FMCG cos bank on speed to win

Cut Time To Market Amid Downtrading Fears During Slowdown

Mumbai: Fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies are using speed as a competitive weapon to win in the market place, especially when talks of a slowdown bring the possibility of downtrading into sharp focus.

Growth in the FMCG Industry has not lost steam even as other sectors have slowed down, but there is concern about a possible impact considering a deficient monsoon this year. The industry believes there is one weapon which can help companies win, and that is speed.

A Boston Consulting Group (BCG) report, ‘Speed To Win’, says increased agility can solidify a competitive position, boost profitability and reduce risk. It says for standard new product development, a seven months time to market can separate the best in class from average players. But would it also work in a slowdown? “In slowdown situation it is even more important as the consumers typically start to change their consumption patterns and it is important to refine the offerings (in terms of price pack architecture, composition and packaging) to ensure alignment with the consumer requirements,” said Abheek Singhi, partner & director, BCG.

A company can outpace its rivals by increasing its market share, boosting its negotiating leverage towards trade and positioning itself as an innovator and the mantra is: standardize, prioritize and mechanize. Take the case of Nivea lipcare. Speed helped the company redefine this category with the trade in terms of merchandising and distribution. The category was treated like an “impulse confectionery” and not like a traditional skincare category. “Our actions have followed out thoughts and results are there to be seen. We have been quicker than most of competition in developing the premium lipcare category for Nivea. All our initiatives have hit before competition, be it variety/price points/distribution. This has given us leadership,” said Rakshit Hargave, MD, Nivea India.

With compressed product life cycles, especially in some of the newer categories, being quicker to the market is a great advantage. “Speed to market is important, not just with new product development but also with reaching out to the consumer and ensuring that even the remotest of corners of the country get the products in a short period of time,” said Sunil Duggal, CEO, Dabur India.

Dabur integrated its consumer care and consumer health businesses and this was the genesis of ‘Project Speed’, which was designed to help the firm cope up with challenges by leveraging the power of its combined product portfolio through a unified sales & distribution structure. Dabur has also put in place an initiative to double its rural reach. The company is hopeful that this would enable it to have a direct access to 3,000-population villages across 10 states that account for 72% ofthe rural FMCG potential.

Some other examples are brands from mid-sized companies like Paras and Emami which were successful in gaining share as their product development times were shorter than others in the sector. When Emami conceived the idea of a men’s fairness cream, it knew it had a winning concept. What was important, however, was to ensure that it was put into market at a speed before others. “We were able to go to market within just under a year from the time the idea was conceived. This requires great agility. It took our established competitors by surprise as elements of marketing were in place within the short time,” said N Krishna Mohan, CEO, sales, supply chain and human capital, Emami. As a result, Emami enjoys market leadership in the category.

“Empowered companies with flatter and decentralized decision making structures can outpace its rivals in speed to market. This, when accompanied by stronger local consumer insights can develop into a potent competitive advantage,” said Saugata Gupta, CEO, consumer products division, Marico.

Taming the Data Deluge

Marketers and consumers struggle with the volume of data the world now generates. David Benady asks how the two sides can jointly control the tide, including the advent of brand ‘data stores’.

Data is inundating the economy, overwhelming consumers and businesses with swathes of information that they struggle to comprehend. The overload is set to spiral as social media, mobile and geo-location technologies spew forth yet more reams of data.

With billions of web searches made every month, more than 20,000 new books published weekly and more texts sent daily than there are people on Earth, data is increasing exponentially. The number of exabytes (EB – equal to 1bn GB) of information created in 2011 hit 1750, double the 2009 figure, according to IDC estimates. There is twice as much data as storage capacity.

This torrent of data makes it hard for marketers to ensure their brand messages are heard above the noise. Consumers have become reluctant to open the floodgates to receiving more irrelevant information, and some are wary of providing personal details.

Research company TNS has analysed the way in which consumers ‘eat’ at this table of information and created five consumer segments based on their readiness to absorb data. It calls the data deluge ‘information obesity’, and looks at the way people create their own ‘eating plans’.

