Friday 28 November 2014

Multi-Channel Retailing - a business consulting role for NAMs?

John Nevens’ article in yesterday’s NamNews revealed an unanticipated consequence of the development of Multi-Channel Retailing: the resulting need for NAMs to be experts in all routes to consumer. 

This requirement, coupled with the need to place all initiatives within a continuous ‘time-framed’ strategy, can place an impossible burden on busy NAMs with barely manageable workloads.

But it can and should be done – the real issue is how?

Essentially, NAMs should see themselves as business consultants to the customer, providing a unique insight that answers the fundamental question in a buyer’s mind: How am I doing compared with the other guys? (They are looking for context)

A retailer/buyer is an in-depth but narrow expert in their own business, and a ‘permanent’ fire-fighting mode coupled with excessive buyer-churn can prevent them from taking a strategic view.

A NAM can provide solutions for these deficiencies in the buyer role, and transform relationships in the process.

As a business consultant that happens to carry a supplier’s bag, the NAM needs to be an expert in how the consumer can be helped to buy the category, however, whenever, and wherever they choose – a truly multi-channel approach to retailing…

However, it is not necessary to know as much as a dedicated expert in a particular channel.  The NAM is meant to be a broad but, of necessity, a relatively shallow expert in how their category functions and can be optimised in each of the different routes to consumer.

In other words, a NAM needs to know enough about a channel to be able to place their brand and its category in that channel in a way that meets consumer need and does not compromise other routes to consumer, especially that of the buyer in question. The NAM also needs to think short, medium and long-term in order to be able anticipate and respond to opportunities down the line..

It is for other people in the NAM’s business to take an overall view of the different roles of all channels for the brand, and label the channels invest, maintain or divest, as appropriate. It would obviously be unwise of a company not to involve the NAMs in these deliberations….

(I personally believe that being able to translate everything into cost and value, within an ROCE and commercial context, can then help place the trade initiatives within a strategic context and makes the NAM job manageable)

So, applying the NAM role in terms of broad, but shallow multi-channel category expertise, and combining this insight with the narrow, but in-depth expertise of the buyer can help the NAM to meet the increasing demands to create and sustain strategic rather than purely transactional relationships with retailers.

A small step on the way to fulfilling the new requirements of the NAM role identified by John…. 

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