Home > Blog > Mastering Route Planning: Your Ultimate Guide [2023]

Mastering Route Planning: Your Ultimate Guide [2023]

Image depicts sales rep looking at his phone where a route planning software advises him about a store with declining sales

Your route planning is an important aspect of determining how you utilise your resources within a territory. With the potentially enormous number of stores as partners, you need to ensure you aren’t stretched thin by allocating your sales reps where you don’t need to. Instead, with the right data and planning, you will be able to create need-based routes, optimised for frequency of visits, store types, issues, and road conditions. Additionally, your sales managers or regional managers can also have their own personalised routes taking them across stores in matters of escalations, low sales rep performance, store performance, etc.   

Without a solid route planner, your sales reps will take a much longer time to visit stores, lose out on face time with retailers, and miss their daily targets. If you are a brand running sales and distribution, you obviously know that there are innumerable tools in the market for you to choose from. However, only some are truly reliable. And even fewer have the capability to scale to your needs, provide intuitive suggestions where relevant, and go beyond your expectations. Territory planning is a multifaceted approach that promotes optimisation of sales reps and delivery van number as per requirement, face time with customers, and a reduction in on-road kilometres. 

Today, a route planning strategy goes beyond just routes and it’s a whole suite of features and consequent benefits that businesses use to rise above the competition. To educate our readers and customers on the nitty-gritty of route planning, we bring you this detailed piece on the subject. If you want a deep understanding of how to reduce travel expenses, enhance sales rep efficiency and output, and improve customer satisfaction with effective route planning, you must go through this blog post prepared specifically to answer all your questions.

Why Route Planning?

Route planning is an inseparable aspect of retail business operations and your route-to-market. Without an idea of how to visit stores or deliver orders in the most optimised way, you will face numerous hurdles along the way. These can range from traffic congestion to taking an unnecessary long route to the destination to even getting lost in transit. Where delivering products on time or conducting store visits to sell or audit is a critical factor, you have to ensure that your routes must be up to date with ever-changing conditions.

  • Lowers expenses: The first thing an efficient route does for you is ensure your sales reps or vehicles are always on the right track. Allocating only the required number of sales reps and delivery vans to an area is important to avoid resource wastage. Route optimization creates the most effectives visit plans, which require the least number of sales reps and vans to optimally cover a territory, given the optimization constraints of the brand. When you eliminate the chances of unnecessarily long beat plans or travel paths, you are saving on fuel and also repairs by reducing your vehicle time on the road. All of these add to your business’s profitability. 

For example, consider how BeatRoute helped Perfetti Van Melle India to optimise their order collection and delivery cost by reconfiguring their sales and delivery beat plans. BeatRoute offered novel and effective solutions that contributed to the modernisation as well as optimisation of their sales processes for a more seamless route to market. We were also able to effect a much more enhanced delivery route structure for them, which minimised their manpower and resource allocation for delivery needs to 15% more outlets but at 10% less cost. Our precision with beat planning meant they were getting better results and saving money at the same time.

  • Saves time: Time is everything when running a business, particularly when face-to-face interactions between your sales reps and B2B customers is what generates bigger purchase orders. An well-optimised route plan ensures more of such interactions while driving down travel times to ensure timely visits and lower fuel consumption. Also, as planned and optimised routes avoid detours and traffic (wherever possible), your products reach retailers faster and in good condition. You also build up an image of reliability that can only benefit your business in the long run.
  • Improves customer experience: Customer satisfaction is all about proving to them that you can meet their expectations time and again. When they don’t get as many visits from your sales reps as they need or expect, it casts a shadow on your dependability. Face time between sales reps and your B2B customers is crucial to any experience that virtual conversations cannot fulfil. Route planning ensures your field reps make their visits on time and receive any customer feedback in person. With route planning, you can also ensure your customers are adequately apprised of order stages, fostering positive experiences and developing loyalty.
  • Heightened productivity: Route optimisation reduces idle time on the road, further reducing fatigue for drivers or sales reps. By choosing the most effective visit days or sales reps, you create better schedules that are more realistic to achieve and can even lead to more deliveries on time. What this also means is that you may be able to service more stops without adding more resources, thus enhancing efficiency and thereby, revenue. It is therefore imperative that you deliberate hard before settling on the right software for your purposes. 

For example, you could consider a route planning tool that allows you to select the visit day (we will call it Scenario 1) or one that allows you to select the sales rep best suited to the task (we will call it Scenario 2). Both of these are decent at reducing unnecessary travel or kilometres on the road. But if you could have one tool which does both simultaneously (we will call it Scenario 3), it would give you a collective benefit of both previous scenarios, while boosting your bottom line and route to market. Rather than reducing travel time marginally with either Scenario 1 or Scenario 2, you get to combine their benefits in Scenario 3 and see a huge decrease in travel time or kilometres.

  • Environmental Sustainability: Efficient route planning contributes to environmental sustainability. By minimising mileage and reducing fuel consumption, you can lower your carbon footprint and contribute to a greener future. This aligns with the growing consumer demand for greener products and practices. 

