The impact of COVID-19 on industry events continues to find organizations pivoting to new formats and platforms, the latest of which is the Solon, Ohio-based Efficient Collaborative Retail Marketing (ECRM), whose model is built around face-to-face events.
To stay the course in the coronavirus-altered environment, ECRM is switching up its business exchanges with what officials describe as “a dynamic technology platform utilizing the latest in virtual communications technologies to facilitate face-to-face virtual meetings between buyers and suppliers.”
The significance of the move is that all future ECRM sessions will continue as planned, with some held virtually and others—when possible—in-person.
“Adversity drives innovation,” said Greg Farrar, CEO of ECRM. “The challenges of the pandemic showed everybody the power of virtual meetings and the opportunity to leverage digital in a more effective way. We believe our platform delivers an experience that is as close to in-person as possible, providing the high-tech yet personalized service that our clients have come to expect.”
ECRM CEO Greg Farrer
ECRM designed its new platform to deliver an equally valuable experience remotely, as is possible with in-person meetings, which Farrar said is critical with product sourcing and category planning in today’s challenging environment. As with in-person sessions, he added, “each virtual session will feature a wealth of resources to help buyers and suppliers make the most of their experience, including RangeMe onboarding, best practices information, relevant market research and educational programs.”
In early March, ECRM launched its initial virtual offering called Efficient Supplier Introductions (ESIs) comprised of a series of virtual supplier presentations in a “one-to-many” format supported buyers’ needs for product discovery. “With more than 1,000 buyers participating in our ESIs over the last few weeks, it is clear that the offering has filled a need in the market as retailers and suppliers are looking for introductions and sourcing solutions, perhaps now more than ever,” said Kurt Repola, SVP of ECRM.
“We were also able to quickly gather a tremendous amount of feedback,” which Repola said informed ECRM “that buyers still placed immense value on the one-on-one meetings with suppliers...and in these times, they were missing that next-stage, critical component of their review process.” Meanwhile, he added, “We have been diligently working to expand our platform and develop a virtual capability that matches our in-person experience.”
“These Virtual Sessions and RangeMe enable ECRM to continue its role as an extension of buyers’ and suppliers’ businesses,” added Farrar. “Moving forward, they will become an integral part of our offerings. By extending our technology platform to include virtual meetings we’re now able to serve our customers whenever, wherever and however will best fulfill their needs.”
Throughout the year, ECRM conducts a comprehensive series of category programs featuring in-person and virtual sessions, to facilitate interaction and commerce between buyers and suppliers of consumer packaged goods, pharmaceuticals, general merchandise and foodservice products.