What makes brands stand out to retailers

Quite simply, data-driven insights and recommendations. Sales growth, customer service and many other aspects matter too, but using data and analytics is one of the best and easiest ways to get the attention of today’s data-driven retailers.

But then again, it’s not really that simple. We talk to a lot of brands who spend weeks carefully analyzing their data, identifying insights, and preparing a case for increasing orders, only to meet with their buyer and have their ideas ignored. Retailers have their own teams of data scientists and algorithms that they trust. Breaking through isn’t just about using data.

How you deliver the insight is almost as important.

Whether it’s about the effectiveness of a marketing promotion, replenishment schedules or out-of-stock issues, if it’s not shared in a way that gets a buyer to listen, it will sadly go ignored.

Here are five tips to make your data-driven insights stand out. Apply them consistently to build stronger, more collaborative relationships with your retailers. They’ll trust your recommendations to order more, expand distribution, adjust replenishment or make other changes that would benefit your business.

1. Know their metrics (and use them)

Every retailer, and even buyer or inventory manager at a retailer, operates a bit differently. They use their own measures of product success. For example, this CE sales pro found Best Buy is all about out-of-stock percentage while Amazon cares most about on-time delivery date.

Communicate using each retailer’s key metrics and “language.” That means put it in terms they care about, like GMROI and lost sales, and use their product hierarchy, naming, etc. If retailers don’t have to translate your sales pitch, you have a much better chance of making your case.


2. Show them the bigger picture

Even established retailers can’t know everything. They are limited by the data they have, on sales at their own stores. As one former merchant put it:

"The greatest power that you deliver is the macro knowledge of the marketplace. A retailer can only see the possibility of their sales in terms of their perspective.”
-Greg White

Present unique insights that only you can offer, like how your products are selling in their stores relative to other retailers. Using the context of the overall market makes your insights that much more powerful. It turns you into a trusted authority that provides clear value-add to the buyer. Hear more >

Heat map by state
3. Make it pop

Data has a reputation for being boring. Even the most data-driven person’s eyes has glazed over when shown a spreadsheet of data. So we create charts and graphs that are easier to digest, which helps.

Take it to the next level by visualizing data in the best format based on the point you’re trying to make. For example, if you’re trying to shows that sales were down because of an unusually long hurricane season, show sales on a heat map of the country divided by state or even better, by county. Make it so a simple skim is enough for you to get your message across.

Turn it into an interactive experience. Did the long hurricane season affect all products the same? If it’s easy to throw on a product filter and see the data change, you can keep answering the next question. The buyer will not only feel more confident in your insight, but remember it after engaging directly with the data that led to it.

4. Suggest a trial run

Retailers want to limit risk. A large product order or nationwide promotion may be too much to ask, even with a strong pitch. Have a plan B: a test run. A test run is an important part of the brand-building process, as you are not only advancing retailer relationships, but also gauging shopper reaction and gathering more data to drive a successful rollout.

As part of the trial run, make sure you have a plan in place for measuring impact. Compare performance in a “test group” vs. a “control group” that are as similar as possible in every other way to avoid bias. And don’t wait until after the test is over to check the results; track how it’s doing while it’s still in market so you can make adjustments and improve your chances of success.


5. Deliver timely, actionable recommendations

With predictive analytics, you can simulate what the future will look like. Not only use POS data to forecast future sales, but also combine it with real-time inventory and order data to simulate future Weeks of Supply and identify likely out-of-stocks before they happen. This type of data-driven insight stands out because it captures opportunities while they still exist, not after.

"In an age of information overload, a CPG company must be able to generate insights that aren’t simply descriptive or explanatory, but predictive and prescriptive—offering fact-based answers to the questions, 'What will happen?' and 'What should we do to get the most benefit out of what will happen?' No longer will it be enough to generate insights at the national, channel, or customer level on a weekly or monthly basis. Retailers will expect store-specific, real-time insights tailored to their strategic priorities."
-McKinsey, "Playing catch-up: How to partner with the retailer of the future"

Connecting your insights to a very specific action (a “prescriptive recommendation”) the retailer should take is critical. Pinpoint the root cause of the issue, such as a particular retailer DC or products. Then recommend exactly how many more units they need to order, or what they should shift the product mix to. Don’t leave the conclusion up to them, or they may not take the time to reach it.

Go beyond the theory

Every week, you get a report on your sales performance at each of your key retailers. It helps you monitor trends and occasionally, raises a red flag when you’re below targets. The data informs your decision-making, but is it what will help command your retailers’ attention week after week?

Free yourself from those static reports and see how much more effective your data-driven insights and recommendations can be when they’re shared in a way that breaks through. Read more on the RetailTouchPoints blog and check out this case study of how Alloy helped a fitness equipment manufacturer convince their retailer to place additional POs. The strategic use of data and retail POS analytics can be a real differentiator in today’s competitive environment.

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