Special Q&A edition: Modern technologies in trade marketing at Maspex Group

Małgorzata Rząd-Poźniak
Special Q&A edition: Modern technologies in trade marketing at Maspex Group
14 min.

Is there a formula for creating winning sales and customer marketing strategies? It seems there is, and Maspex Group has got it.

Is there a formula for creating winning sales and customer marketing strategies? It seems there is, and Maspex Group has got it. It involves an unceasing exploration of market trends, eagerness to implement technological innovations, as well as organizational maturity which enables agile process management and fast delivery of new products to the market. Guests of the webinar organized by Productive24, Anna Gałgan, Anna Urbańska and Wojciech Dendys representing Maspex Group, talked about how the Polish food market leader approaches innovation in retail.

During the event, we discussed modern technologies in retail trade marketing, as well as how Maspex manages its own processes in sales and customer marketing departments. The participants in the webinar also asked a number of questions that we did not have time to answer during the one-hour meeting. We are taking the opportunity to do so today – below you will find answers to the most interesting questions and comments from the attendees.

Enjoy the productive reading!

How to embrace the synergy of the manufacturer’s and retail chain’s strengths in a technological context?

Wojciech Dendys: Manufacturers and retailers have a common, paramount goal – to sell and constantly increase sales. Naturally, both of these groups have their own objectives too, which might seem to be at odds with each other, such as those related to profit margins. But looking at the market, especially over the past year, we have observed major changes to the “supplier-retailer” relationship. In order to fully utilize the synergy of the manufacturer’s and chain’s strengths, the customer (retailer) needs to be open and willing to take the cooperation to a different level. One major issue in this context is cooperation in the scope of sharing sales data and observation data from stores.

Until recently, retail was still not ready (also technologically) for such a transparent approach. Sales data (e.g. from short-term pilot projects) was unavailable to manufacturers. Now, mutual openness and willingness to compromise are a must in effective price management. Knowing our and our partners’ flexibility enables us to manage the price in an optimal way so as to adjust it to a level acceptable to the end customer.

How do you plan and execute trade marketing campaigns?

Anna Gałgan: Planning trade marketing campaigns is a complex issue. The three most important considerations here are: first, the knowledge of the customers (retail chains) that we support and of our products; second, shopper research and trends; and third, the process and measurement of the effectiveness of our activities.

Regarding the first aspect, we rely on our knowledge of our customer base when inventing and planning trade marketing campaigns. So, for example, in the case of the modern channel, our organization has a broad knowledge of the expectations and capabilities of each of our customers. Therefore, when coming up with a campaign, we usually already know the requirements and the retailer’s ability to implement it. We add to this our product knowledge – everyone in our team specializes in “their own” brands and target group. Taking all this into consideration, we are able to create tailored offers – whether it is about the scope of a given campaign or a range of products; we focus, for example, on a specific – primary for a given customer – product and we support its sales in particular. Hence, we propose solutions which we know will meet our partners’ requirements regarding trade campaigns. Matching campaigns to the customer is therefore vital. For example, in the case of Żabka, an “on-the-go” retail chain focused on the hurried customer, we frequently rely in our consumer campaigns on single-serve or small-volume packaged products.

While designing our campaigns, we also draw on various types of research. We use our own surveys (through our own research panel – M-Lab) and those conducted by external research institutes. We study consumer preferences and carefully observe shopper trends.

Wojciech Dendys: Exactly as Anna said – planning and carrying out trade marketing campaigns is a complex task. While preparing a campaign, you need to take into account many factors, including those depending on the specific characteristics of the industry and the customer. In fact, the whole process is important – from production planning to co-packing planning to planning with the store and with the sales structures… In our company, the lion’s share of this process is handled by the Productive24 platform, as is the case with the cooperation between the mentioned departments (production planning, sales department, customer marketing, co-packing).

What is SalesTech/MarTech?

Małgorzata Rząd-Poźniak: SalesTech is a group of technological solutions focused on enhancing the work of sales departments and which contributes to increasing the efficiency of sales processes. So SalesTech is not only the all-familiar class of CRM or BI solutions, but it also features other tools that support multiple processes in sales departments – quoting, managing discounts, budgeting, managing contracts and terms of business agreements, managing giveaways and more. Looking broadly, the SalesTech class can extend to solutions that streamline internal communication or project management, which provide a clear division of roles and responsibilities in sales processes and wherever sales and other company departments meet.

