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Blackmores prescribes data as a healthy foundation for sustained success

Australia’s leading natural health company, the Blackmores Group helps people take control of, and invest in, their wellbeing. The Blackmores Group understands the power of information and insights – for both its consumers and its business.

Blackmores Group is now reaping the rewards of an enterprise transformation which saw the company embrace cloud, Office 365 and Dynamics 365 across is multiple consumer brands and expanding geographies. With these systems forming robust and trusted digital foundations, Blackmores Group is creating innovative new solutions to support its employees and accelerate growth.

Following the successful transition from a legacy CRM to Dynamics 365, Blackmores Group has turned its attention to making information more accessible to its teams across the business, ensuring that all the relevant data was captured in Dynamics.

In the past two years, Blackmores Group has rolled out Dynamics 365 for its advisory service and customer management, a bespoke module for trainers, migrated the PAW brands pet healthcare sales to Dynamics 365 and deployed the system to its New Zealand sales team.

Tijn Tacke, Blackmores Group Dynamics platform lead, explains how Power Apps has allowed the company to develop tailored solutions for different stakeholders and capture important insights from teams out in the field to feed back into the data.

“For instance, we’ve built a coaching app for state managers that helps them coach their team of Customer Business Managers when they’re out in the field. The state manager will accompany them on customer visits, observe them in the store and assess them on pre-agreed areas. They use the app on their tablet in the store to quickly view the information they need and capture feedback that can be used to coach the Customer Business Manager and help them improve their skills.”

Blackmores Group has also used Power Apps to develop solutions for their National Account Managers to provide functions they need in the field and to collect information that might otherwise go unrecorded.

These managers deal with Blackmores Group’s large accounts such as Coles, Woolworths and Chemist Warehouse. The challenge was that the interactions between managers and customers were not being recorded in the CRM. Integrating the app with the manager’s calendar means that once a meeting has taken place the app will push some data into Dynamics where it can be available for future use and insight.

With this solution, a PowerApp retrieves data from the manager’s Exchange calendar and they can capture notes and actions in the app which can then be saved or shared by email. If needed, the app will automatically copy the details of the meeting to Dynamics 365 and allows them also to broadcast actions or alerts to sales representatives.

Recognising that insight is the key to success, a key priority for Blackmores Group was to unlock the information it its data warehouse. To that end, the company has integrated Power BI widgets into Dynamics.

“If a Customer Business Manager is on the phone to a customer, they can get all the key information about that account on one screen. How are they tracking against their sales targets, how engaged are they with the Blackmores Group learning platform?” says Tacke. “This helps them have a more effective conversation with the customer and provide the right advice and information without having to use multiple systems.”

Blackmores distro

Focussed insights

Dynamics 365 is used by about 150 people, across the business. The initial focus on the sales team has been broadened to customer service, customer training and supporting Blackmores Group naturopaths – the consumer advisory team. Each group has subtly different information and data needs – but all can use Dynamics, as any data that is needed is being pushed to the platform or retrieved from other systems, seamlessly in the background.

Blackmores Group has also added in some innovative functions for specific user groups– for example, the sales teams out on the road now have a Dynamics feature designed to support journey planning.

It takes account of the accounts that a Customer Business Manager (CBM) plans to visit that week, the frequency of visits to accounts and then assesses travel times.

“The idea is there to make it more strategic, easier for them to plan ahead and to monitor and track time in the field.” Tacke said

He adds that a Power App currently in development will provide Customer Business Managers on the road with the unique information they need to know before they visit a customer, as well as the data that they need to collect during the visit.

The app also connects to Microsoft Teams ensuring visibility and connection across the business.

Teams will also act as a source of data that can be fed back into Dynamics – further evidence of the data feedback loop that can be established when a business is truly connected.

“Another thing we looked at recently was around territory management. Historically, Blackmores Group used Excel spreadsheets to manage account distribution across CBMs, but the challenge was that it’s hard to visualise what the territories look like and, as a result, to optimize them” says Tacke.

