A product that is perfectly displayed is a synonym of visibility and, therefore, sales. The job of shelf stockers not only implies filling shelves automatically, but it also entails being aware of the latest news, knowing how to take advantage of the new technologies implemented by the great retailers and achieving efficiency to combat the worst of evils: shortage of visual stock. Who are the shelf stockers? How do they work? How do they adapt to innovation? These are three reasons why you should get to know them (and take care of them).
1- They are the owners of the shelves
They are the first to get to the gondola and they know what is in stock and what is missing. Good shelf stockers are always on the lookout for missing products and work fast to reduce deficit. Very often they are employed by agencies that offer the service to minimarkets and supermarkets; this is very common in Latin America. According to an investigation carried out by BDO Argentina, a consultancy company, by 2016 the companies assessed (254 executives were included, representing 82% of the market) had increased the level of outsourcing by 37% and were planning to continue to increase outsourcing in the following two years. If this prediction was right, the percentage of outsourcing today should be over 41%.
The benefits of outsourcing deserve a special analysis but, in general terms, both “big” and “small” business owners give priority to this service to reduce logistics costs and devote their time and effort to their businesses.
It is better if shelf stockers work in situ because, in that way, retailers may get to know them better and train them according to their goals. Bread maker Doña Doly, for example, decided to focus on this operative part of the process and has its own logistics and distribution department. “It is our strength against the rest of the companies,” said Néstor Sanson, the brand’s General Manager, in an interview published in ElCronista.com
Some retailers choose this last option to increase security through a formal employment relationship (for workers, a direct employment agreement with the company means stability) and to reduce the high rotation rate that usually affects this area.
What is the shelf stocker’s profile? Shelf stockers are usually young people, between 20 and 35 years old, who are looking for job opportunities, but who hardly think of that job as a way develop their professional careers. Given this scenario, companies seek to motivate shelf stockers by continuously offering them training sessions and growth prospects within the company: moving up the hierarchical ladder, working in a different department, etc.
First moral: Choose shelf stockers carefully: they improve your business. This is the “road to success”.
2- They are constantly engaged in a cold war: their strategic role
“I don’t know why they place it there; nobody buys it. Leave it here. Let’s place it here,” says one collaborator to another in one of the great supermarket chains in Argentina. Shelf stockers, more accurately called merchandisers, are the “Troy horses” of shelves: when they are well-disposed, they fight tooth and nail for the gondola. In a changing and challenging market, merchandisers have a prominent role in the value chain. They give the products visibility –they detect which is the best way to display it, as indicated before by one of the young shelf stockers–, they can control stock –they know when a product might run out and re-stock it–, they come up with strategies –“it’s better to place it here”– and they even interact with consumers, which allows them to obtain valuable information, considering that the purchase decision is made at the point of sale.
According to an article published by iProfesional.com, “this role of strategic managers at the point of sale also requires knowledge of the suggested price due to agreements with the government or brand positioning, and knowledge of whether or not they comply with the company’s pricing policy.”
Focusing on the future and the constant evolution of the industry, merchandisers can (and must) be the ideal companion of retailers to improve consumers’ shopping experience. Apart from Amazon’s innovations and the Go experience, and other similar stores like BingoBox, the trend around the world is “storytelling”: the possibility of using products to tell a story at the point of sale. A clear example is that of Timberland, the U.S. footwear firm that implemented the “Treelab” format in some of its stores: a concept is chosen and the design is developed around that concept. This design changes every 6 to 8 weeks. Customers find themselves in a space dedicated to urban footwear which is part of the “Streetology” theme. In the store, there is a screen that shows a video of dancers using Timberland boots and dancing to the music, a giant poster of the product and several footwear models displayed in shelves and showcases. This staging also redefines the role of shelf stockers or merchandisers: it forces them to think creatively and to give a prominent role to consumers and the concept that they seek to convey, instead of focusing on the product. According to an article published in the business magazine Forbes, “Merchandisers must become expert storytellers.” It also states that those who take on that role are no longer mere shelf stockers; instead, they start to think “visually and creatively to find ways to align” the products adequately and to “engage” consumers (or make them fall in love).
3- They are the ideal partner of new technologies and stock
Sensors that detect what products customers take, how much time they spend in front of the gondola and if they finally decide not to buy an item. There are cameras that indicate whether shoppers enter the store alone or with someone else and also “follow” them around the store to know where they go and where they do not. And the Tally robot, created by Californian company Simbe Robotics, located in San Francisco, which, after “working” for an hour, may audit between 15k and 30k products in a store, make sure they are all in the correct gondola, next to their price tag and offer signs, and keep an inventory. The company that created the robot, whose slogan is “if a product cannot be found, the consumer cannot buy it,” promises an endless number of benefits, such as the possibility of generating alerts so that merchandisers can know if a product is missing in real time through of a notification on your cellphones. This is a dream for any shelf stocker.
Shelf stockers are slowly becoming acquainted with these concepts, and it is expected that once they internalize them, they will be able to use them for their own benefit (and for the benefit of the store).
Pusher-POP and Pusher-POP Smart are some of the companies that offer solutions for the point of sale, which make the job of merchandisers easier. The campaign they have created for Latin America, “Obsessive Shelf Stockers,” developed with Sanfrantokyo –strategy and communication agency–, retells the daily life of this fundamental character in the retail industry in a picturesque way. According to its creators, the idea of this campaign is “to show how a pusher system may help shelf stockers –who tirelessly seek perfection– carry out their task efficiently.”
Watch the spot here:
For more information, visit www.pusherpop.com