By analogy, MarTech stands for solutions that support and automate the work of marketing departments, however, to quote PwC, “MarTech (Marketing Technology) is a class of IT tools for automating various types of marketing activities across customer communication channels”. On the one hand, MarTech provides, for example, solutions for collecting data on potential customers and for communicating with them (map of 5,000 sample MarTech solutions), but on the other hand, from a more operational viewpoint, a MarTech solution can also be a system for planning and accounting for marketing campaigns, software for managing the packaging design process, an automatic product catalog generator, an application for registering promotional materials – all these and any other solutions that will move the company’s internal marketing processes to a digital work environment and relieve the marketers’ workload.

The Productive24 platform is a technology that enables creation of any enterprise-class solutions for optimizing organizations’ internal processes, including SalesTech and MarTech applications. Free combination of a company’s various processes and incorporating into them its immediate business environment (suppliers, customers) within a single IT solution brings a range of benefits. Moving away from the siloed business divisions and the dozens of different applications they use ensures a smooth work- and information flow throughout the organization. It also facilitates seamless process management – from A to Z. Another indisputable benefit is that an automated and digitized work environment relieves entire teams from repetitive and manual work. These are, of course, only some of the benefits – there are many of them.

How do you gather data on shopper trends? Do you conduct your own research? Do you use market research (if so, what kind)?

Anna Gałgan: We obtain data on shopper trends from several sources, which include: Nielsen, CMR, the trade press and GFK, an international public opinion research company. Additionally, we have been using the already mentioned M-Lab for over a year. M-Lab is our original research panel, supported and coordinated by an external company that oversees the accuracy of research results and ensures an appropriate research sample. Using this panel, we are able to quickly acquire the data we need at a given time. And because knowledge of the end customer is vitally important these days, we rely on several different sources in all of our activities.

Do the ever-new points of sale have any significant impact on sales (for the company and the chain)? Is the category growing in some way?

Wojciech Dendys: This is also a complex question. Analyzing points of sale and their sales effectiveness, we must take into account not only the basic criteria of the profitability of the campaign, but also the effect we want to achieve with a given display. If the use of POS materials is to fulfill qualitative as well as quantitative (sales) goals, the acceptable level of ROI may be different each time. This is why we take a different approach, for instance, to the ROI of projects where we focus on building awareness of a new category and product, or to those “triggering” points of sale that help buyers remember a product.

But whether displays affect the growth of a category probably depends on the product and the category itself – at what stage of their life cycle and market presence they are. After all, the growth will be different for mature products and categories with established market positions and loyal buyers, and different for those only at the testing and launch stage. Aware of how these mechanisms work, Maspex Group has repeatedly contributed to the foundation of new categories by implementing new products, and therefore built a particular segment of the foodservice market.

To summarize, when building additional off-shelf locations, we obviously pay attention to sales efficiency and ROI, but this does not determine ultimately whether or not to create a particular POS display.

What approach to automation of sales processes should be applied in a small trading company?

Anna Urbańska:I would say that in the context of processes, it does not matter whether a company is large or small – the recipe for automation is actually the same. In order to automate a given process, we must first structure it – analyze and systematize it so that it will be effective. A “good” process does not have to be long at all, on the contrary – it should be kept as short, simple and clear as possible. Another step is automation, i.e. transforming this process into an IT system which will take charge of overseeing its proper execution. In this context, the Productive24 platform will definitely prove its worth, as it enables comprehensive automation of entire processes, from start to finish. A huge advantage of this approach is that all departments involved in the execution of a given process can work within a single IT tool. I’m sure Productive24 will work well for a business of any size.

Paweł Więsek: As Małgorzata and Anna mentioned before, Productive24 can be used to enhance the operations of any size company. In addition to dedicated, tailored solutions, there are dozens of ready-made modules in Productive24 for general management of an organization, all kinds of records and registers, a project management module with a taskboard and Gantt chart views, calendars, reservations, complaints and purchases management, knowledge bases, training management… There is a whole lot of it indeed, and on top of that, all of these ready-made solutions can be further flexibly expanded and modified according to the specific needs of customers.

How to convince a store owner to sell your products?

