Dechert-Hampe: Vendors Need Shopper-Centric Focus
Dechert-Hampe Consulting’s Sales Force of the Future survey concludes yet again that manufacturers’ account managers should be doing a better job getting to know their retail customers’ business. After four iterations covering more than an eight year span, the central theme of the findings remains much the same — manufacturers and retailers just don’t see things the same way.
In the report, Dechert-Hampe wrote: "Manufacturers value attributes that tend to address being a more effective brand advocate. Retailers emphasize the importance of attributes that more effectively address their unique shoppers’ needs."
For example, two attributes ranked particularly high by retailers — Category Knowledge, at two, and Shopper Insights, at three — were missing from the manufacturer’s list of top-ten attributes altogether. Dechert-Hampe said this suggests that while many manufacturers have set up Shopper Insights groups within their companies to address this evolving area of focus within the retail community, "apparently manufacturers’ efforts are still catching up to the resources needed."
On the other side, while manufacturers ranked Understand/Use Data as critical, retail input suggests that more can be done to bring such insights to bear on category development. Wrote Dechert-Hampe, "Understanding trends is a very important task, and one that manufacturers spend a lot of money on, via the syndicated data companies. But turning such data into Category Knowledge that can be shared is very important to retailers as indicated by the #2 Retailer ranking."
When asked to rank the top rated attributes for the future, manufacturers and retailers were closer in agreement. Most of the top five retailer attributes for future importance are also on the manufacturers’ list. So, again as in years past, the industry seems to be better at agreeing on what will be needed in the future than it is on agreeing that the time has come.
Dechert-Hampe concluded that what retailers are looking for most from account managers is help generating shopper demand. Wrote Dechert-Hampe, "Retailers expect account managers to know their own company’s capabilities and resources well and to be able to access them in support of the retailer’s business. But it is also clear from the survey results the retailers expect account managers to understand the retailer’s business, how it works, how it makes money, and what makes it successful. Account managers with a customer-centric approach, armed with shopper insights and a plan to drive sales, will have a leg up."
Discussion Questions: Are the findings of Dechert-Hampe’s study simply a reflection of manufacturers’ and retailers’ inherent paradigms? Is trying to close this gap in anything other than the rhetoric of the future simply a bridge too far? Ideally, how should account managers’ relationships be evolving for the benefit of both sides?