If suppliers really mined the vast quantities of data they purchase, they could give unrivalled support to both their retail and wholesale partners in a much more progressive closed loop, says Tanya Pepin.

In today’s age of technological and digital progression, we now have unprecedented access to a rich vein of data and insight. These insights offer organisations potential for advancement and growth in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Take the mults, which are now more and more adept at using data and associated insight to run their loyalty clubs, promotions and online tracking and ordering.

Yet, as processes evolve, it has taken a while for some businesses in the supply chain to catch up with what digital experts have known for a decade – that knowledge is power! And, whilst some suppliers are still not taking full ownership of the shipment data that they mine – or purchase – they are reliant on data as it is supplied to them. This is normally in pre-determined reports provided by a third party – often through their wholesale and distribution partners who open the gates to retail.

There are vulnerabilities that come with this disparate ownership. It makes suppliers vulnerable to the potential loss of data that comes with provider-change or business collapse. If data is not downloaded and stored (as raw data), then they risk losing all shipment information that cannot be recovered. Palmer & Harvey is a case in point!

Imagine a shift in thinking, where forward-thinking suppliers are no longer reliant on third parties for the format of their data. Instead, they have the protection of taking in raw data which they would then own in perpetuity. Suppliers would then be taking control of their data journey by driving the agenda on how they mine and store the raw data they purchased from either a wholesaler an

d/or from their retail partners.

Consider the competitive advantage to a supplier who builds their own data set and uses the insight from this data to drive new strategies, whilst giving unrivalled, tailored support to its retail partners by actioning bespoke insights in each store or through wholesale route to market and customer business type.

But, inherent in a data strategy of this nature is a bond of trust. Retailers and distributors have long been wary of sharing data – believing correctly that it is one of their biggest assets. If they are to entrust suppliers to take ownership of their data to build a joint strategy, then it is incumbent on the supplier to treat the data responsibly.

Of course, retailers and wholesalers can still be selective about what data they share – customer names and addresses can be withheld, and anonymous account numbers shared instead. The trick is in sharing enough so that suppliers can invest in basket analysis, complex distribution research and customer behaviour trends. This work may be beyond the reach of most suppliers right now because the data is not currently delivered in a way that enables detailed transactional analysis.

As the sector changes and the digital age creeps inexorably onwards, effective use of data is going to become an imperative. Maybe the suppliers who take the step to build their own data set and then work in partnership with supply chain operators to share learnings from the data will be the ones with a real competitive advantage in how they work with retailers in the future – not just because of the data driven sales they acquire but because they have found a way to deliver continuous growth year-on-year in an ever-competitive marketplace.

Tanya Pepin is Chief Executive of specialist insight consultancy firm, TWC.