Sony gets its merchandising game on

In the gaming industry, speed is everything. When new computer games hit the streets, about 70 per cent of the revenue they bring in will be earned within the first six to eight weeks of their release.

The problem, say industry insiders, is if the product doesn’t hit the right store on exactly the right shelves at the right time, it won’t catch the eye of gamers always looking for the latest thrills.

“Everything is speed to delivery and on-time response. If you don’t have this, you’ll get lost in the mix,” says Stephen Turvey, Sony Computer Entertainment Canada’s (SCEC) Toronto-based Canadian sales and merchandising manager.

To keep track of its products in stores, SCEC uses RW3’s Focus 2.0 Field Sales Force retail business intelligence application to track and change where and how its products are displayed on store shelves.

The technology, which Sony has been using since 2003, has helped the company increase sales and has convinced store managers to listen to SCEC’s reps when they make recommendations, Turvey says.

“It gives our people tremendous credibility. They’re left to run the business for them when they walk into the store.”

RW3’s Focus allows Sony reps to track promotion and merchandising information and to feed back reports from the front line to managers who can track trends.

Each account has a set of priorities that are established by the account manager, Turvey says.

If sales reps go into a Wal-Mart for example, they call up the store and go through a check list — this can include making sure key products are in place, and not in the stock room, noting the placement of products and ensuring that the interactive display is working.

The reps note what they’ve done and any further work that needs to be followed up on — such as calling up someone to fix a malfunctioning interactive.

At the end of the day, the information is uploaded and sent to field co-ordinators. Information gets called out and summarized.

Over time, the information has allowed Sony to learn what works and what doesn’t for different types of stores, Turvey says.

“I think probably the biggest thing we’ve learned from having the data is where to place the products initially,” he says. “We understand what each individual store is — this is a baseball store, that a basketball store. The initial fill is better, the sell through is better.”

What may appear a small thing – a missing shelf or broken interactive – can have a large impact on sales, Turvey says.

“It allows us to address those things.”

The product has also helped Sony and the stores it works with carry leaner inventory, he says. This cuts down on the bottom line.

SCEC considered RIM BlackBerry devices, handhelds and various applications. In the end it chose to put the RW3 application onto laptops because it made it easier for sales reps to do other tasks, such as demonstrating videos.

That decision had to be made quickly, Turvey says.

SCEC decided to bring its merchandising in-house and was looking for a new solution, but the company it had been using was bought by another. This forced Sony Computer Entertainment to decide on a new merchandising tool much faster than it was originally planning to.

“It was a fairly short time period we had to make decisions in.”

RW3 offered everything Sony was looking for, he says, adding that RW3’s willingness to work with Sony pushed the scale in its favour.

The old system SCEC was using was much more manual, Turvey says. Reps would be faxing inventory numbers into the office. It took time to digest the information.

This is costly for businesses, says Bruce Nagle, RW3 Technologies Inc.’s chief information officer in Alamo, Calif. “Speed to shelf on new items is huge.”

The faster a customer can get an item in front of a consumer, the quicker the revenue, he says.

Turvey agrees.

“What it allowed us to do is respond in a day.”

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