also lacked a standardized audit process across the country. With different consumer business managers creating their own forms and audit questions, McCormick was unable to obtain or leverage valuable data on a national level.
First wireless solution selected fails to meet expectations
McCormick first selected a wireless solution from an ERP vendor to automate retail audits, which in should have addressed many of the shortcomings of the paper-based system. The solution consisted of one long form that required an uninterrupted Internet connection to complete.
Usability issues made this system extremely cumbersome. Its limited search ability made it difficult to retrieve store details, prompting auditors to spend valuable time pre-planning and loading data for stores they were scheduled to visit before they set out for the day.
Often entire audits would be lost if the Internet signal dropped, forcing auditors to start over. And since the audit form was one long continuous document that was difficult to navigate, field personnel found themselves backtracking as they tailored their route to match sections in the form, rather than taking the most efficient route through the store.
All of these factors caused significant losses in efficiency, to the point where staff refused to use the new solution. This, combined with the fact that the system offered minimal reporting capabilities, caused McCormick to revert back to conducting paper-based audits, while continuing to seek out a different wireless solution that would truly enable them to improve business operations.
"I had the misfortune of being involved with
the original audit solution that we pioneered
four years ago. It was cumbersome to navigate,
with continuous connectivity problems,
and we had no way of closing the loop
with the broker."
- Frank Duffy, VP Sales Eastern Region, McCormick & Co.
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