Using a third-party product called Easy Territory, integrated with Dynamics delivers more transparency and intelligence about how reps are operating. For example, agents might travel to an area to visit accounts with relatively low sales, until Easy Territory and Dynamics were integrated this wasn’t easily visible. Now agents are empowered by the right data to make the most effective use of their time and resources focussed on high value areas.

According to Tacke; “Dynamics and PowerApps are the perfect platform as it makes it really easy to create all those relationships.”

“What we want to do is use all these other technologies like PowerApps, Teams, Power BI, to make it easier for users to work with this data and to get the right insights. “

Continuous Innovation

Blackmores Group is already achieving clear wins from its more focussed and comprehensive use of data across the business. Now the business is focused on the next wave of innovation, which will leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) as part of a new solution being developed for NPD (New Product Development).

“The project was conceptualised by David Vick, IT application services team manager, to consolidate many disparate systems currently being used across the Group when doing product development. By creating a holistic solution for NPD (New Product Development) there will be increased efficiency and reduced time to market when creating new products.”

The Group evaluated solutions available in market but could not find one that was cost effective and that met the unique requirements of the business. Because of the positive experiences with Dynamics 365 and ability of the team to quickly deliver innovative and robust solutions, Blackmores Group decided to use the PowerApps platform to develop the new NPD platform.

“Using PowerApps as a platform allows us to develop a tailored solution for Blackmores Group’ unique needs without the overheads of traditional bespoke development. It also allows us to leverage the many additional features and integrations available in the platform,” said Tacke.

Supplier management will be the first module to go live in November 2019. The focus will then shift to new product development which will be rolled out as multiple modules over the next 12 months.

“We are really trying to get value out of the project as early as possible and PowerApps makes it very easy to roll out modules and improvements on a regular basis rather than the more traditional, “big reveal” approach.”

The real opportunity for Blackmores Group is to use the consolidated data with AI and ML to provide insights and predictions to system users.

“When I joined Blackmores Group, I remember Dave telling me his ultimate dream for the implementation nicknamed Project Lucky was to have an “I am feeling lucky” button that could take some values entered by a user and give them a formulated product using all available data as well as scientific claims available for ingredients used. While achieving this may be some time off, in the short term the consolidation of multiple systems into one and ability to leverage AI and ML to analyse the available data will improve efficiency, collaboration and the ability for Blackmores Group to drive innovation and growth when formulating products.”

The project is also intended to support Blackmores Group product development thanks to enhanced AI-infused analysis providing a better understanding of market trends and opportunities.

Future roadmap

Dynamics’ roadmap of new features keeps improving the platform and one key initiative is to create a PowerApp to provide sales reps with key customer information while they are out in the field.

The concept is to take the information collected across the enterprise and then interpret it to better understand the health of the customer relationship overall, as well as to identify any emerging issues that need to be addressed.

Bringing in external data sources will provide additional insight that Blackmores Group can use to optimise operations and to target its sales efforts. The intent would then be to feed those insights back to the Customer Business Managers through a mobile app so they are better informed when they engage with the customers.

“You could have a little calculator in the mobile app where you can use it to show customers which products sell well in their suburb. ‘Let’s say you have 1,000 people that come into your store. If you could sell this Blackmores product to 10 percent of the customers, this is the amount of money that you could make over a three-month period’. This type of functionality really helps sales reps to have meaningful conversations with their customers.”

Blackmores Group’ Chief Information Officer, Brett Winn says “More than ever before consumers are looking to us to connect on a more personalised level and to respond to their needs with personalised solutions. To do this you have to know them. To know them you need to have the right data at the right time. Dynamics 365 provides us with enriched data allowing us to drive more effective and meaningful consumer relationships and prepare the business for future endeavours. That’s a win!”

Blackmores Powers Apps Screenshots