ECRM’s Virtual Session a ‘Seamless’ Experience for Clorox 5/25/2020
“If anybody will pull this off, it’s going to be ECRM.”
This quote was from Bob Richardson, Director of Customer & Industry Development for The Clorox Company, when he learned that ECRM had transformed its private, pre-scheduled, face-to-face meetings from an in-person into a virtual offering. “When you look at your heritage, this is what ECRM is known for: technology,” he adds.
Clorox was one of the supplier participants in ECRM’s Healthy Living, Vitamin & Nutrition session, the first in the lineup of category-specific virtual programs ECRM launched to enable buyers and sellers to conduct business during this time of restricted travel.
Over the course of four days, ECRM hosted more than 630 virtual meetings on a custom platform that was built, tested and launched over the course of several weeks, and features a variety of tools to drive the efficiency and effectiveness of digital face-to-face meetings.
Richardson, along with Alla Scharlinski, Clorox’s Customer Development Manager for National, Grocery and Club, participated in dozens of meetings with buyers from major retail chains who were looking for the latest in vitamins and supplements, particularly (and not surprisingly) with a focus on immunity-boosting properties, of which Clorox has plenty under its Better Health umbrella of brands.
“We have four awesome brands in our portfolio,” says Scharlinski. “Renew Life is a probiotic and cleanse brand. Rainbow Light specializes in premium multivitamins, and is really well known for prenatals in particular. Then there is Natural Vitality Calm, which is a magnesium brand, and last, but certainly not least, we've got NeoCell in our portfolio, which is a premier collagen brand.”
“COVID-19 has forced people to take a look at their health, and we see that immunity products are surging in sales, and we offer several different products that really help folks enhance their immunity function,” she adds. “First and foremost, multivitamins, which is the obvious one. Our business has surged in that arena, and we offer a full line of men's, women's children's and teen multivitamins. Our formulas are not only A through Z complete with therapeutic potent ingredients, but we also overlay superfoods and probiotics and digestive enzymes to enrich the nutritional content of our products, but also make them easier to digest.
Listen to the full podcast interview here
"But we don't stop there. Immune health really stems from gut health, so our probiotics are really important to take right now. Renew Life has premium formulas that are now non-GMO, and you can't have strong immune health if you don't have a strong gut health."
Virtual Session Prep
To ensure that Richardson and Scharlinski were set up to have successful virtual meetings, Andrea Kumse, ECRM’s Director of Customer Success, worked closely with Richardson and Scharlinski to get them set up on the platform, including building their company profile that included an overview of their company, a summary of their “wow factor,” product images they wanted displayed for buyers to see during their meetings, as well as presentations they might want to share during their presentations.
“Because we've been participating in ECRM for years now, you guys had our information already in the system, and Andrea was able to plug and play into this new interface without us needing to really get too involved and re-submit information,” says Scharlinski. “She really took the workload off of us, and prepared us beautifully.”
In addition, Kumse took them through a dry run of the virtual platform to ensure that their settings were correct, that there were no technical issues logging on, and to teach them about the various platform tools such as the meeting notes, meeting ratings, presentation and screen-sharing functionality. Once it came time for the live session, the Clorox team was ready to go.
“It was seamless,” says Richardson. “Alla and I have worked together for quite a while, so know our roles very well. Mine's big picture, take notes, cover the Clorox issues if there are any, and she's the resident expert. And the benefit of being able to take the notes, me typing instead of writing, was great. And then the transition from one meeting to the next is quick. That actually went quite well.”
Both also found the interface intuitive for buyers as well as sellers. “It felt very natural, and the retailers and ourselves took to it quite easily,” says Scharlinski. “The interface was seamless, which obviously is key in this whole thing. So the technology worked, and the participants were familiar with the video conferencing already. And the marriage of the two just came together perfectly.”
ECRM’s Quick-Reaction Team
When you are dealing with hundreds of different computers and wi-fi connections, hiccups are bound to happen in this virtual world. Indeed, anyone who has watched a news program over the past two months has no doubt seen incidents of connection problems. During virtual sessions, ECRM’s Client Success, Tech Support and Scheduling teams are continuously monitoring a dashboard on the back end, and are alerted instantly if a user clicks the Contact Support button. They then immediately reach out to that user via text or call and work with them to get the issues resolved and reschedule the meeting.
And while there were surprisingly few incidents during this virtual session, those that did happen were addressed lightning-fast, as Clorox was able to witness firsthand when one buyer lost her Internet connection. “We did run into one hiccup during meetings, and I was really pleasantly surprised how quickly ECRM jumped in to acknowledge the issue,” says Scharlinski. “Our retailer's internet access dropped off, and she was dropped from the meeting. But ECRM stepped in, and rescheduled the meeting within a couple of minutes. And we were back online with her at the next opportunity, which was about 40 minutes later. It was awesome. They absolutely rose to the occasion there.”
Virtual platforms also provide additional opportunities for suppliers that they may not necessarily be able to take advantage of during in-person sessions, such as including additional team members in some meetings where needed, or for training and education purposes. When developing the platform, ECRM stress-tested it with more than 20 team members in a meeting at one time, and while it doesn't recommend bringing that many people, the platform can easily accommodate several on each side at a time.
“This format would allow us to bring in some people from our R&D group, for example, who can talk about why the new gummy line is state of the art,” says Richardson. “We probably wouldn't fly that person to a meeting in person, but I will say this will complement other resources that you can bring to the party. In addition, we have a lot of new people coming into the business who have not made these face to face conversations, are not used to the rigor of one call after another. So we can maybe include some for training, to be able to see Alla present. We can't always bring those people to the sessions because of expense. So beyond the technical complement of resources, it is a great training tool.”
One definite result of the pandemic has been the evaluation of travel by both buyers and sellers, many of whom now realize that virtual can help them eliminate unnecessary trips. “The wear and tear of business travel is very real, and the cost of business travel is very real,” says Scharlinski. “This is an awesome complement to business travel. Not all business travel is necessary, and I think people are starting to reevaluate the frequency, and to have a supplement like this is really quite relevant to our experience today. I think in the future, having a hybrid model just makes a lot of sense in our new technology world. Let's make our tech work for us, and this is a great example. You guys have really risen to the challenge and have done something very timely and on point.”
Richardson, who is definitely no stranger to business travel, agrees. “Now that we've opened up a Pandora's box and seen that there is an alternative, you'll get a blend of this. Just keep doing what you're doing – you guys are leading edge on technology, and kudos to pulling this one off.”