The goal of any retail business is to increase sales. This means not only attracting new customers but also meeting their needs so consistently that they convert into loyal brand ambassadors. To achieve this, you need to get a combination of things right – product quality, pricing, presentation, and targeting. In a digitally-driven 21st century, these bits of the puzzle can hardly be solved without retail data collection.
As a manufacturer, bundling off wholesale products to distributors is usually the easy part; the real challenge is ensuring the product reaches the shelves of retail outlets that sell your product category. This is because you need retail data to make this happen. And not just any data, but reliable, accurate records that provide insight into customer behaviour and the state of the market.
First, you need an accurate and up-to-date census of all relevant retail outlets in your category. Second, you need access to stock-level data at each of these outlets to know when they need to re-stock. The quality of this retail data, how it is collected and how it is stored can make or mar your business.
How retail data is collected in Africa
Manufacturers in the African retail segment have traditionally relied on distributor activity to make decisions about consumer spending and behaviour. For example, if a distributor sells 1000 cartons of products, the assumption is that these products were received in retail stores and would trickle down to end-consumers. In this set-up, distributors serve as the classical middlemen, connecting retailers to manufacturers.
On the surface, this may seem like a perfect arrangement, if you can trust distributors to provide accurate information about their sales. Unfortunately, even for distributors with the best intentions, staff indiscretion and other discrepancies in supply activity mean that wholesale numbers are almost never a true reflection of actual retail sales. The implication is that you may be relying on inaccurate retail records to make decisions that affect the end-consumer.
What manufacturers need, therefore, is a reliable way to gain on-the-ground data of retail sales, without the extra costs. That is, a scalable and cost-effective way to independently verify retail stores.
A new model for retail data collection in Africa
By implementing an independent data collection and verification model, distributor activity will no longer serve as the sole source of retail outlet statistics. Instead, retail outlets will be verified and tracked independently of distributors. The job of the distributor is then to deliver the products to verified outlets.The first step would be for a field agent to capture retail outlet details. These details will include:
- merchant’s business name
- merchant’s phone number
- full street address
- GPS coordinates
- merchant’s category
- merchant’s business hours, and more.
Once this information is collected by the field agent, verification will occur in the following order:
- A telesales agent verifies the registered phone number by calling the number and speaking to the merchant (i.e. the retail outlet owner). The agent further confirms the store address and captures the GPS location.
- A delivery driver uses the confirmed details to locate the merchant’s store for delivery of an order. If this information is wrong, the delivery cannot complete and the merchant is not verified. For a merchant to be verified, this delivery process must have successfully completed at least once.
- The existing business information is re-verified with each delivery. If there are any changes, for example, a change of address, this information is updated accordingly.
Here at TradeDepot, we have used this verification process to ensure that our growing list of x thousand retail outlets stays up-to-date at all times. In some of our recently concluded pilot studies, we verified x retail stores and found that on average, 40 percent of retail records are invalid and up to 50 percent of the remainder are inaccurate. These findings have been deeply insightful.
Beyond retail: Deploying TradeDepot’s data verification process in other industries
The implications of accurately verified SME data at the enterprise level are quite extensive, not just for manufacturers, but also for social programs like TraderMoni and for external information providers like Google.
Consider the Google My Business (GMB) directory, which lists SMEs all over the world. Businesses provide their contact information for the GMB platform and this has to be verified. That is, Google verifies that the business is at the said location and engages in the type of business described.
In emerging markets like those in Africa, Google encounters challenges in trying to verify the data provided by SMEs. For example, to get verified in Nigeria, a business can either use the postcard or video call option. Businesses that choose the former almost never receive the postcard. This is not because the address does not exist but because the address system in Nigeria is notoriously poor.
The video call option, on the other hand, is not a feasible option for many small businesses in Nigeria because of poor or no access to internet connections. The only alternative is to send field agents to physically verify SME data. While this is possible for a big player such as Google, it would still significantly increase operation costs in these emerging markets.
TradeDepot partnered with Google to implement the TradeDepot process on the GMB platform. So, in carrying out regular verification activities of retail businesses under the TradeDepot platform, a chain of events happen. Details of any new retail outlets visited by TradeDepot’s field agents are added to the GMB directory and existing GMB listings are re-verified with each delivery. This way, GMB listings for retail businesses under the TradeDepot platform are automatically updated.
The process has proven so effective that TradeDepot has been appointed by Google as their trusted verification partner on its GMB platform, the only one in Nigeria at the moment.
Bringing it all together
For you as a manufacturer, our retail data verification process solves two of the biggest challenges mentioned at the beginning of this article. By bringing your business onboard the TradeDepot platform, you get an accurate and up-to-date directory of all relevant retail outlets in your category. You also gain access to stock-level data at each of these outlets so you know when they need to re-stock.
To reach hundreds of thousands of retailers around the country and get your products on their shelves, contact us: www.tradedepot.co