You are what you ‘eat’
‘Fast foodies’, it says, consume the easiest, lightest data they can find. ‘Supplementers’ devour as much information as they can. ‘Carnivores’ consume only meaty chunks – whole books and in-depth research. ‘Fussy eaters’ are loath to consume information from any source, while ‘balanced dieters’ never consume too much information; what they do take comes from a variety of sources.

TNS marketing sciences director Russell Bradshaw says these ‘eating plans’ are a good way for marketers to target resistant consumers. ‘By understanding the predominant “eating plans” that exist among their brand franchises, brand managers and chief marketing officers have a tool for maximising the reach, resonance and values of their campaigns,’ he says.

TNS analysis suggests that ‘carnivores’ are more likely to shop at Marks & Spencer, while ‘fussy eaters’ tend to stock up at Asda. This gives M&S leeway to bolster its communications, giving customers big, meaty chunks of information they can savour slowly. Asda, meanwhile, would do well to deliver information in bursts and offer online nuggets such as tweets to appeal to voucher-hungry customers.

Marketers acknowledge that segmenting consumers by their propensity to consume information can be useful, but many see it as an add-on to the already tough task of identifying relevant audiences.

David Torres, global manager of chemicals technology at Shell Research, says that Shell intends to embed the TNS eating plans into its work, adding that brands need to search the data they have for clear and relevant insights.

Meanwhile, Stephanie Maurel, head of retention at Sport England, says the ‘eating plans’ could be useful if blended with other tools. ‘The TNS data obesity segmentation makes a lot of sense and rings true anecdotally. It is a great idea to segment by the information consumers are prepared to receive, although perhaps this is an extra step to be added to current tools,’ she adds.

Maurel’s role at Sport England is to use data to help various sports’ governing bodies to increase participation and attendance, a challenge for smaller sports, such as hockey. One solution is to take data from grassroots sources, such as social media, and integrate it with i n fo r m at i o n from elite sports events.

While small sports may be unsophisticated when it comes to data collection, Maurel says some governing bodies are using real-time data to build their popularity.

British Cycling, for example, gets feedback from locally organised Sky Ride mass-cycling events and feeds it through to its board meetings. This, in turn, helps it shape the way in which Sky Rides are organised.

For many brands, the UK’s data-chain is dominated by retailers. They control the all-important information about sales, which they then sell back to brandowners. Nonetheless, retailers, too, are suffering from information overload, according to Chris Osborne, retail principal at software supplier SAP. A recent survey by SAP found that more than half of retailers believe they have more information than they can handle. ‘Structured’ data – such as till receipts showing items purchased, times of day, quantities and prices – has been around for decades. Osborne advocates combining this information with ‘unstructured’ data – such as the random chat of social media – as the next great challenge for brands and retailers.

The prize will be to build a total view of each customer’s likes, behaviour and loyalty, and target offers accordingly. A crucial step is ensuring both types of data are gathered and acted upon in real-time.

Osborne believes the development that will enable this is ‘in-memory’ data analytics, where the data is stored in the computer’s memory for quick retrieval, rather than on a conventional database where it is stored on a hard disk, making it harder to access and wasting capacity.

He envisages a two-track economy where success will depend on efficient use of data. ‘The retailers that win out will be the ones that are very careful about how they use data and don’t swamp consumers with irrelevant offers,’ adds Osborne. ‘Retailers that create competitive advantage are (also) careful about how often they communicate with consumers.’

Useful data vs ‘noise’
Given the retailers’ iron grip on data, some brands have turned to comparison website Mysupermarket.co.uk to gain access to information about their own performance through mini-shops on the site. Reckitt Benckiser, Kellogg, Danone and Nivea are among those to have created such stores.

James Foord, vice-president of business development at Mysupermarket.co.uk, says brands are only just beginning to grasp the distinction between ‘data noise’ and what is useful. The site allows brand-owners to create a direct relationship with consumers and thus control their data. Brands can analyse the battle between their products and stores’ own-label versions, for example – data retailers rarely release. ‘This is the tip of the iceberg of what is possible. Brand stores will open up a whole new level of insight that has real value,’ adds Foord.

