Better together: Big data and the future of vendor collaboration

It is not uncommon to see vendor and retailer relationships in a constant state of tension.

If you dig into the cause, you commonly see that their respective strategies were simply not aligned—vendors had their strategy, retailers had theirs, and each side was focused on solely meeting their own targets and goals.

As the industry becomes more sophisticated and data sharing becomes the norm, retailers introduced “vendor collaboration” tools that allow them to share more information with their vendors.

When the tools were first introduced, their concentrated effort was on operations and supply chain management. Retailers used these to ensure more orderly operations and lower costs. The introduction of such tools was excellent for improving retailers’ bottom lines but did little to drive sustainable share gains for either the retailer or supplier. Today these tools represent the minimum level of investment.

With the continuous improvement of collaboration tool technology being developed, layered and implemented in to programs, both supplier and vendor can now make quicker and more effective decisions to support the influx of data collected on shoppers’ behaviour. When used correctly, data sharing and the new generation of vendor collaboration tools are helping retailers and vendors align their strategies so that both can benefit from understanding shopper behaviour to build sustainable customer loyalty. Today’s successful collaboration tools are built upon a foundation of two critical factors: transparency and fact-based data.


As the industry looks to build long-term partnerships, retailers and suppliers are now bridging the gap of shared data in order to benefit the strategy and success of both parties. Sharing data in an open, collaborative way allows retailers to disclose real-time details from the in-store experience and, in turn, manufacturers utilize their resources and years of global experience to mine data and develop valuable customer insights. This cross collaboration instills confidence in both vendor and retailer that they are operating with the shared view of data and recommendations, which then facilitates the execution of a strategic plan at the customer level.

Objective data

Because transparency levels the playing field and provides retailers and vendors with the same access to data, both parties can be assured that they are making decisions based on an assessment of the actual customer need. Prior to collaborative platforms, retailers and manufacturers often used an assortment of data from different systems, resulting in conflicting insights, strategies and plans.

As the use of shared data continues, we are beginning to see new opportunities for cooperation. Retailers and vendors can identify the collaborative opportunities in their strategies and work to create programs that will meet shoppers’ needs in ways that are beneficial to all parties. As true vendor collaboration is introduced, we’re seeing a category growth rate of between 2.4 and 2.7 per cent where everyone benefits: shoppers discover interesting and useful new products, retailers see a rise in revenue and vendors avoid cannibalizing their product lines.

It’s clear that we’re entering a new era in the grocery industry and it is an exciting time for the future of retail analytics. Already the industry is seeing better insights into shopper behaviour and interesting joint decision-making between vendors and retailers. As data sharing increases and our understanding of shoppers is refined, players across the industry will reap the benefits of this new order.