Mind the Store

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Whole Foods Can Partner with Brands to Improve Customer Experience

Gina Ashe, CEO
by Gina Ashe, CEO
Friday, April 6, 2018

It’s no secret that tensions between Whole Foods and its suppliers and vendors have been on the rise in recent months. As Whole Foods revamps its in-store strategy, it has started charging vendors more for things like prime shelf space and in-store product demonstrations. Plus, there are new policies that require vendors to pay heavy fees for brokers. The changing policies have left many suppliers, especially smaller vendors, feeling shortchanged.

These tensions came to a head recently, as Whole Foods held a summit with key vendors. The grocer announced a partnership with Amazon Prime to offer consumers exclusive discounts, stressing to vendors that buying into this new model would help them grow. But the grocer, known for its authenticity and quality among consumers, could be choosing to invest in strategies that empower its vendors to shape and optimize the customer experience in stores, bringing their brand to life in ways that will drive more sales over the long term.

Collaborating Around Real Time Data Drives Sales

For starters, Whole Foods has a real opportunity to use data to drive a more collaborative relationship with suppliers in their stores. Today, there is a significant amount of wasted resources in stores, due to the lack of data sharing between retailers and suppliers. More often than not, suppliers are forced to “spray and pray” with their scarce marketing and field team resources, allocating both with little or no information about the real opportunity to grow sales in stores.

Suppliers have been working to fill that void themselves, utilizing companies like ThirdChannel to put a range of data sources in one place, at their fingertips, to make real-time business decisions. Data helps brands identify sales drivers, so they can generate specialized action plans to optimize the shopping environment.

For example, one leading beverage brand found that by creating an on-brand, well-located, engaging customer experience, they were able to lift sales in the long run. In fact, 72% of consumers who bought the product after engaging with the demo were first-time buyers, showing how a data-driven engagement can help brands grow their market position.

Analytics platforms enable brands to deliver an authentic branded customer experience for Whole Foods shoppers, while also allowing the retailer to maintain overall control over their own brand. And, when the customer experience is optimized, sales will be higher. It’s a win-win for both parties.

Leveraging Authentic Brand Representatives Drives Sales

Ideally, vendors want to have their own representatives in stores – brand reps who are knowledgeable and enthusiastic about their products and can elevate the consumer experience. Vendors don’t want to share reps with their competitors for obvious reasons. It’s clearly a conflict of interest. By creating an immersive, optimized customer experience, brand reps drive more sales, benefitting both the brand and retailer.

Yet, Whole Foods wants to create a new revenue stream and charge vendors for shared reps. Platforms that share data – in both directions, between the retailer and the suppliers – will help drive more sales in the long run. Whole Foods has an exciting opportunity to collaborate with vendors to bring customers the immersive experiences they’re looking for. And, delivering engaging, educational brand experiences is one of the best ways to bring people into stores.

Solutions like ThirdChannel can help match exclusive, on-brand representatives to each supplier. Knowledgeable, enthusiastic brand reps help keep both the vendor and retailer happy, by keeping products moving, elevating the consumer experience and therefore the perception of both the retailer and the brand.

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