How Distell Is Digitizing REX & TPM to Seize Global Growth

Lisa Johnston
Lisa Johnston profile picture
Savanna Cider is one of the brands in Distell's portfolio.
Savanna Cider is one of the brands in Distell's portfolio.

With its sights set on global expansion, The Distell Group knew that transforming its customer experience was going to be a crucial step in its growth strategy.

Counting 4,400 employees among its ranks, the producer and marketer of wines, spirits, ciders and other ready-to-drink beverages in Africa labored to effectively and clearly communicate with its field sales teams and across functions. It also lacked cohesion and unity when designing trade programs for execution at scale.

“We struggled to target key customers, either for lack of information or lack of the ability to execute tailored programs with precision,” Craig Price, head of sales center of excellence at Distell, tells CGT. “When we showed up at customers, we weren’t able to aggregate or illustrate our investment in their success.”

The company, which includes such brands as Hunter’s, Klipdrift, Savanna and Nederburg in its portfolio, aims to become the dominant regional alcoholic beverage brand and route-to-market owner in South Africa, and the leading regional alcoholic beverages player in Africa. It also aspires to diversify across one or two other continents, driving scale beyond organic growth.

To accomplish this, “we needed to transform our commercial organization and create a step change that was not possible through our current business as usual,” says Price.

In conjunction with the traditional challenges and hurdles facing the consumer goods industry today, the alcohol beverage category is saddled with an additional set of obstacles, and where Distell operates is no different. Distribution channels can vary significantly from region to region, Price says, as can consumer behavior, customer sophistication and legislation.

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“Alcoholic beverages can be purchased for immediate consumption on-premises, or in the case of premium wine or spirits, for long-term storage,” he explains. “This makes consumer behavior wildly different from outlet to outlet. The alcohol beverage industry may be one of the most complex end-to-end value chains in the world.”   

The company partnered with Aforza to digitize its retail execution, trade promotion management and marketing capabilities, chief of which included facilitating multi-directional information flows. Headquartered in North America, Aforza has built its technology on the Salesforce and Google Cloud platforms and operates in five continents.

The partnership marks the first time all of Distell’s trade-facing units operate on a single platform, providing visibility to its finance team on the real-time impact and performance of promotions, and against baseline, predicted and actual figures. As a result, Distell can now collect and analyze data at the point of purchase more quickly and on a much larger scale, while swiftly planning, adjusting and optimizing promotions.

By equipping its sales teams with customizable insights, data and recommendations, meanwhile, the company is aiming to deliver hyper-local sales intelligence and execution to transform its planning and retail execution process.   

This includes online and mobile offline order capabilities with perfect pricing, segmentation, promotion execution, surveys and audits, as well as dynamic segmentation engine with hyper-granular segmentation of the market driving pricing, promotions and field sales execution. The technology is also supporting both formal and informal trade, and field sales teams can better communicate the value of promotions, as well as ensure orders are compliant with promotion rules.

“Ultimately we want to get to AI-driven orders to boost upsell, category performance, sales effectiveness and efficiency,” Price says.

[See also: Inside Diageo’s Tech-Infused Collaboration Center]

Developing a single source of truth for one’s customers on an integrated platform that connects HQ and field teams in real time is table stakes for today’s consumer goods companies, Price says, and Distell’s associates are now working together more seamlessly. Having a platform and its accompanied processes enables them to confirm plan compliance and immediately respond in the field with on-device offline mobile intelligence.

“True retail execution victory results from integrating all your functions around through the line execution, trade marketing, finance, sales, IT and all the supporting services,” he notes. “Creating a single platform with transparency, perspective and insight will align [an] organization to win.”

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