How consumer products companies leverage sales recommendation engines to capture more value
Blog: Capgemini CTO Blog
Most consumers have encountered recommendation engines but these analytic systems create significant competitive advantages in the B2B world as well.
The Capgemini Predictive Revenue Optimization (PRO) offering is an example of this. It leverages Snowflake’s powerful data capabilities to provide analytical insights and recommend actions. For consumer products companies, Capgemini PRO can provide benefits to a number of business activities – but its most obvious application is to help sales, customer and category teams more quickly and accurately forecast retailer needs.
Dinand Tinholt is Vice President of the Insights & Data global business line for Capgemini, while Rosemary Hua is Head of the Industry, Retail & Consumer Products Group for Snowflake. They describe how Capgemini PRO enhances a company’s relationships with its partners, what each company contributes to the solution, how they build the business case for the solution, and the expected outcomes.
Let’s start with the basics: What is a sales recommendation engine?
Tinholt: Simply put, a sales recommendation engine (SRE) is a collection of analytic solutions that looks at a spectrum of data and offers prescriptive advice about sales actions to take.
Most people have encountered recommendation engines as consumers, because two of the most common use cases are to personalize digital experiences via cross-selling and up-selling. When Netflix suggests a movie based on our viewing habits, that’s a recommendation engine doing cross-selling. When Amazon offers us an extended warranty on a product in our cart, that’s an example of up-selling.
SREs are an important component of the Capgemini Predictive Revenue Optimization offering. With Capgemini PRO, we have applied the analytical tools of SREs to the needs of consumer products companies, to help them capture more value out of their retail sales channels. Successfully augmenting human decisions and processes requires a full, end-to-end view: From data to decisions.
How does that work? Where does this technology fit into a consumer products company’s operations?
Tinholt: We recently completed a Capgemini PRO deployment for one of the world’s largest consumer products companies. The company has an excellent sales team, whose members have very important relationships with store managers; those relationships are what make a great salesperson.
Capgemini PRO augments those personal relationships by providing the company’s salespeople with recommendations based on objective data. In effect, it helps them to better see into the future.
What’s more, the salespeople can share those recommendations with store managers – knowing they have the data at their fingertips to back up their recommendations. The results are better customer experiences, omnichannel share growth, optimized retail execution/replenishment, and larger orders placed with greater confidence, and less likelihood of a retail partner running out of stock or being stuck with excess inventory that might be in more demand elsewhere.
That adds up to more revenue – for everyone in the value chain. Across store and e-commerce sales and for a variety of different situations that create significant value (or opportunity cost).
What is Snowflake’s role in this?
Hua: The power of any analytical solution is directly related to the quality of the data at its disposal. But consumer products companies traditionally had not had access to high-quality, timely information.
That’s because they have not had direct access to point-of-sale data – because they sell through intermediaries such as ecommerce sites or brick-and mortar stores. As a result, they’ve had to rely on two less-than-ideal data sources. The first is reports from third-party research organizations that monitor sales at the retail level. The second is basically by backing into the data through monitoring their own inventory throughout their supply chain.
This is a huge problem for consumer products companies. The data from these two sources do not match up: they become two “truths,” which companies then have to try to reconcile. Furthermore, neither of these sources are timely, so companies are forced to make critical business decisions based on stale data.
Snowflake modernizes the data environment. From the start, Snowflake was designed to optimize data in the cloud. This enables our partners to develop solutions that combine data from any number of sources in order to serve their clients in innovative ways.
Capgemini PRO is a good example of this: Capgemini saw a big gap in a vertical market, approached Snowflake, and we worked together to close it. The solution allows those in the value chain to share data in a timely fashion, then allows AI systems to analyze the data from all of those sources and provide recommendations for actions.
Tinholt: At Capgemini, we’re big fans of what Snowflake can do for our clients’ data strategies. That’s why we established our Snowflake Global Center of Excellence, and why we are proud that Capgemini achieved Snowflake Elite Services Partner status in December 2020.
For our consumer products clients, we leverage Snowflake’s powerful capabilities to deliver AI-driven analytics at a global scale. What’s more, it allows us to do this while ensuring proper governance and compliance with all relevant security, privacy, and regulatory requirements.
That’s critical for large consumer products companies such as the client for which we just deployed Capgemini PRO. Such companies operate in dozens of countries – each with their own compliance requirements and maturity levels.
How does the process work when implementing an SRE solution such as Capgemini PRO for a global consumer products company?
Tinholt: The Capgemini Predictive Revenue Optimization offering includes a customized SRE that combines Snowflake’s powerful data platform with elegant, user-friendly design.
We are end-to-end consultants, so we start by understanding a company’s current situation, developing the business case, and then tying everything to that.
For example, we shadow sales teams on their trips as they go into stores, so we can understand exactly how they do their job. We can then look at how to enhance what they do, and design our solution accordingly. We ensure it’s user-centric and that it addresses the client’s unique requirements.
Finally, we want to make sure that when clients deploy Capgemini PRO, they are realizing its full value. To do that, we can develop all the training manuals and the adoption protocols. We can even create and conduct surveys to understand how sales teams are using the tools, and to capture and measure their satisfaction.
We then use that feedback to improve the tools. We don’t just train end-users – we also listen to them. It’s a two-way street.
Why is that important?
Tinholt: If an enterprise introduces a new technology to its operation but nobody knows how to use it and nobody understands the value it delivers or the problems it solves, that’s a wasted opportunity.
Hua: Those using the technology must be confident that it will deliver the information they need – every time they need it.
If a dashboard doesn’t load in the five minutes before a salesperson is walking into a meeting with a store manager, they’ll lose faith in the solution and revert to the old way of doing things.
Similarly, if two people across the organization see different sales data about the same category, a conflict might arise. If the solution is found to be at fault, they’ll abandon it and retreat to their old methods.
Are there any unexpected benefits to deploying an SRE? What will most surprise a company that embraces such solutions?
Hua: While there are many positive outcomes for companies that use them, the argument that will really get salespeople on board is that, with SREs, they can win back part of their day.
Every store visit takes time. SREs help salespeople make faster decisions, which means they can finish those store visits in less time. They can use the time they save to visit more stores each day. Or they can use it to finish their day earlier. “This tool helps me finish my day sooner and get home to my family and friends” is a compelling argument to get sales teams to adopt a new solution.
When implementing new technology, business leaders look for positive outcomes. What would those outcomes look like for consumer products companies that have introduced SREs into their operations?
Tinholt: At the end of the day, executives want to see profitable growth despite market volatility.
Capgemini PRO helps companies dynamically load-balance the way they’re selling to customers – even as they’re dealing with price fluctuations, disruptions to supply chains, and other challenges. The underlying, cloud data catalog creates a platform for broader, enterprise value and future automation, too.
The result is a deeper, more robust, more valuable relationship between companies and their channel partners – a relationship that helps consumer products companies win at the shelf.
Dinand Tinholt, Vice President, Insights & Data, Capgemini
Dinand is Vice President with Capgemini’s Insights & Data Global Business Line where he is responsible for the North American Consumer Products, Retail and Distribution Market.
Rosemary Hua, Global Head, Retail & CPG, Snowflake
Rosemary is the Head of Retail Strategy at Snowflake Computing, where she leads the charge on how the Snowflake product can transform the retail industry.