A former executive at 7-Eleven and Giant Eagle, Brooke Hodierne, EVP – Strategy Consulting, discusses where CPGs can evolve joint business planning and take more control
Joint business planning (JBP) is mission critical for retailers and their consumer goods partners. It’s a months-long process that runs from the starting line, through various checkpoints and past the checkered flag. JBP is when retailers address goals, category strategies and marketing initiatives, and CPGs bring insights, innovation and investment in the pursuit of growth.
After going through various stages of the process to see where the parties’ strategies align, they then settle on product assortment, pricing, promotions, shelf space, marketing and e-commerce decisions. The process is deliberate, but generally powered by old data and slide presentations. It needs a boost.
In my view as a former retailer, CPGs can light that fire and revamp JBP through new data and near real-time data and insights. CPGs can leverage more accurate and intelligent predictive analytics to chart a better course at the beginning of JBP, maintain their efforts throughout the year, collaboratively work to “gap close” and, frankly, drive more of the conversation.
This is the type of intelligence that will keep CPGs at the top of a retailer’s list.
Where CPGs Can Level Up During JBP
No matter the technology or industry advancements, a part of JBP will always be like playing three-dimensional chess. Both retailers and CPGs hold back just enough information for competitive reasons while being as transparent as necessary to drive win-win and mutual benefit.
It’s understandably complicated, but within that chess match, there are ways CPGs can help improve the process overall. Here are tips to gain a better standing in JBP:
Be Insight Rich
You’ve heard the saying, “data rich but insight poor,” and this can pertain to many CPGs. The companies might be swimming in data but often they either don’t have access to it, can’t digest and harmonize it, or can’t synthesize it quickly enough to make it actionable. This often occurs during JBP and it can be obvious to a retailer when a CPG purchases data for the sake of saying yes but doesn’t shape it to a specific retailer’s customers or goals.
Honor the Deadline
A retailer’s internal planning deadlines need to be taken seriously. For years, retailers granted extensions to certain brands while negotiations continued, but in a world where teams are under-resourced or in the middle of reorganization, CPGs going into a JBP thinking there will be an exception will miss the boat. If a deadline isn’t met, the decision will be made for you. The retailer, with or without you, will make a final decision on the brand plan, space, pricing and promotional strategy. It can even come down to a retailer not including a brand’s new item introduction. Instead, they’ll choose the competitor’s new item because they followed the process.
Fair Share Isn’t Always Fair
Every category is different — especially when it relates to allotted shelf space in stores. For CPGs entering a JBP with a retailer, they need to know their place in the category and be prepared to not always earn their “fair share” of space. From the retailer’s view, there always will need to be extra space reserved to make room for private brand introductions and innovations that excite a category from smaller, emergent, challenger brands. A CPG can’t merely expect to receive their fair share, so plan ahead and prioritize the brands and products that will deliver the most growth and differentiation.
Keep Stakeholders in the Know
Perhaps the single biggest issue to disrupt a JBP is when Sales teams don’t bring key decision makers along for the journey. In large, matrixed organizations, it’s especially important to expand discussions early and often with members of finance, revenue growth management and marketing.
CPGs that can improve processes around these tips can come to a JBP with better expectations and an understanding of a retailer’s priorities and constraints. But there are also ways CPGs can win over a JBP meeting.
Where CPGs Can Shine During JBP
Lest we forget, retailers also have a lot of room to improve in how they handle JBP meetings. But, with technology like AI, CPGs are in a grand position to rewrite the game. They can change the tone of meetings with precise, accurate, forward-looking data. They can earn more control over how their products are received by bringing rich insights that help grow an overall category. Here’s where CPGs can win in JBP:
Bring Clear-Eyed Data
Retailers look to CPGs for data and insights. CPG organizations can leverage AI to run “what if” scenarios in real time that foster forward-thinking, collaborative conversations with retail buyers. The data accounts for all the ways retailers can play on their chessboard, which helps them develop rich category plans with more clarity. Using technology to detail the why, and share the explainability factor goes a long way with a buyer, and helps them also explain their decisions to their leadership teams.
Invest Toward Category Growth
Rich data that can present a predictive view of the entire category — not just how your brands sit within it — ultimately will win over a retailer. Data that highlights an investment in overall category growth and that arms a CPG to be the smartest person in the room when it comes to their product and the total category can be a massive game changer.
Forget the Rear View
For years, JBP relied on CPGs coming to the table with insights based on historical data. Brands looked backward, referencing what happened a year ago to predict what will happen in the year ahead. It’s simply not accurate. Do you behave the exact same you did last year? I know I don’t so why would we believe a customer would? There is so much change in shopper behavior and macroeconomic trends that it can’t be relied upon. The windshield is bigger than the rear view for a reason. Let’s all start looking down the road.
AI Can Power Your JBP
Just as AI and machine learning can revolutionize how CPGs perform annual business planning, CPGs can leverage the technology to vastly improve how they meet with retailers and master JBP.