As retailers become more sophisticated, data-driven buyers, they will only cooperate with the CPG manufacturers able to help them build a differentiated shopper experience. For shopper marketers, this means changing the way they not only design retail programs, but engage their partners in them. To win retailer support, shopper marketers must engage customers in collaborative planning processes that deliver end-to-end transparency into program goals, tactic strategy, and performance metrics.
While many CPGs lack the culture, insights and processes to support joint business planning, there are three ways in which they can begin to shift their account management approach and evolve from tactical trade supplier – to strategic business partner.
Bring Local Insights to the Table
With retailers putting big data at the center of their operations, many now demand a “fact-based” approach to shopper marketing program sell-in. The CPG account teams that can come equipped with those facts and present them in a way that resonates with the customer will be able to evidence their value as a trade partner and remove the barriers of mistrust and uncertainty that often bar collaboration. The challenge is that most CPG customer teams our only provided with general market trends and category insights that retailers look at with suspicion or believe do not apply to them. In order to gain buy-in and set the stage for more collaborative planning, CPGs need to be bring customer, store and shopper-level insights to the table, that evidence how the program has been designed to meet the retailer’s exclusive needs. These insights should include:
• Store-Level: Insights into the foot traffic, shelf space, layouts/formats, languages and product demand of a store.
• Shopper-Level: Insights into the demographics, behaviors and motivations of the key shopper segments of a retail store/cluster, including demand moments and trip drivers.
• Customer-Level: Insights into the strategic business objectives, category drivers, and promotional event calendar of a customer.
Leading CPGs have found success in creating an online customer insights center that sales can access to view customer-specific insights and download tailored program sell sheets and presentations. In time, these centers should serve as playbooks for building the retailer sell-in tools that customer teams need. Developing these granular insights requires access to multiple sources of data though, and while some retailers willingly provide their POS data to trade partners, others remain resist to data sharing, requiring brands to invest in syndicated data and develop their own insights. While such investment may appear to be a significant resource commitment, being able to reference cross-retailer data in plan proposals dramatically increases support, funding and overall performance. Stimulating insights-based discussions also increases retailers’ willingness to share their own data, in seeing the brand’s ability to effectively utilize it.
Create Scalable National Programs
One of the primary reasons retailers reject brand programs is lack of relevancy to strategic goals. Brands have long been in the habit of designing a national program and only making very minor tweaks to adapt it to individual retailers. Today, retailers are unlikely to accept programs that feel like a forced-fit, and demand programs specifically designed to differentiate their shopper experience and drive incremental volume specifically at their store.
While creating unique programs for each and every retail customer is unrealistic, there are ways that brands can create a set of national program that, with the right insights, can be flexibly adapted to the unique objectives and shopper segments of different retailers. For example, Johnson & Johnson’s did a “FirstAid Kit” program and adapted it to different shopper missions across customers. For one customer, the program was targeted to soccer moms who pride themselves on preparedness, while for another, it was targeted to the “active weekend warrior” who spends his weekends cycling and exploring the outdoors. Johnson & Johnson took one national program and rather than simply tweaking the logo or offer, analyzed shopper insights at the store- level to creation demand-specific versions for their retail customers. In developing a collection of adaptable national programs, CPGs can meet retailer demands for customization while delivering enhanced relevancy to shoppers.
Conduct Post-Event Analysis Together
Brands are increasingly integrating technology that supports historical and post-event promotional analysis. As they do so, insights into the barriers surrounding execution, program ROI, tactic effectiveness and customer profitability are being unlocked, but rather than reviewing these results behind closed doors, brands should invite their customers to the review meeting.
By reviewing performance results with retailers, data-driven conversations about what works, what should be eliminated and what else they could be doing together can be had. Even if weaknesses are revealed, it will lead to conversations for ongoing improvement and eliminate the doubts that come from ambiguity. Account teams should use these post-event meetings to demonstrate how the program improved trips, penetration, basket size and cross-category purchases for the target shopper group. They should also review how the addition or subtraction of a tactic contributed to incremental sales success or decline.
The CPGs able to involve their customers in a structured post-event analysis process will set the stage for ongoing idea exchange, while evidencing their dedication to transparency, accountability and most importantly – demonstratable ROI.
Claiming Stakes in a Shopper-Centric Market
In a time of fierce channel competition and the empowered consumer, the retailers that best satisfy the needs of shoppers will win. Shopper marketers have a lot to gain in helping retailers execute a best-in-class, shopper-centric strategy, but cannot do so without developing the systems required to foster and sustain collaboration.