While the pandemic has prompted a rapid increase in virtual meetings, some consumer goods brands and retailers expect the trend to stick after its conclusion.
"I think it's a new way of doing business and it's probably going to stay even after COVID is gone," said Conor O'Farrell, buying manager for Positive Healthcare at Boots Ireland. O' Farrell leverages ECRM virtual programs and said they’ve helped the company become first-to-market with innovative brands.
ECRM, which has held more than 100,000 curated meetings on its face-to-face video Connect platform, developed its offerings to enable buyers and sellers to engage in live, interactive digital meetings at scale. Top-tier buyer participation has grown over 20% since before the pandemic, it noted.
"You can't match the efficiency that virtual delivers when it comes to product discovery," said Sarah Groves, senior category manager at Southeastern Grocers. "I've participated in eight ECRM Virtual Programs since the platform launched and have had hundreds of meetings with suppliers. There is no way I could have met with that many brands in-person."
Ahmad Rifaie, VP of sales and marketing for beverage brand Savia USA, said the programs have aided its launch into mass market retail, with the brand currently on the shelves of one national retailer and expteced to be in another soon as a result.
ECRM will be hosting more than 100 global virtual sessions across categories this year.
Separately, RangeMe, an ECRM company, has partnered with multiple leading certification bodies in an industry-wide initiative to help retail buyers find higher quality products and bring greater transparency to the shelf. Partners include Non-GMO Project, Fair Trade USA and Fairtrade America, among others.
It will promote a deeper education of what it means for brands to carry certifications and greater visibility of certifications to the nearly 200,000 suppliers on the platform. A dedicated section will enable suppliers to browse, message, and work directly with the certification bodies themselves.
"Third-party certifications are powerful because they quickly show consumers that your brand is committed to quality products," says Hans Eisenbeis, director of marketing for the Non-GMO Project. "Through RangeMe, brands can quickly learn about the certifications that shoppers are seeking on store shelves, and understand which certifications align with their own values."