I have read that the pandemic accelerated change in many industries and there are certainly examples of this in food and beverage. When change happens this quickly, suppliers need to ensure they are focused on both consumers and customers. It is important to understand consumer trends and how they will impact your sales. In recent weeks we have talked a lot about consumers.
It is also important to understand your customers, the retailers and where they are focusing their efforts. They have had to make a lot of changes to their operations. The larger retailers are big organizations that usually take a long time to change. They were forced into rapid changes throughout their business. Many of these changes impact producers and processors directly.
When we look at the C.A.R.T. process we ask the question; how can you understand your customer better?
There are a number of changes to understand and consider how they impact your business:
- A lot of the merchandising staff are working remotely. This has changed how they work and how you communicate with them. In some cases, it is actually easier to get their attention and communicate. Our experience has been more frequent communication for shorter sessions. Yes, it is online or virtual but the technology continues to improve and it is possible to communicate effectively.
- In-stock position is a big focus for retailers. When you are in stores check in stock across categories. We are not experiencing the panic buying but we still see a lot of holes. It is tough to forecast demand now and many companies are still challenged to meet orders. Focus on service level and let your customers know how you are doing.
- Visit stores when you can. Every province has different regulations to respect and retailers are working with these as well. They do continue to make changes to the offering such as the local program Loblaw launched. Whenever possible you need to know what is happening in store. Many retailers are experiencing 8-10% year over year growth. Have a look at your category to make sure your products are getting through the supply chain and also check out the other items in your category.
- Every retailer has their own strategy for e-commerce which means suppliers need to support these different initiatives. Spend time on the websites and make sure your products are correct and people can find them and buy them.
- Some trends like sustainability and delivering value are still there. It is easy to be consumed by the changes from the pandemic but the vast majority of consumers still shop for value and we know food waste and other sustainability issues are still on the radar for consumers and retailers.
Consider these trends and others as you work to understand your customer better. You can always ask questions like”
“What are your priorities in the next 6 months?”
“With the increase in traffic at retail are there any incremental opportunities for off shelf merchandising?”
“Given the increase in sales is it possible to change our minimum order?”
“How is your e-commerce offering working?”
Customers like it when you are interested in their business. Yes, it is always a negotiation, but when you are interested and trying to find opportunities to improve the relationship, it does make a difference.
It is Easter week. Did you know the Thursday of Easter week is usually the single biggest day in food retail sales? Stores will be busy and retailers will be focused on maximizing the sales opportunity and managing the traffic safely.
If you have any questions about how to get your local products on the shelf or in the shopping cart you can always call me at (902) 489-2900 or send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org.