Types of Route Planning

  • Dynamic

As the name suggests, dynamic route planning is all about being ready to modify routes with constantly changing real-world situations. This considers factors like traffic and weather and can even help brands assign the optimal number of delivery vehicles for successful delivery. 

  • Multiple stops

This type of route planning is all about creating the perfect route that incorporates the maximum number of stops or visits your sales rep can accomplish in a single day or round. It determines the most efficient route while also calculating ETA for each stop. 

  • Open path 

Although perfect for brands looking to cover the maximum number of stops in a short duration, open path route planning does not consider the time or distance while returning to the starting point or depot.

  • Closed path

The antithesis of open path routing, closed path routing ensures that the final stop is close to the starting point and therefore, there is less cost incurred from the overall trip. It does however, take longer for the route to be completed as it is designed to consider the return trip and stop. 

  • Reverse open path

Reverse open path routing involves a route that starts furthest from the depot and generates a route back to it. This is to enhance fuel efficiency for routes involving the transportation of heavy items or load.

  • Depot to depot

As the name suggests, this is all about creating optimised routes for drivers/vehicles from one depot to another depot.

  • Need based

Route planning can also be directed by AI that we at BeatRoute call the CuesBot. What this does is it looks at store performance, identifies needs, informs relevant sales reps or managers, and helps formulate a route based on prioritisation. This is very effective and time saving at the same time. 

What Does The Ideal Route Planning Software Look Like?

Ordinary route planners may offer the option to create routes based on predetermined conditions and factors but this isn’t the best solution to your route planning needs. You need to have your regions clearly defined, your resources properly managed, do cost analyses for different scenarios, etc.  

Your route planner and optimiser needs to solve problems like:

  • The number of reps to assign to stores or a region
  • Assigning your retailers to specific territories and managers
  • Deciding on the best days to visit a store based on location, availability, and also frequency of visits
  • Generating optimal routes everyday, ensuring every visit is meaningful and every store is covered adequately

Route Planning vs Route Optimisation

Route PlanningRoute Optimisation
It decides on the best route to a destination. It considers hurdles and/or goals to find the most efficient route.
May consider factors such as traffic and distance to destination.May consider more complex factors such as fuel consumption, vehicular capacity, time to destination, and even multiple stops.
Generally, a simpler process.A more complex process that takes into account multiple factors.
Depends on general and common knowledge  rather than algorithms or maths.May use advanced algorithms to serve its purpose.
No real-time updates to route.Works real-time and keeps amending the route based on constantly changing conditions.

What To Consider While Planning Your Delivery Routes

Your routes can make or break your route-to-market operations. Whether it is your sales reps visiting stores to pitch your product or to carry out VM audits or your deliveries reaching retailers on time, your route ensures your success. There is a lot to consider when getting the best route planner and optimiser for your business and the following points should be comprehensive for you to make the right choice.

  • Number of stores

The more the number of stores, the more resources you might need on the field and the more your route may vary. Determining this will ensure your sales reps are able to spend adequate time at each store and form meaningful customer relationships, while reducing fatigue and burnout.

  • Store location

Knowing the precise location of stores via GPS ensures that there is efficient visit prioritisation and zero confusion, resulting in greater productivity with highly organised routes.

  • Store classification

Stores are classified based on a scale of importance, citing factors such as location, performance, history, and size. You must take this into account to create a route with appropriate prioritisation for your sales reps to cover sequentially. 

  • Number of sales reps and delivery vans 

The number of sales reps and delivery vans at your disposal will influence your route because your resource allocation is an important aspect of route planning. Less sales reps mean more area coverage by individuals while more means the opposite and potentially more face time with customers. Again, your route must also keep the number of available delivery vans in mind so that deliveries are always timely and fuel consumption can be minimised. Optimising your routes keeping both customer needs and resources in mind is crucial for smooth business operations.

  • Working hours, work days, and rest days

You need to look at how long your sales reps are working on a particular day to ensure none of your routes compel them to work beyond their hours. This will boost both employee satisfaction as well as better results from customer interactions. The same vigilance must be exercised for the number of work days and rest days for sales reps in creating routes that are perfectly optimised with zero chance of missed opportunities. 

  • Overtime threshold

Although not a regularity, overtime may be allowed or in practice in certain situations or companies. As such, it must also be taken into account while route planning so that maximum utilisation of resources such as sales reps can be assured. 

  • Traffic

Traffic is the biggest obstacle to any successful route. It is constantly in flux and therefore your route needs to be updated automatically and on a timely basis. Your route optimisation software must consider traffic congestion and patterns to avoid delays in visits or deliveries. Effective GPS tracking and maps can create effective routes when combined with the ability to modify in real time.

Who Can Use Route Planning & Optimization Software?

Route optimisation can be utilised by any company with a presence on the road. This could potentially mean most, if not all businesses but here are some examples of those who greatly benefit from optimised routes.

  • Sales reps find route optimisation tools extremely helpful when they are on the field. Optimised sales routes for them means every customer visit is on time which, in turn, translates to maximum output without wasteful efforts. They can visit all the stores on their beat plan, spend adequate time at each store, and finish up their daily schedule without burning out. 
  • Distributors use route optimisation to streamline goods movement between warehouses or to retail stores. Following an optimised route means reduced transportation costs, on-time delivery, and reduced wait times.  
  • Logistics companies and transportation companies benefit from route planning in terms of better delivery routes, a drop in fuel consumption, and a boost in efficient operations. 

