Why your relationship with the supermarket buyer is key to keeping your brand on shelves

Brands also need to think about not only how their business will grow but also how the brand will deliver growth to their retail partner and forging a close connection with the category buyers is key.

2018 is predicted to be a tough year for retailers, but what about the brands supplying these retailers? Not only are brands jostling for consumer attention, they also have to work extremely hard to get the buy-in from the buyer in the first place. And nowhere is this more challenging than in the FMCG sector where increasing competition is ripe. So how can brands ensure they maintain their on-shelf presence?

Start at the beginning

From the early development stage, brands need to be sure they are creating meaningful products that are going to appeal to today’s savvy, price conscious consumers who are used to having everything at their fingertips. It may sound obvious but when it comes to the grocery sector, consumers are spoilt for choice; a loaf of bread is no longer just a loaf of bread – there are hundreds of different varieties making it critical for brands to identify who their customer is, what they want and how they shop. Brands also need to think about not only how their business will grow but also how the brand will deliver growth to their retail partner and forging a close connection with the category buyers is key.

Develop customised ranges

Australia has a diverse and multicultural population, which influences the way we shop. With improvements to technology and the growing accessibility of data, brands and retailers need to partner together to consider how they can tailor ranges to suit what customers want. This doesn’t mean expanding product ranges but focusing more closely on the features that their local customers actually require for a more targeted approach.

Retailers have a responsibility to stock products that appeal to their locations’ demographic and age, salary and ethnicity all play a crucial role in what type of groceries make it onto supermarket shelves.  Brands need to be in touch with what makes their ranges appealing to these different demographics. For example, a large university town with cash-poor students may be price sensitive when it comes to groceries, but they are also likely to be more socially responsible and prepared to spend a premium for locally grown, organic groceries; supermarket category buyers are attuned to this and will seek products that appeal to their local customers.

Understand how customers shop

In a competitive market, understanding not just what customers want but how they shop different categories is key. Is the product one that consumers have been conditioned to shop off the shelf for or is it predominantly driven by impulse purchases near the check out? Do they need to be prompted to buy the product or is it one they will go searching for, such as milk? All of these factors play an integral role in how products should be merchandised to maximise sales.

You have to be smart around how you present your product in store. It’s not as easy as just going after price or an off-location; you have to align with the retailer on what purpose the off location will serve for their customers and how it will deliver the desired result. This comes down to a combination of many elements such as category seasonality, product and price strategy and shopper needs. As a supplier, you may also have other campaign activations in place to drive awareness in store, such as below the line advertising. Brands need to work with their retail partners to ensure campaigns align to in-store objectives and it’s imperative that the customer’s needs are placed at the heart of these objectives.  

Build store engagement

Brands need to make sure they are engaging the retailer at every level; it’s no longer good enough to simply liaise with head office. Getting to know critical stakeholders within the entire supply chain to shelf is crucial.  

Working closely with the retailer at a local store level will help ensure supply meets shopper demand in store at the right time so your product is less likely to be understocked. This is where a field marketing agency that uses intuitive technology can be invaluable because this, in conjunction with the relevant available data, can enable deployment of field resources to those stores where the biggest opportunity (and therefore return on investment) exist.

At the end of the day, field marketing has become more about how brands engage more effectively in store and the more you can help store managers understand where opportunities exist and support to action, the more successful your products will be at satisfying the needs of the customer and retailer and therefore endure greater success in the category.This is why the trend for brands to outsource their field marketing is on the rise.

We have access to software analytics and the ability to spread staff further to ensure they are visiting stores in response to a genuine need, rather than just simply scheduling a repeat visit.  Field marketing agents are in stores three, maybe four times a week building relationships while addressing the needs of many different products. This gives us valuable insight into what works well from an activation point of view which we can then share with the retailer.

Ultimately, the buyers want to work with brands who understand their business and will work with them strategically as partners to drive growth objectives. Field marketing agents are increasingly positioned to do this through market intelligence and greater resourcing abilities.

We simply love retail - to see how we can help your business or start a conversation about the retail landscape, please feel free to contact us via email or on +61 2 9439 1233.

Andrew Bosco

Andrew Bosco

With over 10 years’ experience working across grocery, FMCG and technology sectors, Andrew has extensive industry knowledge and a deep understanding of buying and merchandising. Through his experience at Canon and Mars Food Australia, Andrew also has a strong understanding of what category buyers are looking for and is particularly well versed in building store engagement and forging relationships with retailers.