No matter the industry, the need to align with colleagues and partners on ideas, data, and shared initiatives is of vital importance. The good news is that we live in an age where tools are available to make sharing both scalable and social, so colleagues and partners can collaborate in meaningful ways and drive innovation. This is especially true in the merchandizing and marketing space, where retailers and manufacturers are trying to better understand the shopper and each other's business processes. Both sides of the industry have acknowledged that controlled sharing of data and analytics produces greater results in assortment, shelf space, category management, pricing, and promotion decisions.
But collaboration is more than a joint planning meeting and more than simply sharing data. It's a way of doing business that defines how retailers and manufacturers go to market, day in and day out. It requires data and tools but it also depends on people and processes. While retailers may be more interested in shopper dynamics and category health, manufacturers' need to better understand consumer events and brand profitability must also be supported. Bridging this divide through increased collaboration and social context will help both parties generate positive results across the marketing and merchandising spectrum.
Collaboration is not only a philosophy; to be truly successful it requires considered process. To create a solid and sustainable collaborative environment, retailers and manufacturers should consider the following:
- Who: Decide who should be involved in your organization and who they will be interacting with in your trading partner's organization.
- What: Define processes and roles, and know exactly what you are trying to accomplish.
- Where: Determine what information should be shared in a secure, online environment and within which community groups.
- When: Establish a collaborative timetable that considers joint goals, availability of information, and sets milestones for key tasks
Data inconsistency, inappropriate tools, and lack of defined objectives and processes are all considered barriers to collaboration. There are now solutions available that introduce social context to help overcome these issues and help foster the alignment of goals, strategies, and processes. For example, online collaboration networks allow trading partners to leverage the same underlying analytical assumptions to drive better business planning decisions for how to price, promote, and assort the store. But beyond the analytics lies a deep layer of social knowledge sharing. These networks also include profiles, member communities, activity feeds, and document sharing to add a critical layer of social context to the analytical decision making. This added level of context ensures that all parties are in synch, supporting more profitable business decisions for both retailers and manufacturers.
Collaboration is a two-way street and being part of a social community means giving information, as well as receiving it. Here are a few final considerations:
Key considerations for retailers:
- Active participation in member communities helps break down barriers and is the foundation to collaboration.
- Leveraging embedded activity feeds, where available, helps elevate business opportunities more efficiently.
- Sharing basic insights and analytics with trading partners in short bursts is foundational. If not full reports and access to analytical dashboards, consider sharing key short updates posted to a forum or activity feed.
Key considerations for manufacturers:
- Broad and geographically distributed communities, such as customer account teams, are well served by social tools and help coordinate internal thinking with trading partners.
- Invite retailers into category-specific communities to iterate through plans and to determine relevant consumer opportunities.
- Collaboration should be part of the broader sales enablement process. Plans will be more easily sold-in if they are previewed in activity feeds and shared documents.
Retailers and manufacturers that use avenues like online collaboration networks, detailed collaborative sales enablement processes, and social context will help both parties boost their business performance and improve marketing and merchandising results.
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About the Author: Armen Najarian is vice president
of corporate marketing at DemandTec