We ask the PCR Retail Advisory Panel what they think

What are the best ways for vendors to support retailers?

Whether you’re online or offline, what helps your business?

Free POS and marketing materials? Training? Informative micro-sites? Reps coming to visit? Free samples? PCR finds out…

The key thing I feel suppliers need to do to support retail is to really get involved in creating a partnership, right down to understanding the retailer’s range and pricing architecture and working closely to complement this rather than looking at one-off products.

It’s a sense of owning the range in partnership with the customer that is key to long-term growth.

Suppliers that learn how the retailer’s internal systems work and ensure product setup information and content is in the format that makes it easiest for the customer can save so much time, making them a first port of call.

Also, suppliers who truly take an extended ownership of their products once they are sold into the retailer are worth their weight in gold.

Having someone who works with all the key stakeholders within the business to ensure every aspect is a success from goods-in to the web content, product returns and staff training; this is a winning formula that makes the supplier integral to any business.

Does the word ‘support’ actually mean vendors will support you, or that they want you to buy their product? Surely you will buy their product if it’s right for your business?

With so many vendors all competing for our business it is us, the retailers, who should be setting the bar for what support actually means.

For some it’s about getting the right product at the right price without having to meet targets, complete multiple forms every quarter, make numerous phone calls and deal with multiple people. For me it’s about being able to sell a product and make a margin that’s worth it. I don’t want to have to satisfy the vendors’ ‘partner’ programmes to buy their products. I want it quickly and at a price where it’s worth stocking. Vendors often allow their prices to be trashed by the retailers in the top tiers of their partner programmes, but where does that provide support to the masses of smaller retailers? Hands up if you receive visits from vendors who big up their products then throw POS at you?

Vendors need to connect with retailers in the same fashion that retailers connect with their customers. Give us the best possible price for the right product without the obstacles.

What vendors could really help retailers with is empowered account teams and speedy responses.

Buyers often have to escalate discussions and this leads to problematic delays as retailers can see sales trajectories daily and often want and need to respond quickly.

Consistent artwork and richer content are also required as more and more people research on the web; vendors need to have this available and provide resource to build it specific info for retailers.

Research suggests that 70 per cent of shoppers will have made all or some of their decisions before stepping into a store and for the younger generation they will never bother to go to a store except to pick up products.

As a complex multi-route-to-market business we need support in a variety for mediums. For our offline business we require regular vendor training sessions, onsite physical marketing materials and a constant means of contact to both sales and technical expertise. On top of that our offline channels rely on quality marketing assets and the ability to work closely with vendors to develop customer-led messaging that will both drive awareness and ultimately sales.

We do find that not enough vendors value localised marketing and often rely upon centralised departments with limited understanding of the needs of the UK. If more adapted to understanding the channel and our customers then our business would benefit hugely – and end-users would have a better experience.

While the team at Utopia are often inundated with POS materials, mostly consisting of flyers and posters, this type of material usually ends up going straight to the recycling bin. Also large catalogues surely should be resigned to the history books? With so many products available online I think vendors’ marketing funds would be put to better use if they encouraged retailers to check out their latest products on the web.

Event/exhibition support also allows retailers to push their brand even further, while advertising the vendor at the same time. This ideally consists of financial support as well as product SOR, allowing us to take less risk and attend more events, increasing exposure.

I have always found the best way for a new product to get attention is when the vendor sends it to us for testing. I can guarantee that when a box with a shiny new product appears in the workshop the whole team are looking at it and eager to try it first.

Seagate has a great programme called ‘Test & Review’. It sends us new kit we can test, use in a review PC and then keep it. It really is awesome and almost guarantees that we use its drives in our system reviews, so it’s win-win for both parties.

TP-LINK is a Brigantia ‘club’ vendor alliance partner and is a great example of what a good vendor can be doing to assist indies with retail outlets and showrooms. In late May, TP-LINK offered Brigantia members 50 boxes of great POS materials. A message was emailed out and more than 50 members responded within 24 hours.

It also provides members with regular member-only offers around the most popular SKUs and provides previews of new products before they become generally available in the channel.

Training is another excellent benefit and at Brigantia small regional seminars are held eight times a year where a limited number of our alliance partners present to members the ‘how to’ of their products and services. The Brigantia portal is used to link in with vendors’ websites and product orientated micro-sites. Vendors’ video content is used where appropriate and members are frequently directed to vendor webinars.

Brigantia and other communities are a good way of removing the need for vendors to put as many representatives on the road. Due to having members rather than customers, Brigantia also removes any barriers between the vendor and the reseller.

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