retailers suppliers come together at ecrm

Conference showcases new products, promotional activities and highlights the collaborative buying process.

“Retailers and suppliers enjoy a symbiotic relationship that grows as both sides succeed and meet their expectations. If one side isn’t communicating their message effectively, both will suffer.”

That was the message delivered by David Bishop, a partner for Willard Bishop LLC at the Opening General session of the ECRM/Convenience Store Decisions Convenience Market Planning Session on General Merchandise, Health  Beauty Care and Tobacco. The buying show runs through Jan. 24 at the Scottsdale Plaza Resort in Scottsdale, Ariz.

According to Bishop, retailers and suppliers should leverage their common goals to:
* Create advocacy-based relationships
* Identify opportunities to address issues
* Offer what retailers want and need to be successful at the retail level
* Become a valued resource
* Get credit for results

Bishop also identified six key objectives suppliers should bring to the table in order to help retailers sell more effectively. They include:

* Understanding local retail market trends
* Bringing insightful analysis to key category issues
* Providing business-building recommendations
* Monitoring and measuring category performance versus the category plan via a scorecard
* Analyzing business from the retailer’s perspective
* Maintaining a strong top-to-top relationship

“The companies that are openly embracing the changing dynamics the market is undergoing can see that in certain initiatives suppliers are stepping up and trying to help retailers support more cost-effective and efficient ways to go to market,” Bishop said. “In the end, this will help both retailers and suppliers grow their business to a level where both are satisfied.”

The Business of Buying
The ECRM/CSD show remains one of the industry’s most popular buying shows because it attracts a wide-range of category managers that have the power to purchase and a host of the industry’s biggest suppliers and manufactures. Of the more than 250 people in attendance, chains represented included 7-Eleven, Chevron, Shell, RaceTrac Petroleum, Cenex and Crystal Flash Petroleum. Non-industry retailers included Costco, Barnes and Noble  Kerr Drug Stores. ECRM picks up the entire cost of retailers’ stay including airfare, hotel, transportation and meals.

Supplier companies in attendance include Bic Consumer Products, PDMD Pharmaceuticals, Coinstar Inc., JT International, Ricola USA and Procter  Gamble.

The primary reason ECRM shows are so successful is the one-on-one retailer-supplier format. ECRM’s category-focused events allow retail buyers time to review new items, promotions, marketing initiatives and strategic direction. Suppliers and manufacturers present their products and services in one-on-one pre-scheduled meetings. Sessions typically last 20 minutes and take place in suppliers’ suites. The interaction is designed to “replace the sales presentation in the buyer’s office saving both suppliers and buyers time and money,” said Paul Wendling, vice president of business development for Solon, Ohio-based ECRM.

Some events have additional meeting options available that include Power Hall sessions, which are private meetings set within a large ballroom, whereby manufacturers have a private area with room for displays and materials. The Power Hall is scheduled in 10-minute appointments with every retailer. Expo Hall, another option for sellers, is set up much like the Power Hall.

However, sellers have a 10 x 10 booth for displays and materials. This format does not guarantee meetings; rather buyers are scheduled to be in the hall and are free to choose which Expo Hall sellers they meet with.

Retailers agree that the one-on-one setting is a constructive atmosphere for conducting business. “ECRM does an excellent job coordinating the entire conference,” said Steve Hendrickson, merchandising manager for Moyle Petroleum Co. “Shows feature a mix of vendors, some we were currently doing business with, which we were able to discuss our current programs with during our time. There were several vendors that we had never seen before. It was good to see a different side of the industry and be exposed to products that we don’t normally think about for our type of business.”

Technology Driven
To coordinate each EPPS event, ECRM incorporates its proprietary eFusion software. eFusion, along with the company’s array of Web-based tools, prepares buyers and sellers for meetings, enables them to review programs during the event and then helps to bring sales transactions to fruition after the event.

Prior to an EPPS event, suppliers and manufacturers load product information, displays, services or planograms being presented to buyers into the ECRM system. Buyers are then able to scan or enter product, displays or programs of interest into an electronic notepad for any follow-up action that is required. Sellers are provided notepads for the same purpose.

Buyers can select the items of interest and both the buyer and seller can use the system to take detailed notes. The notes and selected products can then be emailed to everyone necessary, including brokers and distributors. After EPPS, each company is given a link to their own customized marketing activity recap in a secured area of ECRM’s online portal.

“Because of the technology, processes and custom solutions we’ve created for our clients and events, our convenience market focus brings efficiencies to the attendees. We are beginning to change the way the industry does business,” Wendling said. “Since the meetings are held in private meeting rooms, away from the buyer’s office, the typical office distractions are removed allowing the buyer to focus on the presentations. Our technology takes the guesswork out of the follow up.”

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