Wojciech Dendys: The principal issue is to offer the retailer products they can be sure will sell. To secure sufficiently high sales, the product must be characterized by an adequate turnover. This will ensure an opportunity for the customer to build and develop their business. As I said at the beginning, increasing sales is a common goal both for us (the manufacturer) and the customer (the chain). Sales volumes are heavily influenced by brand recognition, so you need to make sure that the goods offered to the retailer also have proper advertising backing. We mean broad support here – both ATL, provided by the marketing team, and BTL, as well as activities in the digital channel, where Maspex products are almost omnipresent. The implementation of an awareness-building strategy is vitally important, as it shows the store owner that by including a particular product in their offer, they can count on a substantial package of support from us.

Anna Gałgan: I should add that introducing new products to stores always involves educating and convincing the customer of the sense of “entering” a new area. So it is advisable to present the results of research and, based on hard data, demonstrate how a particular product will affect the shopping behavior of buyers and, most importantly, how it will lead to an increase in the value of the shopping basket. Convincing a customer to trust data and forecasts is time-consuming and challenging, but certainly worth the effort. If a product is building a new category and the data indicates that it is highly likely to be popular, the process will pay off in the long run. Additionally, it puts us in the role of a market leader – a pioneer and a proven business partner. Also for this reason, it is important for stores to be open to sharing their sales data, as this allows us to improve our products and our whole product range.

Activation profitability – how to approach the ROI calculation to extract the impact of activations on business performance?

Wojciech Dendys: ROI is a complex subject, as it concerns different types of areas and goals for a given activation. If we are at the stage of launching a new product, then profitability can be sidelined for a while, with the focus on broad customer reach. In this case, activations should be treated as investments in the product and we must accept that certain costs have to be incurred. We need to give ourselves time for the product to show turnover and thus prove its business viability. When looking at the cost of getting there, you must be aware that not every activation must have a high ROI. Cost vs. turnover has to ultimately yield an acceptable result. Everyone must ask themselves not what ROI is satisfactory for our company, but what is acceptable, and what is our threshold for acceptable profitability of an activation.

Anna Gałgan: Exactly, you need to weigh the importance of typically financial and non-financial benefits. At Maspex, we rely heavily on calculations of the profitability of activations – the stocking up in a particular campaign must be at the right level and the costs must be kept down. But we take into account many more additional factors that contribute to building a long-term relationship with our customers.

Do packaging graphics affect sales?

Wojciech Dendys: There are four key senses in merchandising: sight, taste, smell and touch, with sight being the most important one. It is often said that the shopper “buys with their eyes,” so manufacturers struggle to make their products stand out in the store. The packaging is the first point of contact between the buyer and the product or manufacturer – packaging graphics are very important in purchasing decisions. Of course, the final decision is also influenced by other factors, such as product ingredients, which are very important to the buyer, or the price, which is also important, but de facto graphics are key, because they affect the primary sense, namely sight.

Anna Gałgan: As Wojciech put it, packaging graphics are very important. In the process of designing, for example, multi-pack packages, we do not rely solely on our own convictions and feelings, but on knowledge through research, which I mentioned earlier. We also follow shopper trends and messages coming from the market. We are also backed by the knowledge and experience of our designers. Interestingly, we also check how the designed packaging will compare against a shelf of competing products using software dedicated for this purpose. Such an analysis shows us how the new packaging stands out on the shelf when surrounded by other products.

What is your outlook on the changing market realities and the nature of the coming times?

Wojciech Dendys: Certainly, you need to keep your hand on the pulse of buyer trends and new technological developments. It is also crucial to remain agile in operations, which is not at all so obvious in the case of large companies. At Maspex, we recognize this is very important, so when we implement a new technological solution, we attach great importance to its flexibility. Such was the case with the Productive24 platform – it is our general business tool, one to manage internal stakeholder processes, and simultaneously a tool to quickly develop the applications that we need at a given time.

Anna Urbańska: Precisely. As Anna and Wojciech mentioned earlier, we strive to be very innovative in the solutions which we implement in the organization and offer to Maspex customers. Considering the constant evolution of processes and changes in the technology market, our objective for the coming year is to further monitor the market and capture new, innovative solutions that we could make use of in Maspex Group. We are thus planning to implement new solutions, an example of which is our cooperation with eLeader on automating visual merchandising with the use of AI. Like in the case of the standbook module, we already have this data in the system, so the only question left is how to use it creatively.

