Collaboration is critical in business, but never has it been more important for retailers, CPG brands, and suppliers than in today’s omnichannel marketplace. Shoppers expect a seamless experience from their first interaction to their purchase (and beyond!) with little patience for potential blunders at any stage of the journey. In a world where shoppers’ preferences rely on the digital space, collaborating with partners is a crucial component for sales growth and improving loyalty.
Shoppers are willing to challenge their favorite brands, and those that are unable to step up to the plate will find themselves edged out by competitors with a greater depth of digital savviness and stronger working relationships with partners across the sales cycle. The brands that thrive will be those that are able to leverage data (such as shopper interactions) from retailer to manufacturer and back to create a retail environment that exceeds the ever-higher expectations. The following steps will help you solidify your joint communications and marketing strategies.
Have You Determined Your Platforms?
Depending on your brand, some advertising and communication platforms are better than others. For instance, utilizing social media may not be an effective option for raising awareness about a particular CPG brand, but for another, it offers an opportunity to thrive. Commit to the market research necessary to understand where your shoppers want to intersect with brands during different stages of their path to purchase.
Remember, collaboration means your data should be combined with your partners’ data for a holistic understanding of your target audience. The decision to use a platform (or multiple platforms) should be made with your partners.
If social media doesn’t align with the goals and objectives of your brand, look for partners that have a strong following and leverage their strengths to introduce your brand to new markets and expand your influence. For instance, private label brands alone won’t be strong enough to drive a social media campaign or draw attention. However, finding a creative way to partner with big name brands or a challenger brand on the rise allows their social media content to point to the retailer and help shoppers engage. This gives you access to millions of potential buyers and opens the door to connecting with them about store brand products.
This extends beyond the scope of marketing as well. How will you track and manage inventory and demand, and how does that translate across the supply chain? By working with your partners to decide the software for these types of tasks, you eliminate compatibility problems and minimize breakdowns in communication.
Have You Co-Developed a Plan?
It’s not enough to simply ensure you’re using the same platforms. True collaboration comes with regular communication and a strategy developed with all partners present. You’re not the only stakeholder in this, and whether your partner is in manufacturing, supply, or retail, they’ll each have their own business goals to achieve through collaborating with you. You need to develop shared objectives that offer value to each partner. This may be difficult — the benefits of collaboration are often uneven, with retailers seeing the most benefits, and sooner than their partners. Keep supply chain optimization, demand planning, and assortment within categories in mind, as these present prime opportunities for alliance.
Create a firm strategy that details targeting and elements from the rest of the checklist below. Roles and expectations should be clear. It’s also important to develop risk management. Between ever-changing consumer habits, shifting markets, and natural disasters, there’s too many things that can add friction to your collaborative relationships.
What Technology Will You Implement?
Collaborative planning requires shared data structures, which can mean anything from an API (application program interface) between organizations to truly shared databases or co-developed mobile apps. When possible, and within budget, innovation and upgrades can make this all the more powerful. Perhaps a retailer can install smart lighting or other in-store location trackers that provide data for behavioral analysis. In turn, this could be used to develop in-store, mobile marketing, or help manufacturers make smarter decisions about packaging and optimal shelving requests. Clear definitions of your deliverables will help drive decisions around technology implementation.
However, always be mindful of laws or other regulations that surround privacy and data. Consumer data sharing is about to become more complex with the new GDPR. Any technology and related strategies should adhere to the stringent requirements.
How Will You Monitor Activity?
Activating your shopper may be the most important metric for success, but there are other steps within your sales funnel that can be tracked. While working with your partners, look for ways to create a shared view of your target shopper and their needs. This process will illuminate key events you can monitor in order to gauge success. Monitoring shared inventory data is just one example of something each partner will want to watch in order to ensure the shopper ultimately has a positive experience.
Again, communication is important. If you notice sub-optimal activity, you can coordinate with your partners to keep everyone on the same page and seeing the results they need. Don’t take action alone, with only your own brand in mind. Preferably, activities are coordinated to amplify success between you and your partners.
What Analytics Will You Review?
There are two aspects to this. First, there’s determining the insights that allow you to make the right decisions before your campaign — or even your partnership — begins. Identify the data that means the most to your company, and recognize that your partners will have different insights that align with their own goals.
Second, the activity you want to monitor will point to the KPIs you need to measure. If, as a manufacturer, the goal is branded coupon redemption as it relates to driving sales of a new item, the metrics you need to measure rely on data coming from the point of sale about coupon use and inventory moving and being reordered. As part of the same campaign, the retailer may be more focused on acquisition of new customers. Metrics like foot traffic, increased sales, or even increased applications for their loyalty card will be more important to them. However, when gauging the success of the campaign overall, the collaborative effort needs to score well for each partner. If it drove product sales, but failed to bring in new shoppers, then something will need to be tweaked.
Understanding how collaborative retail planning can benefit manufacturers, suppliers, and retailers provides you with ammunition to share with partners, some of whom may initially be reluctant or uncertain about the benefits of data sharing. The checklist we’ve provided above will give you the necessary foundation for a solid strategy that can help strengthen the trust between you and your partners. Be sure your collaboration strategy can hit the mark by referencing this list as you develop your plan.