I recently attended a breakfast briefing with key players from the convenience retail sector to hear an announcement from one of the leading trade publishers about changes they are making to the way they deliver content to convenience retailers.

From February, the print issue of Independent Retail News will change from being fortnightly to monthly and it will also get a fancy new redesign. It will focus more on analysis, context and category advice. Its sister website Talkingretail.com will be the place for breaking news, supported by a daily newsletter and a Twitter account that was recently voted by Retail Gazette as one of the top 20 most influential retail accounts. Talkingretail will also have its own video channel, TRTV, as a platform to showcase dedicated video content direct to convenience store decision makers. Furthermore it has even launched its own Whatsapp group. Exciting times indeed and well done to the team at Metropolis who have driven these developments.

So, what does all this tell us about the way trade communications in grocery convenience retail is evolving and what does it mean for suppliers who want to engage and cut through with convenience retailers in exciting new ways? Here are my 6 trends and take-outs for suppliers.

1. Purposeful print
Printed trade magazines continue to be read, valued and trusted but retailers are now using some print magazines differently. For many, they want more in-depth analysis, context and category advice. Information that perhaps requires a longer dwell-time and can be digested more easily when they have a bit more time. Websites and social media is now typically where breaking news and product stories are shared first. Suppliers need to review their trade media and PR strategies accordingly.

2. Always-on digital
Convenience retailers, in the main, have now embraced digital trade communications. Smart phones, tablets and computers are an essential and integral part of their business lives. So engaging them with compelling digital content in timely and relevant ways will get their attention and drive action. Partnering with trusted digital trade media, using wholesaler’s digital media, other platforms, as well as supplier-owned websites and social media are just a few of the digital channels to consider.

3. Video story-telling
If a picture tells a thousand words, then video can tell many thousands more. We are all consuming more video content than ever before and convenience retailers are no different. Story-telling through video when done right is incredibly powerful. Knowing the right video platforms and tricks to optimise video search will ensure your video content gets seen and drives a call to action.

4. Social-selling
Having a voice and being part of the social conversation is no longer a nice to do. It’s essential in trade communications. Trade media use social media with great effect to share news and content. Convenience retailer influencers have embraced it to engage with shoppers and the wider business community. And similarly many suppliers and business leaders are using it as a corporate voice. I’d like to see it adopted more for targeted trade communications and engagement with convenience retailer influencers. So, more effort and focus is needed here.

5. Whatsappening
Whatsapp enables groups of people with shared interests to engage in conversation via messaging. I’ve been using Whatsapp with a group of leading convenience retailers on behalf of clients for a good number of years now. I find it really interesting but not surprising that Talkingretail has now created its own group. I’d advise suppliers to steer away from any overt selling on Whatsapp groups. It’s not really the place for that. However, I would strongly recommend it as a way to keep in dialogue with your retailer brand ambassadors, sales teams and to ensure you are part of the conversation when help and advice is required. Keep an eye on how the platform evolves.

6. Cut the crap
Traditional trade communications alone no longer cut it. Suppliers need a new approach and new content strategies for trade communications, specifically designed around their audience’s needs. I make no apology for promoting the services of specialist trade communications agencies like Jellybean. I frequently hear complaints from fed-up journalists, frustrated commercial teams and bemused convenience retailers who say that even some of the biggest FMCG brands in grocery and convenience are working with out-dated or non-specialist consumer-centric agencies that don’t get trade and don’t give it the right focus. Tasking these agencies with trade PR, advertising, social, digital and other aspects of trade communications might look good on paper, but it simply doesn’t work long-term and can be damaging to reputation and profitability – making it a false economy.

We really value our relationships with leading food and drink companies who recognise the added value, expertise and relationships we have in grocery, convenience, wholesale and foodservice. We’re also very excited to welcome many new food and drink clients to Jellybean who share our passion, focus and drive.