The battle for data control is about more than simply capturing as much information as possible and keying it into a database. Finding ‘smart’ data can save time and money in research and bring significant benefits for brands. The challenge is to find the pieces of information that help a brand locate its best customers and give insights into their motivation for buying a product.

Mike Dodds, chief executive of integrated agency Proximity, recalls a cat-food brand’s CRM programme in which customers were questioned about their behaviour. The question that delivered the best data was: ‘Do you celebrate your cat’s birthday?’ The responses helped the brand discover the most involved and valuable customers.

A potential barrier to the development of data-driven marketing will be consumers’ attitudes to privacy and control of their personal details. The online giants, such as Google, Facebook and Twitter, have built their businesses on getting users to give up their data in return for ‘free’ services. If the public refuse to play, this could put a spoke in the wheel of the data economy.

Chris Combemale, executive director at the Direct Marketing Association, says brands have to be upfront about privacy and make their policies simple and readable: ‘If you can’t put the policy on one page and make it clear, you have an issue.’ He also warns brands to avoid being ‘creepy’ online – by serving ads based on details consumers thought were private – which, he argues, can make digital marketing appear intrusive.

Modern marketing is essentially a battle for data. However, consumers themselves have the ultimate weapon: to switch off and stop sharing their information.

Technology was supposed to make life easier, but, in reality, it has made the world far more complex. The task of creating marketing campaigns that get heard above the din will only get harder still in a society deluged with data.

Marketing © Brand Republic

IBM Buys Retail Forecasting And Merchandising Software Company

IBM has made a major purchase today in the commerce and retail world—DemandTec, a retail marketing and merchandising software company. IBM is acquiring DemandTec (which listed on the Nasdaq) in an all cash transaction at a price of $13.20 per share, or approximately $440 million.

DemandTec provides retailers and e-commerce companies with tools to transact, interact, and collaborate on core merchandising and marketing activities. DemandTec’s cloud-based analytics software allows businesses to examine different customer buying scenarios, both online and in-store, so retailers can spot trends and shopper insights to make better price, promotion, and assortment decisions that increase revenue and profitability.

For example, retailers can predict how consumers will respond to a price change before making the change. Or a merchant and supplier can work together to understand how one shopper segment differs from another to create a targeted merchandise plan.

DemandTec’s use of cloud-based price, promotion and other merchandising and marketing analytics helps companies better define the best price points and product mix based on customer buying trends. Essentially, DemandTec uses data analysis and forecasting to make the retail world smarter.

DemandTec customers include Best Buy, ConAgra Foods, Delhaize America, General Mills, H-E-B Grocery Co., The Home Depot, Hormel Foods, Monoprix, PETCO, Safeway, Sara Lee, Target, Walmart, and WH Smith. DemandTec also has a portfolio of 31 patents in the areas of pricing, response analysis, and promotion analysis.

For IBM, the acquisition is all about its smarter commerce initiative. IBM estimates the market opportunity for Smarter Commerce at $20 billion in software alone.

IBM’s recent acquisitions include Algorithmics, and Tririga.

Rural India Laps up Diapers, Colognes, Sanitary napkins.

Rural consumers are buying diapers, salty snacks, colognes and even contraceptives other than condoms like never before, despite signs of falling demand for traditional FMCG categories such as shampoos and soaps in hinterlands due to unabated inflation. Data from Nielsen, a global provider of insights and analytics, shows that tens of contemporary and indulgent product categories including sanitary napkins and chocolates are growing at high double-digit rates in Indian villages (see graphic).

