Did your sell-in rise last month because of increasing offtake or because of something else? Was your promotion effective or not? How is your competitor’s activity affecting your offtake? Should you do something already to defend, spend a lot more on some defensive effort or not?
Just a year ago these questions were difficult to answer because data from sales of sales forces did not clearly reflect offtake trends. Sales data can be affected by factors like inventory increases in the trade or destocking by retailers or wholesalers or promotional activity of the brand or its competitors. Then, marketers have had to resort to other ways of getting a reading of what was happening, most of which have been to some degree less than satisfactory.
Over the past year though, marketers in over 110 product categories have had the option to get data generated by the scanners at the checkout counters, which reflect the purchases of actual consumers and which can show changes in trend much more clearly than other data can. So marketers are now much more able to understand what is actually happening to offtake on their and their competitors’ brands. They have also been better able to understand the effectiveness of their activities as well as their competitors much earlier than before, and act on them effectively.
The data has been available from Nielsen and is being generated through the checkout counters of SVI and Savemore. Given the 80 branches or so of these two retail chains, they must account for a substantial part of many fast-moving consumer goods brands which make them a meaningful set of numbers for brand managers to study and draw conclusions from.
A few factors make the data very useful.
First, research has shown that the consumers who shop in chains like SVI, Savemore, Rustans and Robinsons tend to behave rather like each other, even if not identically.   In fact most consumers actually shop at two supermarkets regularly, and often those two stores belong to different chains.  Their behaviour in one chain is going to be rather similar to their behaviour in another chain. This means that the effect of a competitive launch nationally will be readable much faster via scandata of SVI and Savemore than any other means, and the similarity of behavior across major chain accounts makes this data a good early reading of success, and perhaps warning of failure or a problem that will need fixing.
Second, the combined size of SVI and Savemore puts them at the top of the list of supermarket chains so the numbers will surely be more meaningful.
Third, consumers nationally have been shopping increasingly at supermarkets over the years and this trend is unlikely to reverse. Therefore, this will become an even more important retail channel.
Fourth, the cost of an annual subscription is actually reasonable.
Fifth, you get weekly data instead of the monthly data from sources like retail audits, which means that you will see much bigger spikes or drops in volume more quickly when a stimulus like a launch or a promotion or some other special occasion happens. You will see it at the SKU level for every brand in the entire category which will give the marketer a better understanding of the power of a marketing event, or the lack of it. This is especially true  if the marketer’s support effort, or that of the competitor, is focused on a few SKUs, which might otherwise get masked by other SKUs or data from the rest of the month.
The availability of this kind of data here means the Philippines is joining a global trend which started several years ago in the USA and Europe and rolled into Asia starting a decade or two ago. Data will become even more broadly accessible in coming years as more chains make their data available. I hear that SM Hypermarket will be next to offer data and possibly a chain in another retail channel will follow at some point depending on a few things being sorted out.
All this data coming onstream will mean that manufacturers and retailers will change the way they will be working with each other which I will cover in another column.
 
Benedicto “Poch” Cid is the Chief Brand Adviser of Mansmith and Fielders, Inc. (www.mansmith.net), the leading marketing and sales training company in the Philippines. For inquiries, please email info@mansmith.net call (+63-2) 584-5858 /412-0034 or text (63) 918-81-168-88.  Please also send your marketing, sales and strategy questions to mentors@mansmith.net.