Let the holiday season heart palpitations begin. For CPG, this is a time of enormous potential and plenty of scary problems and potentially unhappy vendors. It’s everything that can go right, or wrong, with business, all squeezed into about 6 weeks. Heat maps are here to help.

Are you ready to thrive this holiday season? Can you capture your fair share of the market and increasing consumer spending?

Sometimes, the best tool isn’t a new marketing campaign or packaging, but a smarter way to look at how you’re already performing and what’s going on in local stores. We think this knowledge is a secret to increasing holiday revenue, and it all begins with understanding the data you have and visualizing it in a simple, intuitive way to generate business intelligence.

Start with Prior Data and Existing Heat Maps

It’s time to fire up your analytics platforms and retail shelf management tools to review performance and demand last week as well as last holiday season. We’re big fans of heatmaps because they can help you understand immediate demand while also showing areas of growth and decline.

While you may be tempted to look at individual performances — which is definitely a smart idea — the holiday season requires you thinking a little bit bigger. Look for areas where you’re seeing clusters of growth and activity. Is there a new mall near some of this growth? Are other areas shrinking or becoming more commercial?

We recommend you look at three types of data that best drive insight on heat maps:

  1. Scan data: Telling you where you sold the most product.
  2. Shipment data: Showing you if you over-shipped or under-shipped.
  3. Survey data: These audits plus photos will show you where you had execution challenges in the past.

Looking at these three data points, especially when you combine them to spot trends, is a winning formula for success. It’s also a differentiator, allowing you to use data to find insights competitors will miss. We’re the only solution for easily combining all three points of data into an easy management solution that protects your brand and increases sales.

retail shelf management heat map tool

When the data you need is at your fingertips, it’s easier to take action.

Apply your heat maps to a broader understanding of the areas you serve and address the potential you have there. Boom commercial areas will need CPG focused on lunch breaks and office parties, but might not be see a big boost around the year-end holidays; you may even see a decline in the last few weeks of the year and the first few weeks of the next year.

However, if your heat maps point to growing opportunities near large retail centers, you’ll want to consider increasing inventory to serve these groups. Larger trends that your team identifies may also help you understand how you can start a conversation with your partners.

If you’ve got the best new coffee drink in the land, why not pitch a promo or provide free stock for a partner you know is hosting a 5am Black Friday sale?

Show Partners How You Can Help

One of the best features of any data reporting engine, especially real-time support like the Shelvspace retail management platform, is that you can understand and adapt to every aspect of your business. It’ll help you identify deliveries that are taking longer due to holiday traffic as well as places where your demand is increasing.

And what you’re experiencing is likely a microcosm of what your business partners are experiencing.

So, if you see a trend of larger sales or shifting replenishment cycles at certain locations, reach out with ways that you can support your partners. Be proactive and offer multiple solutions to problems (or, from your perspective, big opportunities) so your partners can keep their customers satisfied.

The year-end holiday season gets to be a madhouse for almost everyone. The more you can help your retail partners, the greater the leverage you’ll have in future discussions. Plus, when they start reviewing all their sales in the New Year, you get two shots at improving your relationship:

  1. You were a partner who stepped up and made their life easier, which people don’t forget.
  2. You delivered more products and more sales for your vendor, showing that you’re a more valuable partner in general.

These processes take planning on your part. They aren’t easy or inherent in the way most warehouses and distribution centers operate, but dynamic allocation and routing is a best practice in today’s lean logistics operations.

So What’s The Trick?

Manufacturers like you will always want to ask partners – brokers, distributors, retail buyers, and many more – how you can help. You’d do it every day if you could.

Your challenge isn’t to simply ask. You’ve got to persuade your partners that you are providing a benefit they need and want. The hardest part is demonstrating why your partners should spend their time or resources to help you, instead of your competitors.

Our customers tell us that the best way to be convincing is to be honest, transparent, and useful. You can achieve this by pairing your sales and shipment data with photos and audit results, shifting the conversation to how you are being beneficial,

Shift the conversation from “You need to distribute more off my product so we don’t have out of stocks” to “Here are the top 100 stores that had OOS issues last year (with photos to give you proof), and if we work together to solve this, we’ll both make more money.”

We’re here to give you the data to make that pivot stick.

Prepare Your Inventory with Heat Maps

Achieving the leaner model, where you’re able to do more with less, means smart prep of your inventory. Whether you’re buying more from distributors or simply adding additional stock to your vans and delivery vehicles to promote in-field sales, you’ll want to stock up on the essentials and clear the supply chain for faster re-orders.

If you’re managing multiple warehouses or DCs, then consider pre-staging inventory based on the heat maps you have. Review what’s happening in your retail shelf management software, and match supply to your demand.

The farther back you can reach, the better, because you’re able to look at broader trends for both the holiday season and general trends during colder weather. It’ll help you improve your store execution.

heat maps provide regional understanding

Plus, if you use advanced options like store audits, you can pair larger regional trends with specific store activity to know how best to balance your inventory, deliveries, and products.

Measure for Success

Heatmaps provide a way for you to visually identify your highest volume stores by product and generating insights that are relevant for your business growth. The success of your maps depends on the data you have and the robustness of your platform.

Today’s heatmaps are great for planning tomorrow’s sales, but don’t forget to continually look to tomorrow’s heatmaps too. That’s why you need a retail shelf management tool designed to keep tracking your data and help you look at today as well as this time last year, and the year before.

Rely on software to give you access to the right data, and give your team time to prepare and review.

Don’t Neglect the Prep

Sometimes, the most important month for year-end sales is January. If you set aside time at the end of the holiday season to compare forecasts with real numbers, and really look at the success you achieved based on business intelligence, you’ll know that you have the right platform and the right people in place.

If you don’t give yourself time to review, then the next holiday season will feel just as frantic and could include gaps in knowledge that lead to gaps in sales.

So, how do you make sure your January will be useful?

Start by taking proactive steps right now. Collect shelf-level data so you can plan and uncover insights for your most important markets. Review your data and the learnings you’ve had over the last year to identify concerns and systematically audit those critical areas.

Collect and use your data so your sales team has a chance not only to solve issues this year, but can also identify broader execution gaps or areas of concern. Proper measurement and data collection will allow you to solve this year’s problems and generate the insight you need to proactively address next year’s problems too.

Let’s avoid those knowledge gaps and help you increase sales

this holiday season and beyond. Get a free store audit from Shelvspace or schedule a demo of our platform and see exactly what we can do for you.