As the everchanging FMCG market evolves from a traditional food brokerage model towards a more dynamic, data-driven environment, greater demands are being placed on third-party marketing service agencies to adapt to changing conditions.
Australia’s leading outsourcing sales, merchandising and retail marketing agency, Strikeforce AMC is responding to market changes with a more sophisticated, integrated approach to agency partnerships. Leading the charge is Strikeforce CEO Matt Lloyd, who discusses with Six Degrees' FMCG specialist, Jennifer Kenworthy, how the market is changing and what this means for resourcing and talent in the industry.
Q. How has the profile of marketing service agencies changed over time?
A. Many third-party, outsourced field merchandising agencies grew out of the traditional food brokerage model, where brand owners needed a sales intermediary to gain listings and drive distribution and sales at state and local level. Strikeforce has grown its expertise in selling and ranging brands for brand owners over the last 37 years and has been an integral part of the brand owner’s sales team.
Once retailers moved to national level negotiation, many brand owners developed their own national sales capability but still required flawless in-store marketing excellence to pull through their brands once ranged. Over the last decade, Strikeforce has been widely acknowledged as having the deepest and broadest coverage, with expert knowledge in the application of tactics and deployment of resources to optimise the return for brands’ marketing spend.
The present chapter both for Strikeforce and the industry is more about being led by insights, to know exactly where and when to go and what to do to optimise ROI on marketing spend. This means we need to move beyond standard call cycles to be more precise and dynamic about deploying resources.
Rather than focussing primarily on activation at the point of purchase, agencies of our type are increasingly partnering with clients across the full shopper and consumer journey. Integrating with in-house marketing and sales teams means better full-circle alignment across all marketing investment. In addition to service offering changes, here at Strikeforce we are increasingly calibrating our people capability and competency development, meaning that we become a key talent pipeline source for our clients.
Q. What international trends are you seeing and where do we sit in comparison?
A. The use of data to create insights, and its application to dynamically route and lead field team activation is a key trend that has been happening elsewhere for some time. The holy grail is real-time scan sales data by store and by SKU, which is harder to achieve in Australia due to data availability. However, at Strikeforce, we are building a range of data sets that in the absence of the pure scan sales by store by SKU by the hour, can provide the insights required to direct our teams to the right stores, at the right time, with the right tools.
Q. How does change impact the dynamics of resourcing and talent?
A. For Strikeforce AMC, we recruit talent that could easily be pipelined into our clients. However, we also need to ensure our own employment brand remains as strong as our clients’. It’s important to provide a strong grounding in sales and marketing in all retail trading channels and across many different product categories to provide great opportunities for breadth and depth of experience. A meritocratic, results and reward-oriented, entrepreneurial environment is the reward for those with the prerequisite level of pace and agility.
Q. Are retailer trends driving change? How does this impact suppliers and retailers?
A. Cost base pressure in Retail and Manufacturing in Australia causes brand owners to constantly evaluate their marketing investment to make it go further. Shopper behaviour is becoming increasingly harder to influence and predict given the growth of non-traditional retail channels such as online and pop up shops and the move away from traditional consumer awareness tactics such as TV advertising.
Q. Are there any game changers for the industry?
A. We believe that the ability to use unprecedented levels of insight to positively disrupt consumers and shoppers through a range of connected tactics across the full path to purchase (in home, at an event, on way to store, on way to store fixture, away from fixture, at the fixture) will change the industry. The much-anticipated growth in online retail means how people buy is becoming increasingly more important than where people buy, therefore influencing consumers through brand experience is going to be key.
Q. What’s needed in the future?
A. More insight, more agility, and the complete alignment of client/agency strategic and tactical objectives.