This week, I had the pleasure of chatting with Mr. Godwin Ofobi, National Sales Leader of Beiersdorf Nivea, about the key parameters to track when scaling sales through supermarkets. Having contributed to the growth of companies like GSK, Unilever, Boehringer Ingelheim, and now Nivea, Godwin’s expertise span over 10 years in the FMCG sales and marketing fields. 

So without further ado, below are the Qs and As: 

Q1: As a company selling non-essential products, what constraint has this pandemic placed on your distribution channel? What are the changes you had to make at the early stages of the pandemic? 

A1: “Being regarded as ‘non-essentials’ our products faced constraints. In the initial period, people were panic buying – which included toiletries and food. No one had a clue of how long the lockdown would take, all consumers’ focus was on the ‘necessary’ items.

One of the actions they took early on, was to create awareness about staying safe and sanitizing and moisturizing at the same time. They delved into producing hand sanitizers, not for selling purposes, but as their social responsibility. These hand sanitizers were provided to the Lagos State Government, Kano State Government, and trade partners. As a brand, Nivea stands for ‘caring’ and that’s what they wanted to do – care. 

Employees were and are still facing confusion and uncertainty. They had to change ways to reach their consumers. One of the things they did was quickly ramp up other channels which are most relevant during the pandemic, given that the ‘open market’ which is the main channel, was completely shut. The focus became the neighborhood supermarkets. People were comfortable in their neighborhood and that’s where Nivea had to be. So, they had to find ways to reach out directly to these retail outlets to make sure they catered to people’s demand. 

Q2: As FMCGs restrategize, what are some of the key things to keep in mind?

A2: 

  • Mindset changes – don’t dwell on the past, respond in an agile manner 
  • Review your go-to-market strategies
  • Communication changes – how you communicate with your distributors, supermarkets, and consumers

Q3: What is the one major difference in strategy? 

A3: Higher engagement with your consumers.  For many FMCG companies, this was earlier left to others in the trade channel. However, the relevance of retailers has drastically increased as that’s where your consumers are going at rapid speed. 

Q4: What are the key metrics to track? The metrics that would indicate growth or areas of improvement? 

A4: Don’t track value and volume. Track where the value and volume are derived from. Don’t chase the number, chase what chases the numbers. 

The key metrics should be growth and brand development centric. 

  • Reach 
  • Coverage 
  • Growth of the most relevant channels 
  • Productivity levels – no. of stores where your products are selling, the speed of sales at the stores

His key advice: Invest in technology – this is where you will get information that will make you understand where you are and make decisions about the future – bill value, purchase frequency, category relevance. Look at your stores as your assets, to ensure they are not just selling your products, but also providing great customer experience to your consumers. 

Q5: What are some of the challenges you foresee? 

A5: 

  • Mindset – ensuring the entire team has the same mindset and are clear on why and what needs to be done
  • Investment – Those investing in technology are considering whether they are moving too soon or what if they don’t get the benefit of the investment? 
  • Dealing with dynamic consumer behaviors – not being able to predict it all. As people’s disposable income faces drastic changes, people will be more careful when investing their money. 

The trick, he says, to implementing any new solution, whether technology or not, is to not wipe off the old and replace it with the new at a go – take it one step at a time. Make the change at a steady speed to allow time for your stakeholders to catch up at every step. 

I hope you found these ideas useful and I would love to hear other suggestions on how to stay ahead of the game. Do share your thoughts in the comments section. 

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