Having had the experience of working within a large German retailer private brand team, developing private brands across categories, I was truly surprised at how one-dimensional in most cases their supplier engagement was!
While working with potential and existing private brand suppliers in both Germany and across Europe, suppliers basically only looked at providing private brand teams with the minimum private brand products, based on exactly what the private brand team was seeking.
When the product was accepted, and the specifications were agreed, signed off and then input into the PLM solution, the one-dimensional dialogue ended unless one of the following major issues arose: quality, delivery or price increase, etc.
Whilst having some central platform offering transparency across the private brand team and supplier base is a valuable tool - whether it be a PLM or specification management solution (perhaps in-house or off-the shelf), it really continues to promote the one-dimensional dialogue between the private brand team dictating and the supplier delivering (sometimes…).
Private brand teams are increasingly under pressure to launch as many products as possible (and hopefully innovate) with limited time and resources for supplier engagement, relying on a PLM solution that includes some ‘communication’ where emails can be sent and tracked if they have been opened, approved and responses recorded is not in my mind engagement, yes, it's communication, but look at the cost?
The cost is hard to quantify, but is the cost to the private brand of not delivering private brands in conjunction with suppliers based on consumers’ needs, wants and perhaps even non-met needs. While I am not discounting the merits of PLM solution and its associated benefits – an essential element of a complete due diligence system - the communication piece is a far cry from going beyond the one-dimensional dialogue. The aim must be a true collaboration where the private brand team and the suppliers share consumer behaviour and experiences with the private brands across the categories and product assortments, to not only improve existing products, but also have a real chance at developing those innovative products that in the end create a real customer bond to that retailer and a loyalty that is truly unquantifiable!
At Solutions for Retail Brands (S4RB), our clients who recognize the value of a Unified Brand Experience and have implemented our Affinity platform have an incredible opportunity to lay the groundwork and foundation to create the loyalty all retailers private brand teams are seeking. The collection and dissemination of that customer feedback with their interaction with the private brand products and the sharing of that with the suppliers truly leaves mere communication by the wayside and brings true engagement with suppliers to a level where retailers can reap the benefits. In the end the customer will either reward us all for listening to them and becoming private brand advocates or avoid us for turning a deaf-ear by spending their pay check elsewhere.