Its one of the most intense relationships in the business world. CPG suppliers working with major retailers. Billions of dollars being invested. Billions of purchases being influenced. A complex, intertwined world where both parties rely on each other to succeed but all too often differences in perspective can stretch both the emotions and the commercials to breaking point.
As every CPG sales or category executive knows, finding the win-win sweet spot is everything. Identifying how your proposals drive share, category and/or profit growth have to be the platform for winning approval. Objectivity, solid shopper research and respected, fact-based opinion are the necessary fuels.
But there is a problem at the heart of the “partnership”. A problem that is driven by differences in perspective.
A supplier enters the arena with a shopper point of view limited to just the category they are focussed on, often with research that has been scoped to optimize use of funds and is often as narrow as they felt they absolutely needed. The retailers, on the other hand, care mostly about the entire store, not just a single component. One category is simply a tiny piece of a bigger jigsaw puzzle. The supplier doesn’t usually have the perspective to give the best neutral and objective advice that the retailer might ideally want. The retailer all too often ends up with piecemeal insights. Perhaps with more gaps than coverage.
To us, the best possible sales proposal takes the form of “Retailer A overall has XYZ problem and should seek to resolve this with strategies B, C or D. Category Z is well placed to deliver on strategy B which is why we propose the following tactical plan:” This is known as selling from the client problem backwards, which in everyone in sales knows is the better route to success. But it’s not easy to achieve in packaged goods. Perhaps because not many salespeople are equipped with many insights about the shopper that are bigger than just their own category.
The Insights Industry has exacerbated the problem. The main data sources charge huge incremental costs for “seeing” more data. Custom research is expensive and the bill for greater coverage can be potentially huge.
That’s why we felt that a shared, Industry approach to shopper insights would make sense. If we can measure the entire marketplace, retailer by retailer, category by category, creating a huge but cost-efficient subscription database, then every player could build their plans with “outside in, top-down” thinking. There could be a common language. Joint plans would start in a better place. And the relationship could flourish.