Crowdsourcing Category Insights with ECRM  5/6/2018

Following ECRM's Pet EPPS last week, I spoke with a buyer from a national retail chain who was new to the pet category, and she remarked that, as someone new to the desk, our session was helpful in quickly bringing her up to speed. After just three action-packed days, she felt she left with a great foundation of knowledge and connections to help her succeed in her new role.


While ECRM’s EPPS sessions bring together buyers and suppliers for the purposes of product discovery and category planning, they also provide a great opportunity for learning the latest trends and newest product innovations. For buyers, particularly those new to the desk, these sessions can provide an immersive “crash course” on the category and an opportunity to learn from the true experts in the field -- their peers.


Retailer panel discussion at an EPPS


Buyer-seller meetings at an ECRM EPPS

This happens in several ways. First, there are the educational programs; at the Pet EPPS, for example, ECRM led off with two educational programs: on the opening night, Packaged Facts presented its latest research on Pet category trends, and this was followed the next morning by a panel discussion during which three retailers gave their perspectives on key industry trends and issues.


Then, there are the supplier meetings. The dozens of supplier meetings a buyer goes through connects them with key industry players and provides a great overview of the product innovations happening in the category. After 60 of these, you pretty much know what’s going on in this area.


Finally, there are the networking functions. At our Pet session, these included breakfast, lunch, cocktails and dinner each day, including one offsite dinner at Texas de Brasil. According to one buyer, these opportunities are equally important as the meetings, since they provide her with the opportunity to compare notes with industry peers, and to even discuss the pros and cons of the various products they have reviewed in the meetings.


Insights for suppliers

For suppliers, ECRM’s sessions – in addition to giving them the opportunity to get on retail shelves – provide a platform from which they can gain insights on the category and their products, packaging, and go-to-market strategies from the buyers in attendance. Indeed, I often tell suppliers: “You should come away with something from every meeting; either a follow up that could lead to a possible order, or information on how to improve your product or business.”


In some cases, suppliers take this concept to a new level. Procao Amazonia is a great example of this. Export Coordinator Marlon Brito attended our Pet EPPS two years ago with one specific goal: he wanted to gain insights from buyers on how to take his product – which was a success in Brazil – and adapt it to the U.S. market. Based on feedback and recommendations from the more than 50 buyers he met with that year, he completely rebranded his products and changed the packaging, and had a very successful session this year (see video).




As a result, many of the buyers he met with this year were happy to see their suggestions manifested in his new packaging. It reminds me of a comment a candy buyer made to me last year: “Rather than try a push a product that’s not quite ready for us, I’d rather see that supplier take my information, incorporate it into his offerings, and then knock it out of the park next time I see him.”


So whether you are a buyer or a seller, next time you are at one of our sessions, remember that you have a wealth of knowledge in the brains of those around you, and plenty of opportunities in which to tap that knowledge.


Joseph Tarnowski

VP Content

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