Sean Cline, Principal of Retail at Seek Insights, spoke with Crisp about the challenges facing emerging CPG brands, and how becoming “insight driven” can unlock the next level of retail success.
Sean Cline knows better than anyone that challenger brands – growing CPGs competing against long-standing category leaders – have unique challenges of their own. Sean spent more than 20 years working for candy and pet brands that may not have been the biggest player on the shelf, but ultimately achieved amazing results thanks to their ability to leverage data.
Now at Seek, Sean and his team have been working on new solutions to help challenger brands leverage data to be one step ahead in supply chain, merchandising, and planning decisions – giving them a leg up to wow retailers and unlock millions in business impact. We spoke with Sean to learn about best practices for becoming an “insight-driven” brand.
What’s the biggest challenge for emerging brands in retail, and how does this differ from larger CPGs?
As a challenger brand, the approach to retail partnerships is completely different. When I was on the brand side, I had to truly sell what we were putting on the shelf. I couldn’t start a conversation with a buyer and just say “hey, we’d like this distribution.” Ultimately, your role as a challenger brand is to bring mutually beneficial ideas to the table. After all, the buyer’s success is your success.
When I started in candy, my brand was a distant second in the category across most of the country. Aside from any notes about product quality or price, what I had to offer was insights. I could say, for instance, that my product is actually the leading brand in California, and we know California transplants shop at these specific stores in the Midwest. I can prove that offering our product in those stores will mean we’ll not only perform, but bring new shoppers to this category – and by the way, this is the assortment mix that works best.
Offering this level of insight helped us unlock more growth than was considered possible for a brand of our size. My buyer would later say, “You got way more time than you deserved, and way more space than they deserved” because of this approach.
The trouble is, those insights take considerable time and effort to get. On a smaller team, where the salesperson is also the analyst, it takes a heavy lift of spreadsheets and pivot tables to find those opportunities across all of your retailer reports. That’s why Seek and Crisp are focused on technology to help brands harvest, store, and clean that data, then help surface the insights you need.
What insights can emerging brands find with Seek?
We spoke about what it takes to approach buyers, but that’s just the beginning of the retail journey. You may have made the first order, but what about order #2 and all of the ones after that? At Seek, we’ve focused on three core areas that emerging brands need to keep an eye on: replenishment, personalization, and merchandising. Our insights include:
- Predictive out-of-stocks (OOS): Seek’s predictive out-of-stock model can alert brands that their store inventory is due to run out, say, in two weeks. With this heads-up, you have time to make adjustments and get that product replenished before it sells out.
- Historical out-of-stocks – It’s also very powerful to look back at your data in aggregate to identify patterns in your supply chain. You can answer questions like, “Where have I been out-of-stock? Is it a specific distribution center? Is it just in the northeast? What manufacturing plant services that area? Which carrier?” With historical OOS information, you can figure out where the problem is actually coming from, and take action to fix it.
- Expanded distribution: Seek’s model can find the white space in your distribution using Sister Store logic. Sister Store logic evaluates multiple criteria to find a potential new store that is very similar to a store where you’re already performing well. It can also predict very closely the sales value of that incremental distribution, based on comparable data. What’s more, the logic factors in additional data sets like demographic data, so it can additionally say, ‘these are the shoppers who shop at A, B, and C stores, and that same group shops in X, Y, and Z stores.’ Or we can incorporate weather data and see how it affects this particular group of stores – so you can say, ‘It will be a heavy snow season, and we need to move additional products into these stores based on the shopping behavior associated with this type of weather event.’
Seek’s solutions are designed to help brands go a step beyond being data-driven to actually be insights-driven, which is much more valuable. Why? As a growing brand, you probably don’t need to ingest all the data available from retailers and spend a year building a data lake to house all of it. Lean, fast-moving retail teams need insights they can take action on now, without paying $1 million for data subscriptions. Seek is helping to break up some of those costs, so that the same level of insights are available to emerging brands in a feasible way.
Okay, but how do these insights drive business outcomes for brands?
At Seek, we’re applying the relevant data sets to solve for very specific use cases that impact a brand’s day-to-day success. And those insights add up to tens of millions of dollars worth of discovery. A few recent customer examples include:
- Seek’s predictive out of stock model identified $50M in likely out of stocks, helping a leading candy supplier optimize their supply chain at the store and item level across multiple retailers in minutes
- A rapidly growing soft drink manufacturer realized $10M in expanded distribution by using Seek to identify the right consumers and stores to target
- A global consumer health brand achieved $20M in incremental revenue by implementing smarter allocation of limited seasonal inventory during the holidays
But it doesn’t stop there. If you put this information back into your supply chain for supply and demand planning, you’re able to get a handle on OTIF (on-time, in full) and avoid all the fines that go with it. That can amount to millions of dollars in value with a very light lift.
Why did Seek choose to partner with Crisp, and what does it mean for brands?
It takes significant investment and skill to collect retailer data, aggregate it, and make sure that it’s hygienically sound to report against on a daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis. It’s even more difficult when you’re pulling information from multiple retailers, who all have their own systems and standards. Crisp handles all of that data aggregation and manipulation – and from there, Seek can offer the value-added analytics and insights on top of the data.
This combination is particularly powerful for smaller teams with limited hands available to sift through retail data. We believe we’re not only saving these brands time, but actually upgrading the level of insight that they can bring to the table. And we know the value of those insights is a true game-changer.
To learn more about Seek and Crisp’s offerings, contact our team today for a demo. For more industry insights and best practices, subscribe to the blog.