“The rural mindset is open to consumption of newer, more contemporary categories, as a result driving consistent growth,” says Nielsen India VP Prashant Singh.
Nielsen categorises rural markets as those with population of less than 5,000, but there could be some exceptions. It estimates that the country’s rural FMCG market will grow to $100 billion by 2025 from $12 billion in 2011.
For MNCs like Procter & Gamble and PepsiCo, it’s an achievement of sorts to have broken ground in rural markets, by initiating consumers into newer categories such as diapers and salty snacks and upgrading them from unbranded or regional products to branded ones like in the case of cooking oils.
So, how did they achieve this?
P&G adopted the classic and tested strategy of betting on low-volume, lowpriced packages — sachets in the case of detergents and shampoo, and, for diapers, a pack of two at Rs. 15.  The move has paid off.
“We have seen a near doubling of the diaper category in rural India over the last two years,” says P&G Brand Manager (Pampers) Girish Kalyanaraman.
P&G launched the country’s first lowpriced trial pack of two Pamper diapers two years ago, educated people in rural areas about the benefits of uninterrupted overnight sleep for babies; and ran an awareness campaign on Doordarshan and satellite channels. Result: Demand for diapers has grown 90% a year in the last couple of years.
American snacks and beverages maker PepsiCo is another company that achieved tremendous growth in rural areas. Besides using fixed low price points such as Rs. 2, 3 and 5, PepsiCo has been using innovation, backward linkages for procurement and expanded distribution to drive growth in the hinterlands, a PepsiCo spokesman said.
“There’s a massive under-served demand for hygienic packaged snacks; we are expanding our manufacturing footprint and investing heavily in expanding distribution,” he said.
The company has moved away from centralised manufacturing and, instead, partners with local entrepreneurs across the country to cater to regional preferences and tastes, using locally grown ingredients. Examples for this include the extension of Kurkure brand to three local variants — Mumbai Usal, Bengali Jhaal and South India Spice—and testing of Lehar Iron Chusti puffs and biscuits at Rs. 2 in Andhra Pradesh. Kolkata-based Emami—maker of Boroplus anti-septic cream and Zandu Balm pain reliever—broke into the rural cooking oil market with a Rs. 5 pack of its edible oil Healthy & Tasty. “Rural consumers are used to buying unbranded or loose oil from local kirana shops for Rs. 5 or 10,” says Emami Group of Companies Director Aditya Agarwal, explaining the idea behind the low-cost edible oil packet.

Pharma Cos’ Rural Growth Doubles on Sales Push

Rural drug market grew 18.8% in FY11 against 10.9% last year

Pharma companies have seen rural market sales doubling on the back of aggressive marketing initiatives. Improved access to healthcare and rising incomes have seen a stronger perk-up in the underserved rural market over the past year. 

For the 12 months period ended April 2011, India’s rural drug market grew 18.8% compared with 10.9% in the previous year. This is a sharp jump from the growth rate in the same period of 2009, when the rural market had actually shrunk by 2.1%. In April, rural drug sales grew by 28.6% against 12.4% and 2% in 2010 and 2009, respectively, data from IMS Health Information and Consulting Services show.

Though rural markets account for a modest 18% of the . 58,000-crore domestic drug market, drug firms and analysts expect this segment to sustain the high growth rate and increase its share in the pie. Interestingly, while the share of metros — 30 cities with population over 10 lakh — in the country’s drug sales continues to rise, the smaller class I and class II-VI category towns are witnessing a decline. In the last year or so, top Indian companies such as Ranbaxy, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, GSK and Sanofi Aventis have ramped up their sales and marketing force hiring hundreds of sales personnel to push sales to the country’s hitherto neglected hinterland. India’s largest drugmaker by sales, Ranbaxy Laboratories, increased its field force by 1,500 or 50%, the largest recruitment drive in the past decade. Apart from adding marketing muscle, pharma firms have also aligned their product portfolio for the under-penetrated rural markets, said Kumar Hinduja, acting MD at IMS Health Information and Consulting Services India.

For one, French firm Sanofi Aventis plans to double its market share to about 4% by launching generic drugs targeted at rural markets at low prices. For this, it hired about 500 people while other big players such as Dr Reddy’s, GSK and Elder Pharma also added hundreds of marketing personnel to beef up its sales network in rural towns. Sujay Shetty, director, life sciences and medical devices at consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, said companies need not realign their marketing plans because the different segments are complementary. Besides, the rural market numbers were earlier subdued because many traders used to come to big towns and cities to buy their stock, and were thus accounted in non-rural numbers.

Metros continue to grow strongly because they have huge commercial potential, while the relatively lower growths in Class I — VI towns was due to gradual decrease in patient traffic from rural areas to these towns, following improvement in healthcare delivery levels, said Hinduja. 

Merchandising and Shelf Management to latch shoppers

Back in the “old days,” store brand product merchandising was easy. A retailer simply placed its store brand widgets to the right of the national brand widgets on the shelf, and called it a day.

