SOLON, Ohio — More than 70 retail buyers participated in 630 digital face-to-face meetings with suppliers of vitamins, supplements and nutritional products during ECRM’s Healthy Living, Vitamin and Nutrition Program, the first session to go live on its new virtual platform.
The efficiency, effectiveness and usability of the platform was noted by users on both sides of the virtual meeting table. “ECRM has completely transformed the way they are doing business, quickly pivoting into an easy-to-use, convenient online platform for both buyers and sellers,” said Jeff Currie, category manager for health and beauty for Wakefern Food Corp. “It was definitely a valuable experience for me, and I look forward to attending future digital sessions with ECRM soon.”
In addition to the face-to-face video engagement, buyers and sellers could take advantage of the platform’s technology, which provided users with the ability to take meeting notes, review products and supplier capabilities, rank meetings with a one- to five-star rating and communicate follow-up timelines. This activity is automatically recorded in each user’s profile to access following the meetings. Each user also had the ability to share presentations to further explain how their products could fit in each retailers’ stores.
“I used the notes really heavily,” said Kate Soffe, category manager of beauty and wellness for Overstock.com. “It was really easy to review them afterwards because it was all in one place on the follow-up site. The star ratings were also helpful, and they enabled me to sort and locate my top opportunities, and in our case, we were able to send follow up emails the day after we were finished.”
Soffe also noted that having the sessions in a virtual format means she will be able to participate in additional programs, which will result in increased opportunities for product discovery. “I was impressed with the number of qualified vendors I was able to meet with, and I do see the benefits of in-person sessions, but it’s not easy to travel a lot for work. The virtual will enable me to participate in more sessions, so a healthy mix of both in the future will be ideal.”
To ensure that all buyers and sellers had an optimal experience, ECRM’s Customer Success team worked closely with each participant to ensure each felt comfortable using the platform, including building their company profile, buyer needs and objectives, supplier products and capabilities, and loading up any presentations they may want to share. Each was then taken through a dry run on the platform so they could familiarize themselves with its tools. The result was a smooth live experience for all involved.
“It was seamless,” says Bob Richardson, director of customer and industry development for the Clorox Co., one of the seller participants in the session. “The benefit of being able to take the notes, me typing instead of writing, was great. And then the transition from one meeting to the next is quick. That actually went quite well.”
Suppliers also loved the quick follow-up of the buyers. More than 165 follow-up timelines were indicated, and with no need to pack up and travel home at the end of the session, many reached out to suppliers as soon as the meetings concluded. “We had 35 buyer meetings, and 17 buyers indicated specific follow up timelines,” said Alisa Shakespeare, founder of Total Cluster Fudge. “The best part is that six of them actually reached out to me directly within a day!”
ECRM will be hosting more than 50 virtual sessions across the food and beverage, health and beauty care, general merchandise and pharmacy/medical markets categories throughout the remainder of the year. In this time of uncertainty and travel restrictions, ECRM says it plans to continue delivering value to buyers and sellers by providing solutions that help them continue moving forward with their business, as the company has done for the past 25 years.
“We’re thrilled we were able to deliver on our promise of a virtual solution that would enable buyers and sellers to continue conducting business during this time of restricted travel,” said Craig Chmielowicz, senior vice president of health and beauty care for ECRM. “Based on participant feedback, these virtual sessions, in combination with our in-person sessions and efficient supplier introductions, will enable our customers to engage each other when, where and how it best suits their needs.”