TAMPA, Fla. -- Daily store-specific scan data will allow brokers to do their job for manufacturers with more precision, said Tom Christal, president of a 47-year-old broker company based in San Antonio. "Executing with precision" at store level has been the neglected part of category management and Efficient Consumer Response, he added. Christal spoke here earlier this month at MarkeTechnics, the Food Market Institute's annual convention on integrating technology with merchandising and operations. His firm, Tom Christal Co., is a full-service broker operating grocery, nonfood and food-service departments. "Strategic data, which is the bulk of what we have now, is basically market-level [information] available to us weeks or months after the purchase decision [by consumers]," said Christal, describing data from Information Resources and Nielsen Marketing Research.
"Tactical data, which is just now being implemented, is available in hours or days after the purchase decision," he said. "It allows us access down to the stockkeeping-unit level by store."
Tactical data, also called "real-time information," is available from Catalina Information Resources, and now from Efficient Market Services/Nielsen Marketing Research. An alliance between these two companies was announced here.
"The process that we have been part of has been heavily front-end loaded -- in terms of planning -- without equal concern or investment in execution," he said. "The reality is that front-end decisions, made during the planning process, do not automatically equal retail execution. Once a broker is equipped with the right information, then we can begin to deliver on the ECR promise of the right products, the right store, for the right consumer," he said. Christal called for a change in business operations because in the future the market level will actually be the store level, he said. "The process will continue to move toward micromarketing and individual customer focus," he said. Information will continue to become a part of what brokers do and how they do it, according to Christal. In this area, they are positioned to provide the necessary focus to deliver against the promise of ECR and category management. "Managing the consumer interface for the manufacturer is, in my opinion, probably the most succinct description of the role of the brokers in the ECR/category management environment.
"Every tool that we have in our inventory can be, and is, used against this job description," he said.