Keeping track of your workers who operate mainly out in the field is not an easy thing for retailers, but Benny Toh of MobileOne Technology says he has just the solution with his real-time online platform. JOY LEE finds out more.
MANAGING and collecting data from a mobile workforce has generally not been an easy task for retailers. These workers don’t clock in and out, and are pretty much left to manage themselves out in the field.
But Benny Toh, CEO of MobileOne Technology, says he has found a way to help retailers keep tab of their mobile workforce with its field force management solutions.
The mobile workforce in the retail segment include personnel such as promoter, merchandiser, salesperson and field auditor.
Toh explains that most are still expected to fill up reporting forms on paper, which would be compiled and submitted to management for consideration and action. All this takes time before relevant action can be taken by management to effectively push more stock into the market.
“We are providing them with a platform for field force management, which will help them manage and empower the field force to work more smartly. Information can flow two-way more efficiently between management and the field force,” he says.
According to Toh, MobileOne’s solution would enable field workers to submit information such as store attendance, sales information, available stock, promotional pricing and competitor information immediately.
With this, promoters can also act to gather information on the field for management.
For example, a brand promoter on-site would be able to give feedback immediately to retailers should there not be enough products on the shelves or if the products are near their expiry date. Thus, management can take immediate action like sending over more stock or adjust promotional pricing to ensure minimal loss of sales.
“So we are giving planners at the office visibility of the market. They don’t need to actually travel to the field to understand how to execute the promotion. It’s automated. This helps with fast deployment,” he says.
The field force solution was an opportunity that Toh spotted while operating another company, Far-East Business Technology. He founded Far-East in 2000 to develop trade promotion management and trade loyalty programmes for consumer packaged goods companies.
However, he noticed that there was a gap in the last-mile operations for retailers with regard to managing their mobile field force and began working on MobileOne in 2010 to close that gap.
“What we saw was an opportunity. There were not a lot of solutions available at the time,” he explains.
“We knew retailers had this challenge, and we knew how to solve it, so we went into it,” says Toh, noting that a large part of a retailer’s front end is made up of the mobile workforce.
Toh adds that the solution also enables companies to reinvent the role of their mobile workforce. Some roles, such as a promoter and merchandiser, can be merged and carried out by the same person.
This would help retailers maximise their field force and at the same time, empower them to do more and potentially earn more.
Toh hopes to bring MobileOne’s solution to other markets such as Indonesia and Thailand. The company has already set up an office in Jakarta to grow its presence there.
“Malaysia has given us a good foundation. We are pretty advanced compared to regional markets. They are looking to us to help structure a system for them to also manage their field force,” he says.
MobileOne is also actively carrying out research and development efforts to enhance the features of its solutions such as enabling offline usage, says MobileOne senior business development manager Azman Ilyas @ Alias.
With technology advancing, Azman notes, retailers will be able to track their store presence even closer and communicate with consumers better.