But times – and store brand products – have changed. Most food, drug and mass merchandise retailers have made significant improvements to the quality of their own-brand products, and many of them now boast multi-tiered store brand programs. They want shoppers, therefore, to view their own brands as true brands.

Accomplishing that mission is easier said than done, however. After all, retailers lack the deep pockets of the national brands when it comes to marketing. For that reason, merchandising plays an especially critical role today in attracting consumers’ attention – and dollars.

Photo by Vito Palmisano

“With limited ad dollars to support these brands, merchandising may be, in some cases, the only way to differentiate them versus national brands beyond price,” stresses Mike Kowalczyk, vice president and general manager of the In-Store division of Livonia, Mich.-based Valassis, a media and marketing services company.

Andres Siefken, vice president of marketing for Daymon Worldwide, Stamford, Conn., agrees that strong merchandising plays a significant role in store brand growth. Effective merchandising techniques not only help drive transactional sales of store brand products, but also help make such products more accessible in the store – educating consumers and driving incremental trial.

“Data [have] proven that many people developed a better perception of private brand quality during the recession,” Siefken adds, “and that people tend to keep buying private brands after trying them.”

With rising fuel and commodity pricing wreaking havoc on consumers’ budgets, proper merchandising is even more critical than ever, notes Scott Kern, management consultant for the Parker Avery Group, an Atlanta-based boutique strategy and management consulting firm.

“While merchandising is always important, in these times of household financial stress, merchandising of private label is critically important,” he says. “Merchandising must ensure there are price-competitive private label offerings as part of the assortment for the value-conscious shopper, but not so many private label products that they take up too much of the assortment and push out brands that customers are loyal to, thereby driving them to competitors.”

Consider the shopper
Before devising any sort of strategy for a store brand merchandising overhaul, retailers will want to gain a strong understanding of basic shopper behavior within a store.

Photo by Mimi Austin

“Humans deselect before they select,” explains Dorothy Allan, vice president, business intelligence for Plano, Texas-based Crossmark, a sales and marketing services company focused on the CPG industry. “There are 7 billion people on the planet, and all of us sort and class information the same way. It is a very efficient way of processing millions of data points in a short period of time.”

That reality does not amount to an invitation for retailers to clutter up their stores, Allan notes. Instead, they need to be decisive about product placement and create a pattern within the store onto which shoppers can latch. She points to a personal example from her annual holiday store walk.

“The majority of stores were ‘painted’ with red and green displays,” Allan says. “Four months later, the one I still remember more than any other was a gum display. It was light blue and had a great offer and true appetite appeal. It certainly broke through the sea of red and green.”

Consumers also approach store shelves and displays with a mindset that varies according to the category, notes Todd Maute, a partner and senior vice president with CBX, a New York-based branding and design firm. For example, a shopper has a different mindset when he is looking to buy a differentiated product such as laundry detergent than he would have in a commodity-type category such as canned vegetables.

“I think it’s in retailers’ best interest to understand the value and role that private label plays in the category,” he says, “because the role the brand plays in the category will vary, and the role should help shape the merchandising strategy.”

Because geography also plays a part in in-store shopper behavior, retailers should take location into account in store brand merchandising.

“Localization of the merchandising strategy based upon the store demographics seems to provide the most consistent performance results,” says Daniel Galvin, executive consultant for the Parker Avery Group. “Price optimization is also most effective when combined with clear brand demographics at the local level.”

Rethink placement
Whether merchandising store brands, national brands or a combination of both, placement is key, Allan says.

“Perfect pairing or solution sales are one of the eight rules of shopper marketing,” she notes. “Make it easy for the shopper to say ‘yes’ and save time in store. Studies show if you can help the shopper find what they need more quickly, they will use the balance of their time to shop and buy more!”

Photo by Vito Palmisano

How much more? Allan says a shopper with 100 items on her list will walk out of a “shoppable” store with 104 items, citing a retail shopability study from Dr. Ray Burke of Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business in Bloomington, Ind. Therefore, retailers must find a way to engage the shopper and fortify the emotional connection with her. Building trust is all-important here, so the brands that will come out on top are those that are “authentic” and live up to their promise to the consumer.