BeatRoute To Plan And Optimise Your Routes

BeatRoute enables you to gather and document information on customers in terms of business potential, store type, and location to determine a beat plan for your sales reps. Once you know everything about the stores along a potential route, it becomes easier to assess the economic viability of territories and know exactly which stores to target. Our algorithm suggests routes that are efficient by considering factors such as traffic, store receiving hours, field team strength, and the average time spent by sales reps at each store.

BeatRoute also assists you with advanced configurations such as sales rep preference, numbers, and frequency of visits. Additionally, you can list your customers on the basis of geocode, class, etc. and sales reps or vehicles as per location, class, active hours, etc., leading to clear and detailed records. 

With the help of BeatRoute, you can also calculate the number or amount of resources you would need to cover your territories so that your beat plans remain efficient and you don’t end up hiring more or less people than required. We tell you the right number of sales reps to assign to territories, what your optimal visit days are based on your customers’ locations and availability, and also allow for any number of store visits within a cycle. 

With us, you end up: 

  • Saving fuel
  • Saving on travel expenses
  • Improving relations with retailers
  • Preventing sales rep burnout
  • Prioritising stores correctly to maximise output
  • Removing excessive resources from areas with low ROI
  • Adding necessary resources in areas with missed opportunities

Want to know more? Just try out our free demo!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. Why is route planning essential for businesses?

Ans: Route planning enables sales reps to keep an eye on the number of stores they need to visit for the day and the best possible or optimised route to go through them. Without it, store visits would be completely left to human understanding, which is slow and prone to erroneous decisions, leading to potential loss of sales and missed opportunities.

  1. Can I rely solely on GPS for route planning?

Ans: No. GPS is a major aspect of laying out the path before you but route planning also involves identifying stores, prioritising them, resource allocation, and also human intuition such as how many stores can a sales rep realistically cover in a day. 

  1. How often should I update my route plan?

Ans: Automatic route planning and optimisation would update your route by itself after considering all factors such as number of stores, traffic, etc.

  1. What are some common route planning mistakes to avoid?

Ans: Some common route planning mistakes to avoid are:

  • Failure to check traffic conditions in real-time
  • Failure to prioritise stops based on delivery windows, distance, and store type
  • Failure to adequately group stores geographically
  • Failure to adapt to new developments such as cancellations, urgent stops, etc.
  • Failure to accurately factor in service time at each location
  • Failure to use an efficient Route Optimisation Software
  1. Is it possible to optimise routes for multiple stops?

Ans: Absolutely. It’s one of the primary purposes of route optimisation. 

  1. What role does technology play in modern route planning?

Ans: Technology enables the following advantages and more in modern route planning:

  • Route optimisation
  • GPS tracking
  • Data analyses
  • Multi-system integration
  • Availability of mobile applications
  1. How can I track my vehicle’s progress during the journey?

Ans: You can use GPS for this. 

  1. What are the benefits of using online route planning platforms?

Ans: The benefits are:

  • Real-time traffic and other updates
  • Better resource planning and cost savings
  • Real-time vehicle tracking
  • Efficiency leading to customer satisfaction
  • Collaborative actions
  1. How does weather affect route planning decisions?

Ans: Weather is unpredictable and this must be taken into account as a sudden change can affect roads or a sales rep’s health or even consumer actions. It is important to chalk out a route that will reap benefits at every stop while ensuring on-road safety.

  1. Are there any legal considerations when planning routes?

Ans: Yes, and these may be:

  • Traffic laws
  • Public safety
  • Data privacy of sales reps
  • Toll fees
  • Vehicle weight guidelines
  • Driving licences and permits
  1. How can I ensure driver safety while following a route plan?

Ans: You can ensure driver safety by considering:

  • Traffic conditions on roads
  • Quality of roads
  • Driver training and also feedback
  • Monitoring your drivers
  • Weather conditions
  • Rewarding and incentivising safe driving

About the Author

Soham Chakraborty

Soham Chakraborty

Apart from being a Senior Content Writer at BeatRoute, Soham is an avid reader of science fiction and suspense novels. He also dabbles in historical narratives and wonders about our place in the universe. Cosmic viewpoints, Carl Sagan, and Neil deGrasse Tyson intrigues him. When not reading, he will watch a fulfilling movie with his family. His greatest dream is publishing his own novel someday!

About the Author

Soham Chakraborty

Soham Chakraborty

Apart from being a Senior Content Writer at BeatRoute, Soham is an avid reader of science fiction and suspense novels. He also dabbles in historical narratives and wonders about our place in the universe. Cosmic viewpoints, Carl Sagan, and Neil deGrasse Tyson intrigues him. When not reading, he will watch a fulfilling movie with his family. His greatest dream is publishing his own novel someday!

Retail Sales Guide

Download this free ebook now to learn 10 ways CPG brands can transform their retail Route-To-Market.

Get your free Copy with following details: