28 Jan 14 Mobile technology is revolutionizing competitive intelligence in FMCG sales & distribution

The other day I saw an Airtel ad, where a young man was playing a game on his mobile phone, while his Dad complained about his irresponsible behavior – not paying the electricity bill on time. Within seconds the son pays the bill online and shows it to his Dad (Dad seemed to be amused and changed the topic from “fire to water”). That’s how wireless technology has changed millions of lives, making day-to-day living easier.

It is also changing how competitive intelligence (CI) is done in business. Recently when I was doing a study on the FMCG industry in India, I was amazed at how some companies were using wireless technology to augment their sales and distribution processes to carry out CI.

Traditional CI

Traditionally sales people had to record information regarding each outlet/customer manually. After receiving records from the sales person, the distributor had to enter the data manually. This process was cumbersome, error prone and time consuming. A sales person’s job also included CI activities such as understanding pricing, product specification, product positioning, and the marketing strategy implemented by competitors. The salesmen had to record all this CI information on paper.

For the company and distributor it was a difficult task to record, compile and clean the data. The process made competitive intelligence time consuming and error prone. Some companies experimented with hand held devices (HDD) that facilitated automatic data collection and collation. Companies were able to analyze current market trends by analyzing

1. customer satisfaction (towards own and competitor products),

2. competitor pricing,

3. competitor product specifications, and

4. positioning of the products, and outlet analysis with respect to the particular competitor.

Though the overall CI process was faster than manual, these devices were bulky and the display on the HDDs was not user-friendly. However, the biggest drawback was that these solutions were expensive. Only larger companies were able to afford this technology.

Today technology has made CI cheaper and easy

Today, mobile penetration, open source software and the spread of smart phones have created an ecosystem that enables far greater adoption. Even small companies can now implement such solutions, at affordable prices. This has created an opportunity for small companies to enhance their data collection efforts, and shift the focus to smarter analysis that allows them to compete more effectively. Distribution of HDDs among a huge sales force at cheaper prices is now possible.

Advantages provided by HDD to companies to carry out CI activities

The following graphic shows some of the advantages provided by mobile technology to companies, distributors and sales people:

 Apart from capturing the 4P’s of competitors, sales force also captures information regarding customer satisfaction, inputs related to the right time frame to launch similar/particular products, customer segmentation done by competition, competitor’s salesman information, etc. Companies are now utilizing the technology in order to significantly enhance their competitive intelligence capabilities, to deliver more informed marketing/business strategy.

We believe that mobile technology is empowering companies that want to understand their competitive environment like never before. Arun Jethmalani, MD of ValueNotes, in his blog – Top Ten Research and Competitive Intelligence Trends 2014 – India, recently mentioned that the proliferation of smart phones and relevant apps now offer low cost solutions for distributed data collection – and this will be a big trend 2014 onwards.

As connectivity improves across India and the world, mobile technology will be more widely used, and possibly new CI applications will emerge. Usage too, will spread from FMCG to other consumer goods, and possibly even non-consumer goods. For management and managers, actionable intelligence for sales, distribution and marketing will now be a single click away!

Nitin Patkar

As a research analyst at ValueNotes, Nitin worked on competitive intelligence projects.

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