“While innovation is important, the fundamentals of having the right products in stock – in sight and in the right locations with the right message or offer – are key to driving shopper loyalty,” she emphasizes.

The multi-tiered aspect of many retailers’ store brand programs, too, presents a challenging but exciting merchandising opportunity, Maute believes. Premium products, for example, have no national brand match for comparison purposes. And when niche store brands such as organics are added into the mix, the complexity only increases.

“You can have a three- to four-brand presence in a given category, so merchandising is critically important to communicate that you’ve got depth in the category – you’ve got price if they want price, and you’ve got unique and differentiated if they want unique and differentiated,” he says.

Maute points to New York-based Duane Reade as one retailer that really knows how to merchandise its premium food tier right along with its opening price point items. The retailers’ assortment of premium cookies, for example, gets a prime eye-level space block, with its no-name skyline-themed value brand situated below it. The national brand, meanwhile, gets non-prime placement, meaning Duane Reade gives its own brands the star treatment.

Still, the traditional approach – with store brands placed to the right of the national brands on the shelf – does still make sense for certain products and certain categories, Maute says. For example, it can work with ibuprofen or canned commodities to suggest store brand quality is on par with that of its national brand shelf-mates.

“At the same time, if you’re trying to say you have breadth and depth in the category – and different types of canned fruit items, for example – you might want to block set them together because then you will have a much larger presence in the category versus being checker-boarded throughout the aisle,” he says. “And some of those aisles are quite large.”

When done right, cross-merchandising also can be an effective element in a store brand merchandising strategy.

“The cross-promotion of private label products with complementary national brands is a great way to drive sales for both and provide solutions for shoppers at the same time,” says Jeff Weidauer, vice president of marketing and strategy for Vestcom, a Little Rock, Ark.-based specialist in retail shelf-edge solutions. “One of the more successful implementations we’ve seen is to include a private brand product as a tie-in to every end cap in the store.”

The best strategies, Weidauer adds, strive to build customer confidence in store brand products, treating them as quality brands in their own right instead of simply low-cost alternatives.

Retailers also should support strategic store brand placement with additional marketing, says Rick Davis, CEO of Davaco, a retail services provider headquartered in Dallas. He says point-of-sale and other store signage, in-store coupons, promotions and “seasonal pushes” all are proven methods of moving product and boosting category sales.

Go above and beyond
With all of the current interest in store brand product innovation, retailers also have a huge opportunity to infuse a bit of innovation into the merchandising of such products. Shopper-engaging placement could involve the creation of category “destinations” within the store, Siefken’s favorite innovative strategy. Although he notes that the vast majority of “good retailers” have been busy creating such areas, the best ones pull it off by going beyond just entertainment – they have an “experiential” focus. Moreover, such destinations make a fine showcase for premium and specialty-type private label offerings.

Photo courtesy of CBX

Siefken points to Schnucks’ Culinaria with cooking classes inside the store, Wegmans’ tea bar/center and Carrefour’s wine club/in-store destination as great examples. They make for “retailtainment,” he says, providing a total product and category experience.

The approach also allows shoppers to use all five senses in key categories within the store to drive incremental category sales, Siefken says. Moreover, such creative merchandising really sets one retailer apart from another.

For his part, Maute sees opportunities for retailers to merchandise store brand “solutions” in certain categories, rather than facing off product by product against the national brands.

“I think there’s probably value in assessing if it makes sense to merchandise the ‘baby solution’ versus diaper to diaper, baby oil to baby oil or wipe to wipe,” he says. “And I think you’re seeing more and more private label expand into the perimeter of the store – you can also block set in those categories.”

‘One of the more successful implementations we’ve seen is to include a private brand product as a tie-in to every end cap in the store.’
– Jeff Weidauer, vice president of marketing and strategy, Vestcom

Speaking of category-specific merchandising, Kowalczyk likes what Supervalu has done in the launch and merchandising support of own brand pet offerings.

“Through an innovative positioning and strategy perspective, they have introduced a viable alternative to pet owners with their evoked set of brands,” he says.

