It's been a challenging few years for retail, not only for retailers themselves, but for vendors too.
In order to keep ahead of what’s a fast-paced and challenging IT consumer market, they must invest in new products and engaging promotions to ensure their brand is the one everyone’s talking about. Return on Investment (ROI) is being monitored more closely than ever before.
The MD of Retail Profiling, Mike Evans, explains: “To hit this ROI target, vendors have looked traditionally towards either hiring a costly in-house team or a tactical FMCG field marketing solution to service that investment in retail. But that either pushes up the cost significantly, or doesn’t necessarily produce profits.”
He believes in another approach, however, and one that he says has been delivering results for many leading global IT brands.
Evans started Retail Profiling in in 1994, following 15 years in senior management roles at a number of leading retailers. It’s a specialist sales optimisation company with a team of permanent field-based regional sales developers. And with headquarters in Yorkshire and regional offices situated in Hemel Hempstead and Schiphol, Netherlands, the organisation has a spread right across NEUR.
The company, which has grown year on year, and now employs over 50 full-time staff, was created with a core principle at its heart – ‘to provide genuine, exceptional, strategic and channel sales optimisation for IT brands’.
Evans comments: “We only support IT brands, so rather than applying traditional FMCG field marketing to the very different requirements of the technology sector, we focus on working closely with vendors to identify the intelligent channel opportunities, ensuring they are aligned with retailer strategies, and then deliver genuine sales optimisation results every time.”
Retail Profiling provides vendors with a syndicated model, to share travel costs with complementary brands, but rather than assigning temporary/tactical staff, they deliver through a full-time team with existing local store relationships and high level of product knowledge, permanently employed within the business.
Evans says: “Utilising this model provides all the benefits and capability of the very best full-time brand teams, but typically with 35 per cent reductions in cost and almost unlimited scalability. This combination is not possible for tactical teams, or full-time solus teams.”
“Our centralised logistical planning provides a daily routing schedule that allows our vendors to have a fully trained regional sales developer within an hour of any store within the UK.”
To explain exactly how this approach work, Evans talks PCR through a specific example with tech manufacturer ASUS.
“ASUS makes products in almost every conceivable category of information technology. Its foremost mission is to deliver truly innovative solutions that in turn inspire consumers to reach for greater heights of productivity and fun, and they wanted this aim to be reflected within their presence in retail stores.”
When winning the ‘hearts and minds’ of consumers is often the determining factor between success and failure in the retail channel, the importance of people cannot be underestimated. Evans knows this all too well.
“That’s why ASUS and other IT brands demand people who can capably represent them face to face. ASUS felt that tactical casual teams would not have the commercial capability or knowledge to be able to build relationships and influence retail buying decisions.”
Retail Profiling is an authorised training partner with all of the leading retailers across NEUR and holds quarterly residential training events for its teams.
“We invest massively in training our teams, because it is the key ingredient to our success and therefore our vendors’ success in retail,” Evans comments. “Ensuring our teams have the highest level of credibility in store is one of the major reasons why they work with us.”
It’s even got its own ‘Retail Profiling Academy’, which is the focal point for all training and staff development, and helps ensure that its team is operating at the highest knowledge level when it comes to representing brands within the channel. Vendors are given the opportunity to deliver direct sales and product information at these regular events throughout the UK and Benelux.
As competition heats up with online retailers and big supermarkets, other PC and tech retailers must focus on their unique selling point – the relationship they can build with customers and the knowledge they can share, this ultimately benefiting vendors too.
Evans explains: “ASUS looked to focus on back to basics; starting from the bottom up, building relationships with key store staff, raising overall brand and campaign awareness to then delivering hands-on product training to ensure that all store staff were knowledgeable product ambassadors.”
“In turn, ASUS gain detailed insights and valuable in-depth feedback and this has enabled them to react quickly to store and market conditions, helping them refine further retail strategies and giving them the power to make qualified commercial decisions through highly effective channel insight. It also highlighted any technical or sales issues that could impact on future sales opportunities. Intelligent information from the market is critical for our vendors.”
Later, John Swatton, UK marketing manager at ASUS, tells PCR: “ASUS has been working with Retail Profiling in the UK since October 2010. It’s provided us with invaluable support via a range of services including in-store training, compliance checking, brand advocacy and end-user demonstrations.
“Throughout the campaigns, we have seen a consistent increase in overall sales, particularly our focus products.”
Evans concludes by saying: “Here at Retail Profiling we are still 100 per cent focused on the same core principle of providing genuine, exceptional, strategic and channel sales optimisation as we were at the outset. Our collaborative and energetic ‘can- do’ attitude and our track record of success, spanning over 18 years, for many leading global brands, is testament to the value behind that principle.”
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