How to run an RFP for digital shelf analytics

CPG teams typically run a request for proposal when looking for a digital shelf analytics vendor. We've summarized what's key to making this process smooth and cost effective.

Presented by: 
Josi MatharMay 18, 2021

Even the best CPG team will need specialist support from outside to be more effective at driving their business forward. For CPGs, this often means selecting digital shelf analytics software providers, but this isn't easy. We've summarized how to make the request for proposal (RFP) process as smooth as possible including a free checklist.

Read on to learn:

  • What an RFP is and why it's important
  • What to expect from an RFP process for digital shelf analytics
  • How to manage change across your org

What is a request for proposal (RFP)?

A request for proposal (RFP) is a document that companies send out to vendors describing the business area they need help with in this case digital shelf analytics. 

In a best case scenario this RFP document explains what exactly the company is looking for, the timeline and the contract terms bidders can expect. A well-prepared request for proposal enables potential business partners to create informative proposal documents that in turn allows you to make a confident decision on who you want to hire. 

Why is an RFP important when looking for digital shelf analytics software?

Without an RFP you’d be spending incredibly long hours searching the internet for what you believe are good software providers to choose from. However, with an RFP you encourage vendors to pitch their offer to you. For this it is important to a) have written a succinct RFP and b) have identified a smooth internal selection process and approach.  

From our experience working with large multinational CPGs there’s no bidding process without a request for proposal especially for software that’s intended to be used across functions and markets. 

The best part of the RFP? You’ll get a great variety of perspectives on the outline of your requirements before committing to anything. As the vendors are likely to include their proposed plan of action when bidding for the contract,  you’ll be able to glean the type of company culture that’s behind the proposal, too. After all, it’s about the perfect fit when selecting a software solution for your teams.

A well-prepared request for proposal is key to finding the right digital shelf analytics vendor

How to streamline your RFP approach

In consumer product goods companies RFPs are often mandated by procurement and legal departments. Understandably as the process involves a significant investment. Here’s how to best streamline your approach to support due diligence:

  1. Capture your teams’ needs and develop a scoring framework. Invite feedback from different stakeholders across various functions (ecom as well as BI) and regions (EU and RU or USA). Simultaneously, build a framework which you’ll use to assess potential vendors and stakeholder input. This helps first align priorities and objectives internally before you invite external parties to respond to your RFP.
  2. Seek external feedback. It’s likely that someone in your network is using a digital shelf analytics vendor already or has experience with one of the potential vendors. Also check review sites for customer feedback.
  3. Practice transparency with adjacent departments. IT and procurement will have unique requirements and compliance processes. You want to maintain good rapport with each department, checking and updating on progress frequently to prevent any blocker. 

What you can expect from an RFP process for digital shelf analytics

Simply put: expect a fair amount of product demonstrations, calls and emails. Key to any RFP process is that you budget enough time for the proposal reviews, digital shelf analytics platform demonstrations and selection discussions with internal stakeholders. 

Naturally, there will be some degree of communication with the vendors that you’re narrowing down, but, all in all, you should plan around a total of three months from launching the RFP to compliance to your company’s requirements to signing of the contract. 

“Take the time upfront to ensure internal alignment across the business and stakeholders. This will enable a much smoother process allowing vendors to be responding to a specific brief with clarity on your objectives and requirements. The more specific you can be the easier it will be to benchmark different vendor solutions and cost models. The worst case for an RFP process is the inability to compare across different vendor responses because the brief wasn’t sufficiently detailed and clear.” Jo Campbell, VP Commercial Partnerships

What else to expect? 

  1. Expect initial phone calls and discovery meetings with vendors to take 4-6 at times 7-8 weeks, but that should be the maximum. 
  2. Procurement typically requires you to assess at least 3 candidates, so check before embarking on any discovery calls. 
  3. A good practice — and from our experience often the best way to find if they're a cultural fit — is to ask vendors what else they think you could have asked for (e.g. do you provide insights across an entire category or only certain SKUs?)

