Disruption is reality for retailers. For the past decade consultants have been steadily predicting that online sales will replace in-person shopping, yet it took the mass shutdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic for these predictions to be accelerated into reality. This accelerated rate of disruption has been a long time coming for retailers, but the rate of change has exacerbated a number of issues, including stock availability, profit margins, shipping speed, and customer experience. For suppliers, this makes the art of listening more important than ever. With a supplier’s success built on the strength of their relationship with their retailer partners, truly understanding a partner’s problems and working together to solve them is critical.
After decades of working to deepen relationships between suppliers and retailers, we have developed a tried-and-tested framework for determining retailer needs. This engagement framework looks at four critical areas of performance and helps to keep individuals, teams, and organizations aligned to shared goals. Here, we look at each of these areas and provide a question that you can answer with your teams to ensure you’re doing everything possible to improve your supplier–retailer relationships:
In simple terms, this is the extent to which you’re a genuine business partner. Your performance is measured by how you do things. Are you proactive? Can your retail partner trust your insights into both their business and your relationship?
In times of disruption, partnership is often the focal point for retailers. The aim should be for you to be collaborating on solutions, not simply having their solutions mandated to you. By listening to their challenges, and truly understanding their strategy, suppliers can showcase how strategic goals align across both organizations.
Ask yourself: Are you a good business partner?
Where partnership is about how you do things, execution is what you do. The level of service that a supplier provides a retailer is critical, the quality of the tactics and the pace of response have a massive impact on the relationship.
During 2020 and early 2021, retailers consistently rewarded suppliers who executed plans rapidly and adjusted their tactics to meet the constantly shifting landscape. With disruption likely to continue at pace over the next two years, suppliers need to focus on their ability to execute in uncertainty if they’re going to maintain and increase engagement with retailers.
Ask yourself: Are you executing well every day?
At its core, reputation is about who you are: the image your partners have of you when you’re not in the room. The past 18 months have brought organizations’ environmental, social, and governance (ESG) agendas into a mainstream conversation.
Where ESG once lived under the umbrella of corporate affairs, it now forms a major part in the daily activities of every department, with retailers wanting to know that they’re working with a partner who they share values with. This puts the onus on suppliers to have a cohesive ESG strategy that serves as a point of difference in product lines and innovation efforts.
Ask yourself: Does your reputation standout in the ESG environment?
Vision equals where you’re going. Rather than focusing solely on the market forces of today, vision showcases that you have a clearly defined point of view on your category for the next three to five years – and that you’re working to bring it to life.
Great vision is designed around alignment with retailers on insights and opportunities that will lead you both toward being leaders in your category. A great vision is clear to see when you’re considered a trusted partner, advisor, and subject-matter expert by retailers.
Ask yourself: Do you give a clear vision of the future, giving confidence to your strategic direction?
Amongst disruption are numerous opportunities for suppliers and retailers to work together to better serve shoppers. Whether online sales become the predominant source of revenue for retailers or there’s a boomerang effect that sends shoppers back to stores in droves is yet to be seen. What does matter is that suppliers are able to determine retailer needs as, and often before, they truly emerge. Because it will be the strong supplier and retailer partnerships that transform disruption into market share.
Advantage is devoted to helping suppliers strengthen retailer engagement through data, insights, and action planning. Connect with an Engagement Advisor today.