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Three ways suppliers can get their voice heard

When it comes to being heard by a retailer, accountability is key for suppliers. Retailers are busy, managing tens of thousands of products; getting in front of buyers and supply-chain managers is challenging. Ensuring the retailers have correct stockholding of their products is not something suppliers should leave to chance.

This means it is the job of the supplier to ensure that a) their voice gets heard amongst all of the noise and b) information can be presented in a format that is quickly and easily understood.

It doesn’t matter whether suppliers have 1 SKU or 100, retailers will listen if what’s being said has data-driven fact behind it that supports the three priorities of delivering complete orders, growing category sales and delivering 100 per cent availability.

While this may seem to be a near impossible task, Ian Hall, COO, Atheon Analytics, outlines three key steps that will help suppliers of all sizes be heard in front of retailers.

Be data-led

Being data-led does not mean using countless spreadsheets which present insights in complex, confusing and impenetrable way, not to mention the fact the time spent analysing can be better used elsewhere. Nor does it mean giving buying teams 5-inch thick presentations which are a poor use of both parties’ time. Being data-led doesn’t necessarily require the expertise of a data analyst in an organisation.

So what does being data-led really mean and what are the key indicators of success?

* Being 'data-led' means making use of available information, and making impartial decisions based on the facts.

* Being 'data-driven' means putting data at the heart of everything you do, and relies heavily on collecting, storing, cleansing and using available data.

* Great data-led companies are good at presenting data in a way that people can use, interrogate, and explore with confidence and ease.

* A key indicator of success is that being data-led is considered 'business as usual', and that all employees have data at the heart of what they do (not just the 'analysts' or BI team).

There is a misconception that being a data-led supplier requires excess amounts of time and will cost far too much to do so with conviction. These misconceptions are often because suppliers are not using the right tools, in the right way.

Collaborate on targets

If you help retailers, they will help you. It is key to understand a buyer’s objectives and how you can help deliver them.

Take a basic buyer objective such as ‘’increasing sales’’ as an example: to achieve this means delivering effective promotions, optimising ranges, managing availability and supplier service levels (to name a few). All of these objectives can be influenced by the supplier.

Improved forecasting is one of the main ways suppliers can contribute to retailer targets. It is also one of the biggest headaches for both supplier and retailer. If suppliers are able to act on changes to the forecast quickly and with ease, it has a knock-on effect leading to orders being delivered on-time and in full (OTIF) which helps improve availability.

Regular meetings present a great opportunity to discuss key performance indicators and review targets. It’s important that these meetings show clear, data-driven insight to gain maximum value from the short period of time when the two parties meet. 

Deliver beyond the basics

At the very least, the supplier should ensure that service levels are met. Shortfall in service levels directly impacts the working relationship of both parties.

A large barrier to delivering the basics is the availability of usable data. Retailers often provide robust underlying data, but delivered in systems which make it hard to interpret. A data-led approach can transform this into something that can be easily interrogated and used, ensuring that suppliers can add value to a variety of category activities. Being seen as a trusted source of advice (and a supplier who can deliver the basics, such as OTIF deliveries), means that they are much more likely to be invited to collaborate on activities such as ranging and promotional planning.

Getting the basics right and then building upon this to deliver added value to the retailer’s business objectives will establish a solid foundation for a successful long-term relationship.


For a supplier to get share of voice with a retailer is something that can be solved regardless of company size.

Genuine collaboration, using a data-led approach is key. This requires a change in mindset in how complex it is. Systems that are capable of giving quick, accurate and actionable insights are now making it possible for suppliers to useful data-led insights, and make complex decisions with confidence. The result is rapport and trust – and ultimately increased sales

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