Lastly: practice as much transparency with potential partners as you do with internal stakeholders. It may not be easy, but ideally you’ve thought out the request for proposal process in a way that you can come to concluding decisions about the vendor 2-3 weeks post demonstration calls. 

Taking time to prepare your request for proposal ensures a smooth running of the process

The 10-steps RFP checklist for finding a digital shelf analytics software solution

Here are the key steps to follow when developing your RFP: 

  1. Create the executive summary of the problem to be solved and include background of your company as well a description of what success looks like in 12 to 18 months time 
  2. Describe the envisioned solution to the problem (tech and non-tech) and how this will benefit the business e. drive growth in your category, outpace competitors, monitor IMAP violations
  3. List the specifics of services and technical deliverables e.g. integrations needs, onboarding and ongoing support and data security / protection assurance. Ensure you’re clear on the ongoing support model i.e. what is included in the costs versus what would be charged additionally for changes to configuration and reports.
  4. Explain possible risks involved with the project and request vendors to explain how they mitigate these 
  5. Include evaluation metrics and criteria. This section will help future bidders with forming a response that matches your requirements. Make sure to include both technical and business criteria e.g. support for frontline teams to action insights from full category data, open source data accessibility and leadership scorecard visibility
  6. List out any quality assurance requirements that procurement or your IT department will want to know
  7. Highlight the timelines from bid collection to pre-selection and invite for demonstration 
  8. Include a section for industry credentials and accreditation or case study material and reference
  9. List any priority aspects such as the ability to implement the software quickly and whether it can integrate with existing technology. Top tip: ensure that the implementation plan is detailed and specific so that all costs are outlined to avoid unpleasant surprises with a chosen vendor such as ‘hidden costs’
  10. Include relevant contact information and where follow up questions (and for how long) can be placed

After the RFP — a note on change management

“Managing change and adoption of new technologies across the organization is critical for its success. Working with internal stakeholders is paramount during our onboarding phase. If a brand doesn’t have a change management team in place we aim to support the identification of project owners to help influence the successful deployment of our software and support service.” Cheryl Haggerty, VP Customer Success e.fundamentals

As you’re looking back on weeks of selecting possible digital shelf analytics vendors to partner with you may fall short of one key aspect: driving the adoption within the frontline teams and ideally the entire organization. So what to do?

  1. Get buy-in early. Practising transparency and inclusion from the get go of creating and then running the RFP is essential. You don’t want to surprise frontline managers with a new tool or come across as if rolling it out with a top down approach. Instead, get everybody on board answering questions and illustrating how digital shelf analytics will help them accomplish their KPIs.
  2. Educate by bringing to life the ‘why’. As with any tool or process it’s critical to explain to the business (budget holders and CxO) and frontline managers — the end-users of the software — why you’re planning to deploy the technology; especially when it involves a greater change to current systems and workflows. You want to spend extra time on education and building use cases for how the software can be used in people’s day to day. Not spending enough time here will result in reluctance to using it and cause unnecessary frustration.
  3. Assign an owner or a project group. As with most software that’s intended for cross functional teams, it’s beneficial to have ownership clearly defined. While our digital shelf analytics can be integrated with existing tech stack and quickly deployed, assigning dedicated ownership to the process helps with the smooth running of the deployment and line of communication on both sides. 

These are the top practices we suggest you keep in mind once you’re close or have chosen your software vendor. And if you do only one thing: keep communicating. You’ll be surprised how much ongoing updates about the selection process and deployment plans are valued and supportive to the goal of sound implementation.

Finally: some CPG companies, often large multinationals, have legacy processes that over time have also created an impediment to change. However, running an RFP for a digital shelf analytics provider like e.fundamentals allows you to drive a culture of change across the organization that will set you apart from the competition. In order to drive ecommerce growth at speed and scale, you must be prepared to experiment, innovate and fail fast to learn what works. 

Ready to drive change in your organization?

We're helping world-leading brands grow at speed and scale on the digital shelf. Invite us to your RFP or simply take a look at what we do. We’d be delighted if you’d book a demo with us today or Contact Us today to discuss your Digital Shelf requirements.


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