WHAT'S IN STORE?

"One reason electronic marketing programs fall short of my needs is they have largely focused on retailer needs with some assumptions about what manufacturers want," said Glen Griffiths, McNeil Consumer Products Co., speaking at a conference in Chicago in August. I find this view really interesting because I hear the opposite from the retailer side. As a matter of fact, most retailers will tell you

"One reason electronic marketing programs fall short of my needs is they have largely focused on retailer needs with some assumptions about what manufacturers want," said Glen Griffiths, McNeil Consumer Products Co., speaking at a conference in Chicago in August. I find this view really interesting because I hear the opposite from the retailer side. As a matter of fact, most retailers will tell you that one of the problems with the big electronic marketing vendors that went out of business was that they were too focused on manufacturers. But let's examine what we mean by "focused." Citicorp and GTE planned to make a lot of money "selling" data about consumers to the manufacturers. One of the reasons these vendors dropped out of the electronic marketing business is that retailers didn't feel there was enough in the programs for "them."

But selling data isn't what Griffiths meant when he said the programs fall short of his needs. He's talking about manufacturer involvement in designing the promotions that will enhance brand marketing from the manufacturer's perspective. I agree that the programs could be designed better from a manufacturer's perspective. So why aren't the manufctures in there helping design them? Or maybe that's the question Griffiths was asking.

Retailers and electronic marketing vendors would be happy to have some assistance, but there are some complications. One is that manufacturers usually require (justifiably) item-level detailed information about their products' sales prior to, during and after the electronic marketing promotion. Capturing this kind of information is like exponentially increasing the capture of basic scanner data by the number of consumers who purchase each stock-keeping-unit. And if you've been paying attention lately, you already know that a lot of retailers still aren't getting basic scanner movement data right. Griffiths also talked about the main distinction between manufacturer and retailer viewpoints being that retailers function on a more macro level, wanting to grow sales at a category level instead of individual brands. This is true, unless of course, one manufacturer's brand provides the retailer a higher gross margin than another's. Even that situation is difficult for retailers to measure. Most retailers just don't have the data, or if they do, the time to analyze it to evaluate product profitability down to the SKU level. Griffiths accurately pointed out that manufacturers can be extremely helpful in consumer research about which incentives shoppers will respond to, and for how long. This type of study is sorely lacking in our indutry. I vote that the manufacturers place some emphasis on it, and soon. Good research on what consumers really want would be invaluable to everyone as these programs continue to develop. What we're all missing here is a focus on the consumer. That's where retailers and manufacturers should work together to ensure the success of electronic marketing programs. Since the Efficient Promotion part of Efficient Consumer Response will be largely focused on electronic marketing, maybe we'll see more of that emphasis in the near future.

Carlene A. Thissen is president of Retail Systems Consulting, Chicago.