How Kofola strengthened its position in the on-trade channel with a data-driven route-to-market strategy

Martin Müller

Content Lead

In a nutshell:

  • Precise data helped Kofola meet growth targets
  • Overall business performance improved
  • Sales reps spend their time more efficiently
  • Trade marketing can make better investment decisions
  • Managers see market opportunities and trends

Challenge: The existing Route-To-Market (RTM) model was unable to keep pace with the company's growth

Kofola is one of the largest players in the Central European soft drinks market, where it has operated since 1959, today as the Kofola Group. It has a very comprehensive portfolio of products (cola drinks, sodas, waters, juices, teas, coffees, energy drinks, etc.) designed for different target groups, market segments and consumption opportunities. Its sales team consists of around a hundred people and its clients are in the thousands. 

Managing such a colossus is not easy. Even more so effectively.

To operate successfully in the on-trade market, big players like Kofola need a precise route-to-market strategy to get their products to the right customers, to ensure the desired presentation or activation of their brands in on-trade outlets, and to make the most efficient use of their investments and staff time. It is here, with the increasing complexity of the portfolio and the size of the sales organization, that Kofola's existing RTM model has hit its limits.

The on-trade channel management was based on very well structured data, but this data only contained its own customers. There was a lack of greater systematicity which would have allowed detailed tracking of both existing and emerging prospects over time and enabled managers to better target their acquisition decisions.

Kofola used a range of information and tools important for proper management of the on-trade channel, in particular:

  • Measuring Kofola's market position by on-trade segments and regions and market penetration
  • Indicators to assess the potential of each client against the rest of the market ( = “are we targeting the right outlets?”) and also how important each opportunity is, its further potential or which segments and specific businesses to target
  • An objective system for identifying outlets with higher potential and prioritizing them in terms of sales representatives' travel time, rather than subjective decisions based on selective experiences or impressions
  • Information to properly allocate commercial investments and optimize commercial activities and strategies

As our research and experience with market leaders and smaller companies shows, inefficient management of the on-trade market can cost large vendors millions of Euros per year. In Kofola's case, the goal was to gain a perfect overview of the market at the level of individual outlets and to optimally set the RTM strategy based on this

Solution: Business data for precise targeting, efficient investments and commercial strategies

Kofola uses data from SharpGrid Outlet Census (embedded in their CRM) and our matching service designed to pair ours and client’s data to ensure it is up-to-date and enriched with a number of qualitative indicators

This allows every employee with a CRM access to see a perfect overview of the entire on-trade channel. He or she can view outlets on many different levels (from a helicopter view of the entire country to a detailed view of a specific region or street) with many useful indicators like:

  • How popular the business is
  • How it's performing against local competition
  • What is its turnover potential and trend
  • Why do people primarily visit it (like good beer, active fun or exceptional coffee)
  • A range of operational information and contacts

And loads of other data that decision makers can use to determine:

  • What products is the outlet best suited for
  • Where and to what extent is it worth investing in a specific location 
  • What are the chances of a successful deal and how big is its potential

Based on our data, Kofola has revealed that its client portfolio is qualitatively below the market benchmark in certain regions and therefore the company is missing opportunities due to ineffective targeting. Focusing acquisitions efforts on higher quality outlets would not only strengthen Kofola's brand perception, but also get its products to more relevant customers and help boost sales.

Based on the Outlet Census, adjustments were made in segmentation and outlet classification. This enabled more precise work with product portfolios. After assessing segment strength, it was possible to focus the time and effort of sales representatives on the weaker ones to make up for potential losses.

Libor Mikulášek, Insight Manager at Kofola.

Part of any successful route-to-market strategy is proper targeting and the most efficient use of sales reps' time. Kofola's Insight Manager Libor Mikulášek says: "Sales reps need to know where to go and why without the need for analyzing huge volumes of data. In our case, they simply filter outlets based on key parameters, choose one and go there." 

Kofola's Sales Director Jaroslav Vich confirms his words. "The key for us is to get Outlet Census into internal systems so that the sales rep has easy access to the data and it becomes part of his or her work routine."

But Outlet Census can also facilitate things like onboarding new sales team members, where it helps sales reps get trained faster and start making money for the company sooner. To this Jaroslav Vich adds: "We are now onboarding team members who don't know the on-trade channel in depth at the beginning. Outlet Census is crucial for their productivity and proper prioritization of potential customers." 

This is how it actually works: 

  • Sales reps get tips on outlets with higher potential and market opportunities 
  • They choose from a larger pool of pre-selected prospects (they don't go in blind)
  • They save a lot of time on data collection and entering it into the internal CRM

By working together, we were able to prepare Kofola's data in a way that makes it easy to use for anyone so that all employees across departments from sales reps to senior managers to Business Intelligence specialists benefit from it.

Results: Efficiency leads to more gains

"SharpGrid data helps us meet our growth targets. We now know how and where to invest and what products to send to which outlet based on its segmentation. Everything is more systematic and efficient," says Libor Mikulášek, summing up the cooperation between Kofola and SharpGrid. 

Instead of collecting and entering data into the CRM, sales representatives can focus on customer relationship development or acquisition activities. Managers can lead their teams better, see market opportunities, follow trends and adapt their decision-making. 

Segmentation and proper allocation of the product portfolio has also become more efficient. Trade marketing, in turn, knows in which outlets to invest what amounts in POS and POP materials like signspots, umbrellas, refrigerators, taps, etc. 

Kofola has also managed to acquire hundreds of new customers in the first four months of 2022 and improve the overall performance of the entire business model. This confirms our hypothesis that properly allocated time and resources mean higher returns

But it's also about product image. Having your product in higher quality outlets with great ambience gives a much more desirable impression which ultimately helps brand building. 

"We can now easily separate the wheat from the chaff," Libor Mikulášek sums up the benefits of SharpGrid data and answers the question whether on-trade channel management is now more efficient: "Absolutely. It's incomparable!"

Kofola is best enjoyed on a hot summer day.


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