Convenience retailers rely on, trust and act on the advice of other retailers. Ask any convenience retailer and they will tell you the same. As a marketer specialising in convenience retail trade and category communications for leading food and drinks brands, reaching and influencing convenience retailers is what myself and the Jellybean team do day in and day out. Now I could write a few thousand words here in this blog and take up a lot of your valuable time labouring the point about the rise of influencer marketing, the power of peer to peer endorsement and the role of ambassadors, but I won’t. The simple fact is… and I’ll say it again… convenience retailers, rely on, trust and act on the advice of other retailers. So, it stands to reason that food and drink brands should be really collaborating with convenience retailers and making damn sure they get retailers to be the champions of their brands.

Convenience retailers are the “influencers” brands and suppliers need to reach and engage with. If you make a convenience retailer an “ambassador” of your brand, you know they will tell other retailers “peer to peer”. It’s a virtuous circle and combined with excellence in shopper and consumer marketing you have a winning formula in convenience. But if you avoid, shortcut or poorly handle the essential convenience trade communications job, you will fail. And if you fail with convenience retailers you can be sure they will tell other retailers.

So, it really does beg the question why aren’t suppliers focusing more on convenience communications? Very often it’s because they are working with a generalist PR and marketing agency who might bash out a poorly written trade press release on a Friday afternoon but they really don’t live and breathe convenience retail and they really don’t understand the complexities or have the networks or relationships with retailer influencers. Another reason unfortunately might be the supplier just isn’t making communications to convenience retailers a priority, perhaps thinking it can look after itself. Well as you might imagine this approach is flawed and really does get me on the verge of a McEnroe-esque outburst.

With brands putting less feet on the street and budgets being squeezed, I really do worry for those suppliers and brands who say convenience is important and they want to grow, yet they don’t properly focus or invest in trade and category communications. Without a strong and recognisable presence and communications initiative in place to really champion information and advice to the convenience trade, how do they expect retailers to trust and support them? And how do they really expect to grow and win in convenience?

I am very proud and fortunate enough to have worked on some of the best examples of supplier trade communications and category initiatives in recent times. These include: Heineken Star Retailer, P&G ShelfHelp, KP SnackPartners and UB’s Better Biscuits Better Business. With all the changes and fluctuations in convenience retail these initiatives have evolved, adapted and continued to meet the needs of convenience retailers and the needs of the suppliers who run them. How? Well it’s simple, they have kept convenience retailers at the heart of initiatives and they’ve continued to listen to and shape the advice around the retailers, the category and changing convenience shopping behaviours. While evolving they have continued to ensure everything is consistent and cohesive across all retailer touchpoints and they have made retailers their champions.

It takes investment to get the initiatives in place, but done well and supported properly in a joined-up way using the right communications channels (including hugely influential trade press, websites, social media, forums, trade shows and customer marketing) they are proven to pay back long term. All four of these initiatives I’ve mentioned and worked on have once again been shortlisted in the Retail Industry Awards Supplier Initiative of the Year category 2017. And can you guess who votes for them? Yes, that’s right convenience retailers! So that gives you all the reassurance you need that they work and they are trusted. And if they didn’t work and didn’t pay back for the suppliers you can be sure they would have been killed off a long time ago. These same initiatives will be up for the awards again next year, but what I am excited about most is what suppliers are going to be doing to challenge for the crown. It’s not just for brand leaders either; challenger brands have a big contribution to make and role to play when it comes to trade and category communications too. I am looking forward to working on and seeing lots of new initiatives that will blaze a trail in 2018 and beyond. I am looking forward to delivering really disruptive campaigns that will capture the hearts and minds of these digitally savvy and highly entrepreneurial convenience retailers by putting them very much at the front and centre.

With the IGD predicting convenience will grow to £47bn by 2022, we can expect a much bigger focus and commitment from suppliers in trade and category communications moving forward and that’s something I am incredibly excited about. If you’re serious about convenience and serious about delivering growth then it is time to get the experts on board. We are Jellybean.

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