Additional questions from participants to speakers:

What is the percentage impact on production costs of switching to eco-friendly POSMs?

Wojciech Dendys: Ecology used to “cost” a lot, but it seems to me that today the cost of producing eco-friendly point-of-sale materials is at the same or even lower level than using non-recyclable resources. Certainly, they do not cost more. Keeping in mind how strong the zero waste trend is among shoppers, this is very good news. Besides, the importance of ecology in our everyday shopping has also been confirmed by a survey we held during the webinar: 95% of those interviewed declared that as consumers they are more inclined to buy a product from an ecologically responsible company.

So if customers take notice of the actions of companies that conform to the concept of a circular economy, which additionally involve lower costs, then everyone wins.

Do you intend to sell your by-product (filament/components) outside Maspex, so it can be used by other companies?

Wojciech Dendys: We do not sell filament directly, but since 2021 we have been a partner in a project aimed at developing it, which involved Kraków Technology Park and one start-up. Maspex supports the commercialization of the effects of R&D efforts, while the said start-up has the right to sell the filament, which is the core of its business activity.

What platform do you use to collect data on the effectiveness of promotions?

Wojciech Dendys: This data is accumulated today on the Productive24 platform and it shows us the profitability of promotions – costs versus turnover, including discounts and other data. We also have absolute freedom as to what we want to add and measure on the platform, because Producitve24 provides the opportunity to introduce modifications and add new features.

Anna Gałgan: Our department also relies on Productive24 in this regard.

Is the standbook part of the platform – i.e., does it include all the data about the offer?

Anna Urbańska: Yes, the standbook is part of the platform – it is based on the data already stored in it.

What are the tools that you use to automate your work: 1. in a team, 2. with suppliers/companies 3. in collaboration with customers?

Anna Gałgan: We use a number of different tools, but in our day-to-day work on promotions and operational activities, we rely on Productive24.

Wojciech Dendys: That’s right. During the webinar, we asked the participants what caused the most problems in their daily work. The answers were distributed fairly evenly, indicating that the biggest challenges in the industry are those related to the arrangement and management of processes and communication.

By using the right IT tools, all of these challenges can be eliminated, and the strength and energy of the workforce can be channeled into generating better business results. In our everyday work – in the context of process management, teamwork or collaboration with suppliers – we rely largely on Productive24.

What is the smart stand?

Wojciech Dendys: It is a rack fitted with scales installed directly in the shelf, paired with cloud computing. It is important to “program” and “watch” the planogram.

“I have come across a similar idea (metered exhibition stand– author’s note), the scale was installed in a 1/4 pallet. But what if, as is often the case, a customer puts the product back on the stand or next to it (not making a purchase) or adds another, unwanted one?”

Wojciech Dendys: The solution in question involved a quarter-pallet carrier, while the solution we implemented, that is IoT, was installed in displays, so in a different sales medium. At Maspex, we care very strongly about visual merchandising and ensuring that our in-store displays are of high quality. This is why we have decided to implement a solution built into the rack.

As for customers abandoning their shopping baskets, we realize that taking a product from display or off a shelf does not always end in a purchase. To measure the level of shopping basket abandonment, we have developed a model called bounce rating, which accounts for the time elapsed between taking a product from the shelf and putting it back. This, of course, is true if the buyer puts the product back in the same place, but we all pass products that have been misplaced – this, unfortunately, cannot be captured by any technology in the store. At Maspex, we analyze basket abandonment using this model, and it works for us. We also measure the bounce rate for certain categories because each category has a different level of basket abandonment.

Does the perovskite label work in a refrigerator?

Wojciech Dendsys: Yes, the label works at temperatures ranging from 0°C to 8°C.

Have you been able to implement scent marketing anywhere in a retail chain? Not in spots but across an entire chain?

Wojciech Dendys: We are carrying out a pilot project on sensory marketing in one of the stores in Łódź. We are looking to evaluate its impact on sales and compare the result to a control store (which is comparable in terms of turnover and potential).

Do you have an API with some retailer where you analyze real-time data?

Wojciech Dendys: Yes, we do.

Paweł Więsek: Thank you very much for the interview and for the additional dose of knowledge. I am glad that Productive24 supports Maspex in managing your processes and we wish you continued success in your technological experiments and pilot programs!