Trade Promotion Vendors Kick It into High Gear

Digital transformation is evident in the vendor landscape for trade promotion management today. The evidence is in; and it appears that consumer products manufacturers now have a wide range of choices for both cloud and on-premise solutions to managing the second largest line item in the company P&L.

After nearly two months of detailed briefings with the world’s top trade promotion management vendors, it is evident that the embrace of new technologies has already moved into advanced phases. The talk of what artificial intelligence can do is now what AI IS doing; and consumer products manufacturers are quick to grasp the value proposition for their own consumer engagement and trade channel initiatives.

We are beginning to follow up with references in preparation for our 2018 Trade Promotion Vendor Technology Study which is scheduled to publish in the mid-October timeframe. What these references are saying is highly charged with superlatives around how their field sales and merchandising teams can take advantage of more precise and trustworthy planning tools.  Having been a vendor for most of my career in consumer goods, I can’t be more appreciative of the extremely hard work that went into these new solutions. It is obvious that the level of domain expertise and knowledge has contributed to a new class of trade promotion execution; and I have sympathy for the manufacturers who will be making decisions about TPx solution purchases in the next few years. They will undoubtedly be taxed in their effort to choose the right solution.

I can’t spill the beans right now; but I will give you a summary glimpse of what we have seen in our rounds of briefings.

User Interfaces

Beautiful. I know that is a strange word to describe technology, but Hasso Plattner, Chairman of SAP has used that term to describe his software for more than 40 years; and I must agree that, for what we have seen in this study, it fits nicely.  UI direction has taken on a very practical theme, for the most part. I would think that I’ve seen every variation of navigational direction, layout and screenwork in my long experience building these products; but I must hand it to the innovative folks who designed these UI’s. A lot of thought, testing and input from users went into these designs; and they work.

Data Usage

I see more use of POS than ever before. I like how these planning and forecasting engines are integrating with the demand planning products and how well they create dynamic baselines. We all know that this is what is required; so being able to import the external data from IRI, Nielsen, GfK, or POS from vendors like Retail Velocity, E2Open, RSi and Shiloh is becoming more critical than ever. We have observed some highly sophisticated new algorithms and interactive lift coefficients that are producing, on average, much higher accuracy than ever before. I can’t wait to see how they begin to integrate consumer marketing, social media and service data as well.

Cloud and Mobile Technology

The cloud is here – no doubt about it. Virtually everyone has a cloud application as well as a mobile device capability. Some of the newer systems have been built from the ground up with cloud technology with wide use of HTML5 and other new technologies that are going to give them a long solution lifecycle.

Platform Integration and Implementation

It is refreshing to see the efforts these IT teams are putting into ensuring that their solutions perform without a hitch across multiple platforms. That is something that used to be part of a “set up” function; but the settling of operating platforms these days has given these vendors the ability to standardize across several popular platforms, including both the high dollar advanced systems as well as low cost options. The reference customers are unanimous in their praise for the integration capabilities as well as the focus on ensuring operational excellence during implementation. While some of the vendors have active global SI partner alliances, the involvement of the vendor’s own consulting teams is significant and leads to the kind of success we are seeing and hearing about in our study.

Focus on Core Competence

Agility is paramount for any endeavor you take on in this business environment. Likewise, recognizing your strengths and focusing your entire business plan on achieving success in those areas makes for a smart company. Many of these vendors have gone from a former end-to-end trade promotion management solution to focusing only on one aspect of that functionality (e.g. planning, optimization, settlement, analytics, etc.) and building their application strategy and business around that one area. I won’t name names here, but these companies have taken what they were best at and transformed their companies into experts in those specific areas and are highly successful winning deals for those components – even against larger vendors who have end-to-end functionality. Their ability to integrate with other end-to-end solutions also helps them in those areas as well.

Attitude

I’ll bet you’ve never seen THIS attribute ranked in any formal reviews.

It’s a good thing too; because what we have noticed most is a sincere commitment to excellence in the business of trade promotion execution and management. With almost giddy excitement, each vendor demoed and presented their solutions with case studies, use cases and customer examples that show their ongoing success. Everyone had recent wins (within the past few months) and a confidence in their solution that was, I admit, catching. If you don’t like what you do, you won’t do it well; and these people love what they do.

So, overall, I think the category of trade promotion management vendors has come a very long way in the past ten years. Part of it has been due to the technological advances in the industry; but most of it is sheer domain skill and knowledge and a commitment to innovation, efficiency and effectiveness.

Great job, folks!

Watch for our 2018 Trade Promotion Vendor Technology Study to be released in mid-October.

Follow me: @RealRobHand

Rob Hand

Author Rob Hand

For most of my career, I have worked in four industries: Consumer Products, High Technology, Retail and Wholesale/Distribution. I was fortunate to begin my career with of one of the oldest channel promotion management companies in the world where I cut my teeth on the heart of consumer marketing around the business processes of co-op advertising, trade promotion and market development. Within consumer products, I covered all major sectors including fast moving consumer goods, fashion, DIY/Hardware, home furnishings, consumer electronics, retail telecom, oil & gas retail, automotive and beer/wine/spirits. I have formed and brought to successful outcomes three companies focused on these business processes and technology. I have worked with companies like Frito-Lay, Southwest Airlines, Intel, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Nike, Sealy, Hanes, SABMiller, Anheuser-Busch and so many more – all of whom enabled me to build a strong cross-industry and cross-line of business viewpoint. I have guided the industry strategy and product management for companies like SAP and Oracle. Each of those companies gave me unique insights that have helped forge the way I look at every aspect of the consumer chain. My career has also provided me with a drive to be realistic in my analyses of observations and a pragmatic view of solutions. My parents blessed me with a penchant for hard work and an attitude that honesty is the always the best policy. I am a musician and a former NCAA football and basketball official; and I have a wonderful wife and children who continue to teach me something new every single day. I consider my opportunity with Lora Cecere and Supply Chain Insights as an excellent and inevitable channel to provide guidance, counsel and advice to a transforming group of industry leaders.

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