10 smart ways to use digital shelf insights in your next JBP meeting

Successful joint business planning with retailers is critical for CPG brands, but JBP meetings can be one-sided and one-dimensional. Here are 10 ways to use digital shelf insights to unlock richer strategic conversations with retailers.

Presented by: 
Stephen Abram2022

Joint business plan (JBP) meetings are where strong relationships are built.

An opportunity for retailers and suppliers to align on key strategic objectives, they are at their most successful when they deliver beneficial outcomes for both parties. That’s the theory, at least.

In practice, the conversation can be a bit one-sided and one-dimensional. Investment in pricing, promotions, and media is often the main focus, leaving little room for suppliers to show thought leadership and share their vision for growing the category.

But it needn’t be this way. Armed with the right digital shelf insights, CPGs can use JBP meetings to drive richer, more meaningful conversations with their retailer customers and build even closer relationships.

Here are 10 key use cases and areas to focus on.

1. Run a simple competitor analysis

As ever, it pays to get the basics right.

CPGs can lay the foundations of a successful JBP meeting by running a simple competitor analysis within their category on areas such as pricing, promotions, banner advertising, search, and availability.

It’s a simple-yet-impactful way to better understand the category landscape, and it can drive useful discussions about new product development (NPD) and brand relaunches.

2. Leverage trended data

Trended data over time is an incredibly useful asset in JBP conversations.

A common use case for our CPG clients is to use trended data to interrogate search and promotional performance. Using the ‘Easy to Buy’ fundamental on our platform, they explore questions such as: What does my retail media investment actually do to my visibility? Is it giving me better placement on shelf? Is paid search performance stronger than promotions? And what are the long-term effects of a particular SKU remaining on page one of search?

The insights they gain are then used in JBP conversations to ensure retail media budgets are flowing in the right way to increase visibility.

3. Protect visibility on relaunches

Trended data over time is also key when preparing to relaunch a brand or product.

In the past, relaunched products with a new barcode or GTIN – and without any historical sales data attached to it – have tended to drop like a stone in search rankings.

Now, we’re increasingly seeing CPGs use the outgoing SKU, its average search ranking position, and that trended data over time to have a really good conversation with the retailer about retaining visibility on the relaunched SKU.

4. Highlight A1 content to support NPD

Great content is critical for successful NPD launches, but retailers are stretched for resources right now and may be less able to implement the kind of rich content brands want to see. Content standards and attention to detail have also been known to slip.

Using their ‘Easy to Buy’ dashboard, CPGs can closely monitor their NPD to understand how well their content is launching, and catch any slips in compliance as early as possible.

What’s more, they can use digital shelf insights – including, once again, trended search data – to make the case for richer content with retailers. Specifically, CPGs should actively look for use cases of high-selling products with A1 content that they can highlight in JBP meetings.

Think of it as a way of saying to the retailer: ‘Look, we have a new brand or product coming in, so we really want to see the type of content that’s already working well for these high-performing lines.’

5. Use ratings and reviews to steer range reviews

Many retailers are rationalizing ranges at the moment, or reducing branded listings in favor of private label.

To maintain their share of shelf, CPG brands must go into JBP meetings and range reviews with compelling evidence in support of their SKUs.

Ratings and reviews are a great tool in this context. Using the ‘Learn from The Shopper’s Voice’ fundamental, brands can understand how shoppers are receiving various products in the range and leverage these insights in JBP conversations.

By looking at data across retailers, they can also identify opportunities to drive reviews on a particular product in order to boost sales.

6. Show how you’re helping to build the category

Buyers and category managers ultimately want to grow their category. That’s why it’s critical that brands approach JBP conversations not from a brand perspective, but by highlighting what they’re doing for the category and the shopper.

Digital shelf insights can help make that case – and show where competitors are behaving in ways that harms the category.

One of the most interesting areas to look at in this respect is banner tracking. Using data from our ‘Winning campaigns’ fundamental, we recently ran an analysis on banner tracking for a client who was sponsoring out-of-category search terms to try and bring shoppers into the category. At the same time as they were doing that, their main competitor was sponsoring our client’s branded search terms, actively cannibalizing the category.

Insights such as these are good way to build a relationship with the retailer, who may not even be aware that their media team has allowed another brand to run unhelpful banner campaigns.

7. Bone up on private label

At a time when more shoppers are trading down to own label, no brand should walk into a JBP meeting without a clear understanding of their retailer’s own-label strategy.

Cost price increases are a good one to pay close attention to. As we’ve written previously, private label is getting away with surprisingly large cost price increases in certain categories. Such insight is invaluable in JBP meetings and pricing conversations.

CPGs also need a clear understanding of retailers’ search and promotional strategies when discussing media spend. We are increasingly seeing own-label banner ads being in the same position as branded ads on carousels, and some retailers are hardwiring two or three of their own-label SKUs at the top of the search results against key search terms. This limits what brands can achieve with their paid search budgets.

Strategies vary considerably from retailer to retailer, and category to category, so it’s important to look at individual search terms within a category to understand what the retailer might be trying to do.

8. Bring in insight from other retailers

Insight into what other retailers are doing within specific categories – and what is performing well for them – can help drive more nuanced strategic discussions in JBP meetings.

Recently, one of our clients faced a challenging conversation around search ranking and availability with one of their retailer customers. Many retailers want CPGs to commit to a certain level of availability before they will rank products on the first page of search, but because of ongoing supply chain disruption our client was unable to meet that requirement.

Other retailers had given our client a bit of flex, but this one customer refused to compromise. To overcome the impasse, our client used trended data over time to show that other retailers were now outperforming this one retailer in this particular category. What’s more, they were able to argue successfully that this was because other retailer continued to rank them highly despite their availability challenges.

9. Sense-check taxonomies

Whether it’s because of evolving shopper needs or a changing regulatory environment (such the introduction of HFSS restrictions in the UK), taxonomies on many retailer websites are in flux.

This can create serious problems for CPGs. We’ve seen examples where taxonomy changes led to a massive drop in visibility for key SKUs, resulting in underperformance in that category.

Retailer teams may not be aware of the impact taxonomy can have on brand performance, so it’s vital that CPGs use digital shelf insights to connect the dots for them.

Using trended data over time from our Easy to Buy fundamental, CPGs can pinpoint precisely when and how changes to the taxonomy affected their visibility and share of shelf. Some of our clients have even managed to influence retailer taxonomy based on the insights they were able to pull out of trended data on search.

10. Finally, make it clear and punchy

Retailer teams are seriously strapped for time at the moment, so CPGs must share digital shelf insights in a way that’s easy to absorb and drives clear action.

Presentation style really does matter, especially in the current climate. There’s no point in having brilliant insights if you overwhelm retailers or send them to sleep within two minutes.

In most cases, less is more. Rather than bombarding retailers with reams of data, focus on a few high-impact insights that support your most important strategic objectives. Three points well made will achieve more than 37 points that are immediately forgotten.

Focus on clarity throughout, and spell out how the insights you’re sharing can drive action to benefit the retailer, the category, and the shopper.


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