Mike McGee, wholesale expert and director at The Wholesale Company, and Levi Boorer, customer development director at Ferrero, discuss the benefits that sharing data can have on your business.
Data analysis is becoming a fundamental part of the supplier/wholesaler strategy for more progressive companies. This is both logical and to be encouraged. Every company has limited money and manpower, so it makes sense to allocate these to achieve the greatest return. Wholesalers can either engage with this or risk having the agenda dictated to them.
Data now provides a very useful income stream for the bigger wholesalers, but it should not end there. There is still some considerable discomfort in releasing sales data and often it is only done on sufferance to get in the cash.
The starting point in these cases is: ‘What is the least we can provide for the most money?’ But this point of view does not chime with the information-centric world we inhabit. The reality is that in the vast majority of cases, the benefit of sharing all but the most sensitive information – customers’ names and addresses – far outweighs any perceived loss from atypical trading practices. Most wholesalers have rules on what they can release, but maybe a better starting point is: ‘Why make the data available? What is the expectation of supplier use and what end result does the operator want?’
It boils down to four areas:
Income is important, but it is dictated by the quality and scope of the data. Simply put, data in and of itself is of little value if a supplier cannot take action from it. ‘Nice to know’ is worthless in a market where plenty of data is now available.
Helping a supplier sell more
By engaging positively with suppliers using its data, a wholesaler can help them increase their business and thus, help its own sales. It is important to do this, or else this increase could just be the result of stealing from a competitor or an unsustainable blip. It means looking at more specific regional or depot activity – but what is the harm in that?
Building the category
Several wholesalers have ‘category champions’. This means that the appointed suppliers see all the data for their categories and then make thought-through recommendations to improve sales within them. But this will only work if a champion has a big share, so knows that any improvement in the category benefits it. The wholesaler should encourage this, as the chances are it does not have the resources to analyse the data to the extent needed.
In practice, though, there is a way to go to achieve this mutuality of interest and to give it substance.
This is largely an unexploited area, but sales data offers hope of a more joined-up supply chain, giving efficiencies for suppliers and wholesalers. All parties know that data is good – but there is a differing view on desired outcomes. Trust and resource are the inhibitors, both of which can be overcome by a clearer understanding of suppliers’ needs and a more joined-up approach to the use of data. Data will increasingly dictate the pair’s relationship, so it is best to go with the flow.
Mike McGee is a director at The Whole Sale Company.
The use of data to inform business decisions is of increasing importance, but there is still an air of uncertainty among wholesalers when it comes to sharing their own data with suppliers. Having had a long history of driving category sales with our customers using insight, Ferrero prides itself on having a collaborative approach. Without data, the hidden truths that drive sales stay hidden, and our ability as manufacturers to tailor products, promotions and ranges would not be possible.
Wholesale is not grocery
This channel is unique and what works for the major multiples will not necessarily work for wholesale. A top-line overview of the performance across grocery is of course useful context, but more often than not, this data is used simply because it is the only data available. We know that grocery and wholesale are different, but with the plethora of grocery data available to us as suppliers, the temptation is to apply our knowledge and understanding from this insight to wholesale.
One size doesn’t fit all
While wholesale is not the same as grocery, there are also significant variations within the wholesale channel as well – it is a wonderfully diverse sector, in terms of both trading styles and customer base. As suppliers, we want to embrace these differences and ensure we have a strategy that works for all our wholesale partners.
In the absence of data from wholesalers to inform our views, we have to work with information from other sources. This runs the risk that we make assumptions that overlook a crucial difference in your business that would have been demonstrated by your data.
Seek first to understand
Suppliers make decisions that affect our mutual businesses every day, and Ferrero has a strong history of tailoring its products for wholesale. These decisions are underpinned by the use of data. We use it to understand the performance of our products and the categories we are part of. It also helps us understand the impact of new products and the effectiveness of promotions.
Sharing your data with us ensures that we fully understand the performance of your business and what is – or isn’t – working for your customers, enabling us to adjust our strategies accordingly. Evaluation is critical for suppliers, and data is the most effective way of evaluating a new initiative’s success.
When we look for a wholesaler to partner with to trial a new initiative or activity, the availability and use of data is a key consideration. Working with wholesalers allows us to execute forward-thinking plans and exciting new initiatives.
Insight into actions
The availability of data from our wholesale partners enables us to create bespoke solutions for them. We recently opened the doors to our new Shopper Experience Centre (SEC), a multi-room collaboration environment with sophisticated technology. The aim of the SEC is to help retail partners to ‘unlock’ the perfect store that will cater for their customers’ needs. We know ‘one size fits all’ does not cut it with wholesalers and retailers, and the early feedback on the SEC affirms we can deliver tailored insights and breakthrough technology to help grow their businesses.
One tool in our armoury
Numbers and spreadsheets will never tell the full story – we need to understand the ‘why’ as well as the ‘what’. Thus, we continue to invest in and expand our field team, which supports both wholesalers and independent retailers. They are our eyes and ears in the field, and their input plays a critical part in our decision-making.
Data is a powerful tool for informing business decisions. The coming together of suppliers and wholesalers to share insights with one another is the key to unlocking future growth. We look forward to continually expanding our collaborative approach with our wholesale customers.
Levi Boorer is customer development director at Ferrero.