And Kowalczyk points to product coupling as the “next level of innovation” on the store brand merchandising front, a practice that once was limited to the national brands.

“The costs for both in-home and in-store coupling strategies and the associated tactics are such that private label products can now reach consumers actually seeking to test, try and hopefully become loyal,” he stresses.

Another innovation gaining traction on the merchandising/marketing side is digital signage, Davis points out. In addition to being an easy-to-change, cost-effective configuration that helps to sell products, the technology can serve multiple functions within the store.

“For example, some retailers are selling advertising space on their digital signage for incremental profits,” he says. “And because content is controlled from a centralized location, retailers are even using their digital signage to facilitate internal training programs to be reviewed before or after store hours.”

Siefken believes integrated programs, not stand-alone programs, are the wave of the future. They are not so easy, however, to pull off.

“My advice is to take a close look at how the world has evolved and how people are now all connected,” he says. “It’s easy in theory for a retailer to create a program around their brands and integrate it with a social media strategy. The problem I’ve seen is in execution.”

He advises retailers to seek outside help from the experts when they need it here.

Photo courtesy of Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market

“The new integrated programs will not only help drive sales, but store traffic and loyalty,” he adds.

Although grocery retailers generally have been slow to adopt new technology – in part because they realize razor-thin margins in comparison to other retail segments – Galvin expects mobile retail to play a bigger role in grocery’s future.

“In the near- and mid-term, the increase of retail price optimization and the basic blocking and tackling of marketing and merchandising coordination, brand management and supply chain integration are likely to absorb any grocery retailer’s appetite and capacity for change,” he says.

Avoid mistakes
When it comes to store brands, no one merchandising approach will fit every retailer or every category – a combination of different approaches almost always will work best. But the most successful retailers also will be careful to avoid some common merchandising missteps.

The most common of these mistakes is not treating own brands as real brands, Weidauer contends.

‘Creating clear brand architectures that are relevant to the defined target demographics are critical to maximizing private label success.’
– Scott Kern, management consultant, Parker Avery Group

“This results in poor shelf placement, meaning not at eye level or without a sufficient number of facings,” he says. “Retailers should merchandise these products as if they are proud of them.”

Failure to give store brand products their fair share of end cap placement and over-promoting these items on a price-only basis also are mistakes to avoid, Weidauer says. Ongoing price promotions not only weaken the value proposition for the shopper, but also change the perception from “quality alternative” to “cheap substitute,” he contends.

Compared to retail “leaders,” retail “followers” tend to have longer planning and strategy cycles, Kern notes – 12 months or more. What’s more, they typically fail to coordinate marketing and merchandising to the extent of the leaders.

Yet another common retailer mistake, Kowalczyk says, is not using all the tools available to them in store.

“While TV, magazine and traditional advertising may not be in the budget for most private label brands, using call-to-action tactics such as signage, at-shelf couponing and advertising certainly is within reason and has been proven to grow these brands as much, if not more so, than other forms of support.”

Too often, retailers do not take consumer demographics into the product development plan, Kern says, which ultimately has a negative impact on merchandising. By offering a single brand for all store brand products, he believes retailers send “muddy messages” to shoppers and typically reap less-than-optimal results.

“Creating clear brand architectures that are relevant to the defined target demographics are critical to maximizing private label success,” he says. “Many grocers tend to focus on low-end private label products, and there remains an opportunity for premium private label offerings in such areas as organics. Multiple brands focused on targeted brand demographics enable clearer messaging and can be price-optimized to compete with national market equivalents and value-priced competitors.”

Finally, Maute believes many retailers underestimate the relationship between product design and merchandising. The two are so connected that his company attempts to get a handle on a retailer’s merchandising strategy before designing a new store brand package or packaging line.

“We’re working with one customer that is very active in the promotion of frozen commodities, and products tend to move a lot because of promotions,” he says. “We actually changed the design strategy to get more continuity across colors and items so that even if the items do move around a lot, they still get a good brand presence. If we didn’t understand that merchandising strategy, we probably would have approached color more on product than on brand.”

