Often, the copious amounts of manual work required to get information about competitors is so slow that by the time it’s complete, the window of opportunity has sailed by.
Collecting competitive intelligence is necessary in the grocery industry, despite the risk of outdated information.
Grocery store margins are so slim - hovering around 1% - that it’s worth significant effort just for the minuscule chance of increasing sales a tiny bit.
Effectively gathering competitive intelligence requires time, energy, dedicated employees, and other resources. The process as it currently stands can include taking a trip to a specific store, reviewing a list of products, and writing down information related to each item — including pricing, display specifics, and number of facings. Store staff might compile handwritten notes into spreadsheets which are then emailed to relevant parties.
At this point in the process, corporate pricing analysts review the information from each store, check it for accuracy, and make a recommendation to send back to individual stores. Based on collected data, one recommendation might include dropping the price of a dozen eggs in order to remain competitive and satisfy market demand.
Between the time of the request, the store manager’s trip to the competing grocer, the submission of information back to corporate, and the analysis of data for hundreds of stores, several weeks may have passed. In that intervening time, competitive information has become outdated.
The first thing grocers must do is break the old habit of recording competitive intelligence in a manual, handwritten format. It may seem like the most convenient way to gather data quickly, but with 1,300 stores to manage, it quickly becomes a nightmare.
Thankfully, there are a variety of tools available to effectively capture data in a timely, sensible manner. Store managers can leverage flexible mobile apps to enter data into a centralized system, take photos of products, and automate reporting. Online platforms can break down collected photos to extract pricing information, shelf positioning, packaging changes, and a whole host of other inputs.
With a little upfront work, grocers can create a system that takes the heavy lifting (and room for error) off the store manager. Optimal technology helps automate existing processes to save time and ensure the return of legitimate data, empowering employees who take advantage of all the tech has to offer.
Within that automated system, grocery store executives can make callouts to store managers and employees by creating a series of clear, structured requests. Requests that used to be buried in a series of emails can now live in a centralized platform for review, discussion, and access.
Unfortunately, instructions and context are often lost within a lengthy email. By using a platform designed for content distribution, store managers — or any other team member — can request information with attached notes detailing acceptable formats, examples of desired inputs, and more. The additional clarification further ensures that all team members understand expectations and feel prepared and enabled to do their jobs effectively.
Furthermore, some solutions offer the ability to tie notifications and alerts to collected data, giving relevant parties immediate insight into ground level activity.
Automation and structured data are both critical to optimizing competitive intelligence gathering. But, grocers are making changes to product pricing, shelf positioning, packaging, and promotions every day. In order to make use of precious competitor data, grocers must have access to that data instantly.
So what does that mean? Instead of taking weeks to compile competitor data, corporate pricing analysts need to have the ability to view information as soon as it’s recorded. Then, they can analyze instantly and send any pricing changes — or other modifications — back to store managers for immediate action via a structured data request. Store staff can make necessary product changes in a much more efficient time frame, and voilà - the total processing time drops from several weeks to several hours.
With real-time data access, grocers have a fighting chance at using competitive intelligence to increase sales.
By leveraging competitive intelligence tools that offer automation, structured requests, and real-time updates, grocers can give themselves more opportunities to compete on price. In today’s low-margin grocery marketplace, that’s a must for survival.