How do you make your reporting work harder to guide your business through the unknown of the new normal?

11 June 2020
Author: Linzi McGuire

Actionable insight is the trick to allowing brands to pivot quickly for optimum ROI.Today we’re focusing on actionable insight via data and smart reporting when field teams work hand in hand with BI  teams.

We spoke to Lindsay Hey, Technology Director and Megan Miller, Senior Sales Analyst and BI lead for our Technology clients, about data and insight in the technology and consumer electronics sector, and what areas they think the brands should focus on to stay agile and gain an advantage over their competitors.

Ultimate agility is created by combining and connecting 4 key data sources

Lindsay starts with, “It’s important for businesses to quickly respond to what’s happening in real time, but for that to happen they need to have robust data capture and reporting processes in place, and analytics to draw out the insight. For brands, ultimate agility is created by focusing on 4 key areas:

  1. Defining the right KPIs at a store level and measuring them consistently will tell brands at the most basic level where to play. It helps drive the right mix of where, how long, and what we should be doing to add ROI. In other words, where the optimum locations and stores are that they should place field support, how long they should spend at each location and what they should do per location to get the best result. There are always multiple objectives so we need to know what interventions will generate the biggest value for a client. That could be throwing everything at compliance, as its the biggest opportunity, or concentrating on increasing training penetration in order that as many of the colleagues in a store as possible know about your brand, rather than just the old school metric of “train two per store”. Understanding what to do on a granular basis at scale is the most basic data you can collect to generate basic insight.

  2. Then you take that data and use it to spot patterns across intervention types, retailers and regions. It’s really important to analyse on a deeper level what that data is actually telling you. In some retailer groups it might be valuable to focus on training, in others it might be merchandising, in others still it might be developing a relationship with the store management team to influence at a shop floor level. It all depends on how that environment operates and what the setup is like. This moves away from a one size fits all call pattern, and our skilled teams are adept at reading the data to be able to make informed decisions on how they get the best out of their territory. This will help you to generate more value, plan faster and better, and get the most out of skilled resources to optimise ROI.

  3. The third thing to do is look at this data over a longer time period to figure out how to best operate at different times of the year according to seasonality and demand. This can help brands in a number of ways – ensuring NPD launches seamlessly, saving budget in fallow periods to invest in key time of demand, and spotting when each intervention has the most impact. The field team are there to support the store colleagues in the best way they can, and that also means doing that at the optimum times so that when the rush comes, the store staff feel confident selling your product or service and they don’t skip over your brand to recommend a competitor product that they’re more comfortable talking about.

  4. And finally, the one I have seen really turn the dial for our teams is to make sure you’re using data to get a clear picture of people performance, and use this to both improve performance and look for best practice across the team. The comparative data will quickly tell you what works, what doesn’t work, and whether that’s relative to one colleague, one region or if it’s an area for an individual to focus on to see improvement. Our teams also really benefit from having real time data that they can take accountability for their own results day in day out, there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing the impact you make through real data.

The key to having all 4 of these relies on a brand having the right team in the field to capture the data and action the insight, but also critically, the field team need to be powered by a BI analyst team in the office to build, automate reports and draw out the insight from the data to truly generate value for clients.

To get to a place where your reports work for you we need to back to the beginning… Megan tells us that getting the basics right is any brand’s “bread and butter” but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s simple. 

Building reports to handle the unknown is essential, and we don’t mean a fancy Excel.

Megan comments, “There are so many variables in a basic KPI report. When there are multiple roles and changing targets per quarter, the report must be built with this in mind from the outset. It’s easy to track data - anyone can do it - but what we do is a little different. Every report must do three things: ensure accuracy at every level, be easy for anyone to pick up and understand regardless of their background or experience and ensure that it generates value by drawing the insight to the fore.

“As with anything, the more variables that are involved, the more complicated it is, and the more difficult it becomes to automate. It’s important to automate the essentials to make it accurate, and this cannot be overlooked, because inaccurate data will have you looking in the wrong direction if you’re not careful. Remove any opportunity for human error, make it smart and package it into a suite that you can drill into quickly, get an overview, or see the real detail with the click of a button i.e. whatever you need. This can only be delivered by BI reporting; Excel isn’t the way to get there.

“Future proofing from the outset is essential. When building a report, we don’t start with the data, we start with a conversation. Some stakeholders are not always prepared for how many questions I'm going to ask them when it comes to building a report, but understanding their business, the needs, their strategy and how the environment they operate in might change is absolutely key. Otherwise, one of these unforeseen factors could side swipe us and suddenly the report and the data all becomes useless. In my team, we don't just build a report based on what you're asking of me now, we build reports based on what we know you're going to ask us to do in six months or a year. We're able to get the basics right because we look into the future and build our reports to handle problems that the client doesn't even know they've got yet.”

Triangulated insight gives brands a 360 view – but what is it?

Lindsay tells us, “Part of our job is to run triangulated insight. Our teams not only gather data, they also create it. Our analyst team works together with our field team to gather knowledge through macro level market data and intelligence, which helps us understand how to deploy teams. We’ve also developed capability to conduct short, cost efficient consumer panels to provide a deep dive into a particular moment, or category, for brands. This is really valuable when brands are launching NPD or looking to move into new sectors. We can quickly research consumer sentiment, which helps us devise our training and sales plans – we know what the consumer conversation should be about from a grassroots perspective. We also gather insight directly from the retailers, either quantitatively or qualitatively, because we have a network of retailers which we have developed relationships with over the years and we have hundreds of conversations with them every day.

This can be very useful because it helps to understand the barriers as to why consumers don’t buy products, or understand what consumers are not currently getting from the products on offer, or at least that’s how they perceive it. This helps us decide what to amplify in conversations with retail professionals during 1:1 and group training sessions, whether that’s in person, online or via eLearning modules.”

Is there anything brands should do as non-essential retail starts to open back up and consumers start to shop in store for electronics and technology again?

“What will be really interesting post-Covid is footfall traffic,” muses Linsday. “This is something we track already but it’s clear that people are shopping differently and at different times of the day, so we’ll be keeping a watchful eye on how this changes to understand trading patterns in essential and non-essential retail. It’s really important that we match our resource to where and when we’re needed for brands. Retailers won’t be opening their entire estate so demand will shift from what we knew before, while consumers may also do their essential and non-essential shopping at different times of the day or week to what they did before, whether that’s to fit round new schedules and working patterns, or to avoid queues and wait times, or to avoid people altogether to enjoy a safer shopping experience. The peaks will shift, potentially dramatically, so brands should be tracking this to stay on top and combine this with their other data to adopt the most agile approach in store.”

Megan adds, “If brands want to be truly agile, they need BI reporting. Smart, automated reporting is an investment as it’s built to last. It also allows you to have full visibility of your operations in real time, so your team can spend less time processing historic data and more time interpreting insight from live data to add value to your business. Brands need to be armed to make decisions today, it’s the only way to sell more. If they’re looking back on what happened last quarter, they’ve already missed the opportunity. This is more important now than ever as the rules of society are in flux. We don’t know exactly what will happen next quarter or even the next week. Brands need to set themselves up to be able to spot behaviours and trends in as near real time as possible and be able to respond to them just as quickly. Everything is changing so rapidly. Invest in reporting and analyst teams that can keep up.”

Follow our LinkedIn page to keep up to date with our latest views or contact us for more information.

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ABOUT THE EXPERTS:

For more information on Lindsay Hey, Technology Director, visit her LinkedIn page

For more information on Megan Miller, Senior Sales Analyst, visit her LinkedIn page.

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