Meet Groupon’s Indian rival Snapdeal

Until January last year, Wharton graduate Kunal Bahl and his IIT batchmate Rohit Bansal could be spotted across restaurants and retail outlets in Delhi suburbs trying to sell discount coupons to both owners and their potential customers. 

At 25, Bahl had quit his cushy Microsoft job based in Seattle and even convinced his IIT Delhi alumni Bansal to take a leap of faith in 2007. “We used to wait for hours in the heat outside small restaurants, where we wouldn’t have eaten even if we had to pay,” says Bahl.

When a restaurant owner told the duo earlier last year that he had got five customers from their website Jasper Infotech, it became an inflection point for Bahl. He launched Snapdeal.com — now popularly called India’s answer to Groupon, the world’s biggest provider of daily online deals.

Since January this year, Snapdeal has been growing its revenues at over 100%, selling unused inventories of everything from sunglasses, wallets and even travel packages, totalling over 10,000 discounted deals everyday. “We sold about 2,200 Reebok Sunglasses, in a day, at an 80% discount deal.

About 400 packages to Kerala were sold in February. Our model is to go after unsold distress inventory,” says Bahl who along with Bansal had to shell out $3000 for buying the Snapdeal.in domain name — an investment that’s paying off well.

Along with Taggle, MyDala and Koovs.com, Indian e-commerce is now seeing a rise of young companies attempting to woo customers online with lucrative deals. The model is quite similar to how Groupon makes revenues (or losses at the last count). Snapdeal.com charges about 35% upfront for any deal.

The rest has to be paid directly to the merchant on delivery of service or good. The employees job is to get discount deals from mer-chants. They also handle customer calls and delivery of products. With 400 staff on the payroll, Bansal and Bahl want to get a share of India’s $500 billion retail market, of which nearly 18% is services business offered by sites like Snapdeal.

Globally, Groupon created waves earlier this year when it was valued at around $1.35 billion. Snapdeal too attracted attention of the legendarySilicon Valley investor Vinod Dham in February last year. Both Dham and Bazee.com co-founder Suvir Sujan invested nearly $12 million.

The website plans to close at over Rs 100 crore in revenues by December, within a year of its starting up. “It’s the two years we spent slogging at small shops in Delhi, trying to persuade them to buy our scheme is what is helping us. After all discount and group buying sites existed before we came in,” says Bahl, his hair uncluttered, as if not slept in days. Right now, Dealoftheday.com, Letsbuy.com and Groupon owned Sosasta.com, are all competitors.

But Snapdeal claims to have 70% share. “Our first priority was to make our brand felt across India,” says Bahl. Mumbai local trains are now painted with Snapdeal ads. In Bangalore, government buses which ferry IT workers are covered head to toe with Snapdeal banners. The multi-storeyed CyberCity towers in Gurgaon have large Snapdeal hoardings too. “The eight-lakh strong jungle of IT workers in Cybercity in Gurgaon is just the audience we need,” he says.

In the middle of the floor, just outside Bahl’s cabin is an LCD screen, which shows a seven-digit number moving faster than the clock. The company just crossed five million registrations this month. “Our target audience is between 18 and 35 years who loved to spend on the nice to have things like a good restaurant dinner, a soothing spa, or a pair of luxury sunglasses.

The distributors who are not able to sell directly sell at rock bottom prices through our medium,” he says. The discounts are heavy — up to 90% on the maximum retail price. Snapdeal charges upfront about 35% of the amount of the deal, for which the user has to pay online. “Even if a user is not able to avail the service or product due to any reason, at least he has not paid the whole amount,” says Bahl.

The company has now overtaken LivingSocial in last three months in terms of number of visitors, as per Alexa.com, to become the most visited group buying site just behind Groupon.com. “We are now getting offers for acquisition running into amounts so high, that we won’t have to work a single day in our lives,” says Bahl who together with Rohit and the management team owns 50% of Snapdeal.

Websites like MakeMytrip have partnered with Snapdeal to sell unsold inventory, for instance unsold seats on a chartered plane to Bhutan, which it can’t do on its own website. “I have already made it clear that even if I wasn’t owning the website, I would rather enjoy working for it as it’s so exciting,” says Bahl, just back from a trip to Darjeeling. Bought from Snapdeal, where else?

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