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PCR talks to Victoria Satterly about the company's retail knowledge and range of services

Interview: Channel Assist

Victoria Satterly, business development director at Channel Assist, talks to Helen French about the range of channel services the firm has to offer.

Can you tell us a bit about how Channel Assist came into being?
Channel Assist was set up to address the challenges experienced by vendors selling or wanting to sell in the UK retail market. We recognised that there was a gap between what distribution can realistically achieve for vendors and what the vendors themselves had the in-house capability to deliver.

The agency was designed to add value to the retail opportunity by underpinning the traditional tripartite retailer-vendor-distributor relationship with an independent layer of in-depth retail expertise.

Do you feel you offer more retail knowledge perhaps than the brands can bring to the table themselves?
Retail is by necessity a labour intensive channel that requires detailed knowledge of individual retailers’ systems, processes and mechanics to effectively realise the opportunity they present.

The expertise of most vendors lies in product development, positioning and marketing. We complement that by bringing retail expertise into their resource mix. Our multi-level relationships, market knowledge and retail know-how enables vendors to grow revenues quickly bypassing the learning curve often required to build the skill set in-house.

As an outsourced solution our agency model helps increase the efficiencies in go-to-market strategies without the overheads and risks typically associated with in-house headcount.

It’s clear that what you do covers a wide range of services – perhaps some that brands don’t know about and could put to good use – can you briefly describe them?
We provide an end-to-end retail solution that supports vendors at all stages of their retail growth strategy. For new vendors starting from a standstill point, such as Urbanista, we may combine building brand through targeted PR and trade marketing with channel development. For more mature vendors, such as Adobe, we tend to operate as an extension to in-house sales and marketing teams. Typically this will involve the multi-level management of key retail accounts from head-office level through to store level.

The breadth and depth of our relationships frees in-house sales teams to focus on strategy and growth without getting bogged down in the day-to-day management of complex retail accounts.

A key growth area for you is managed field marketing.
Yes. Field marketing solutions support sales store level through a combination of merchandising, compliance and training. The challenge for vendors is that when issues are identified in the field they are left with information that they perhaps do not have the knowledge or time to resolve.

Leveraging relationships we have with both retail head office teams and store personnel, our managed field marketing solution combines the traditional field marketing approach with efficient problem resolution. We call this a full circle solution since it supports sales growth through continuous action and communication between head office planning and store level execution.

What kind of PR do you do at Channel Assist?
We call our PR approach ‘grassroots’ PR. The focus is on generating coverage in a wide range of press to specifically drive footfall to retail. Without the distraction of corporate messaging we identify product-specific opportunities to increase consumer awareness. By creating messaging that is adapted to appeal to a variety of consumer groups we achieve coverage outside of traditional tech press.

What sort of clients do you work with, and who do you see yourself working with in the future?
Historically we have worked primarily with brands looking to break into the UK market. This is still an interesting area for us, but we are focusing more on new product categories such as ‘Appcessories’. There are also more and more products being developed that are challenging traditional product categorisation due to the convergence of technologies. Interestingly we are now working more and more with larger global players such as Sanus that are looking for innovative solutions to give them the edge in a competitive market.

As our service propositions evolve we are attracting a wide range of vendors spanning a broad set of product categories. By staying flexible and adapting to the changing demands of retail, the future for Channel Assist is looking exciting.


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