Knowing Your Retail Partners – Q&A with E Fundamentals

Picking the right retail partners is a challenge faced by every brand. Invest too much in the wrong channel, and risk heavy losses, while the right channel can be a long-term, sustainable source of sales. Here, John Maltman, CEO, E Fundamentals, tells RetailTechNews why brands need to be doing more to analyse how their products are performing across different retailers, and how they can optimise their online selling strategy

RetailTechNews: How does E Fundamentals’ technology work?

John Maltman: E Fundamentals is an SaaS Service that measures how effectively brands are being marketed and sold through online retail stores. We help our clients figure out how to do a much better job in that area. We go onto retail websites and capture all the information that the shopper is presented with to get insights around what they see when they’re shopping online.

We then compile all the data and establish the effectiveness of the product representation through ‘The 8 Fundamentals’ framework: the framework we developed to measure brands and category performance. ‘The 8 Fundamentals’ is what you need to get right to be effective as an online retailer.

What makes us different is that our service was designed by sales and marketing people to be used by sales and marketing people. Our platform is jargon-free, intuitive, and focused on delivering insights that are highly relevant to the individual user’s job. It’s a valuable tool that can be used to increase sales and profit.

How does this help retailers better engage with their customers and drive their bottom line?

Firstly, by figuring out how to communicate with shoppers in a highly relevant and authentic way. Secondly, the service captures a lot of intelligence about what is going on within a chosen category: including new products, price fluctuations, and promotion strategies from various brands, manufacturers, and retailers. An enormous amount of intelligence is gathered very quickly, which can be used to help make decisions on important aspects, such as what product assortment to keep, where and how to promote, which suppliers to work with strategically, and how to communicate effectively with target shoppers.

Thirdly, brands using E Fundamentals can improve their working relationship with retailers by making both parties happy with the presentation of the products online and the increase of sales. Brands can quickly and simply see exactly what changes need to be made to their online listings to improve their sales on retailers’ websites and run detailed reports.

Traditionally, there has been a lot of friction between retailers and brands in implementing requested changes, due to the amount of moving parts in such complex organisations. Now, instead of going back and forth between large teams of people on both sides, each with their input, there can be clear instructions communicated between retailers and brands detailing exactly what amends need to be implemented to achieve their mutual goals.

There are three key promises we make to our clients. Firstly, that the information is presented in the language specific to their roles. The second key promise is that all the intelligence they receive from their data will be actionable. The third promise is that when the insights are acted upon, they will drive sales and profitability.

Are brands currently doing enough to track the success of their campaigns and messaging on retailer’s websites? If not, where are they falling short?

No. The reason is that many suppliers see the costs of implementing campaigns and programs across retailers as just a cost of doing business. When they look at the economics, they can see that they get a far better return from running a display promotion in a physical store than they do for a communication promotion with an online retailer. That will all change due to several trends coming together to make this way of working unsustainable.

All of the really big international businesses are working hard to drive productivity. That means making sure that their money is being used wisely. They are going to want to know that anything they invest time and money into – whether it’s in a retailer’s store, or on social media, or advertising – it’s going to be able to demonstrate a return on investment. They are going to look very carefully at which retailers generate the best returns. As they start to understand the various touchpoints in the path to purchase, they won’t necessarily have to spend their money in one specific part, but can pick, choose, and combine, depending on effectiveness.

Why is tracking the success of brand campaigns and messaging on retailers’ websites important in the current retail environment?

It is all about searching for ROI. The money they spend in the path to purchase starts away from the retailer and builds towards to place of purchase. Understanding the value of each will result in the money flowing to the touchpoints that work and drive conversion.

This is the same for both retailers and brands, especially in the current retail environment where, due to constant connectivity, the engagement with the shopper has grown outside of the brick-and-mortar environment. Brands now need to compete with each other for share of voice on every medium; and retailers are competing through innovations in the supply chain for share of a rapidly growing online marketplace. In a complex system of engagement like this, it is very difficult to gauge the effectiveness of individual campaigns and initiatives on sales growth.

If you think about this search for answers in terms of what is working and what is not, it is going to be enabled by big data and advanced analytics. Manufactures are going to want to be able to have all the causal data they can get and map it with the sales data from all sources and be able to say what worked and what didn’t. This becomes much easier as they build the capabilities of advanced analytics. It’s an exciting opportunity, if you are a retail business that believes in marketing to your own shoppers and you want your marketing to be as good as possible.

What does the future hold for E Fundamentals?

The future is very exciting. There are three things that we are particularly interested in:

Firstly, expanding our service to new clients, new retail channels, and new markets, as we grow internationally through working in partnership with our global clients. Health & beauty and consumer electronics are a focus right now, as we see so much potential for these areas.

Secondly, we are very interested in adding a whole new layer into E Fundamentals that brings the ability to provide solutions as well as provide insights that will be valuable in helping clients to get to the solutions to their business problems.

Thirdly, we see tremendous opportunities in combining our data with other data sets to create cause-and-effect analysis, specifically by working alongside sales data. There are a lot of exciting cutting-edge projects that we are developing, such as applying machine learning and big data to come up with some really powerful answers to some of the big commercial questions that are instrumental to every ambitious company like: Where should I spend money? Where should I invest?