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The Global Market Development Center launches the GMDC365 web portal to help buyers and suppliers connect.  

Retail buyers will soon sit through fewer PowerPoint presentations. Suppliers’ salespeople will have to catch fewer flights. Those will be among some likely, and welcome, changes for retailers and manufacturers who take part in GMDC365, the new web portal from Colorado Springs, Colo.-based Global Market Development Center (GMDC).

GMDC365, set to thespotgo live in April, is a web-based platform that connects suppliers and retailers. Suppliers post videos, still photos and text that showcase their new products and can also download product catalogs. Retail buyers can read product overviews, watch short videos about the product, get pricing information, and contact the supplier to request more information or set up a meeting.

“You can now put your item on this site, and you are exposed to hundreds of retailers,” says Mark Deuschle, vice president of business development and chief marketing officer for GMDC. “Suppliers can reach all levels of buying teams, and it allows information to be disseminated more easily.”

Deuschle says the site can benefit manufacturers and retailers of all sizes. Small manufacturers, who might have trouble getting the attention of large retailers, now have an Amazon-like hub where they can present their products to buyers, without the time consuming process of calling, asking for interviews, scheduling flights, and, sometimes, arriving at the buyer’s office and finding they are not there.

Large manufacturers can benefit from the site too, says Deuschle. Although they have robust sales forces, they sometimes lack the wherewithal to get new product information quickly to small regional chains, or even independent stores. The site can help them gain incremental sales.

Retailers like the idea of not having to schedule half-hour meetings, especially the ones in which the buyer instantly realizes that the product is not the right fit for his or her stores. “You can watch their video for 15 seconds and then turn it off,” Deuschle says. “You are not offending anyone.”

GMDC365 is more than just a timesaving device. Dave McConnell, president and CEO of GMDC, says the portal is a result of brainstorming by the trade association’s President’s Innovation Network (PIN). PIN is a committee of executives from GMDC’s health/beauty/wellness, general merchandise and retailer members. The group began meeting in 2011, and was tasked with developing ideas that could help members communicate.

“The network formulated ideas on how to create some breakthrough innovations and new ways to do business for our GM, HBW and wholesale retail members,” says McConnell. “They came up with a product discovery platform, a resource for GM and HBW manufacturers and wholesalers to go to find everything they could need.”

The committee came up with the idea, and then GMDC needed to find a partner to develop the website. That was not easy, says McConnell. GMDC approached everyone from universities to technology companies, and it turned out it would simply be too expensive to create the online public depository that the PIN committee had envisioned.

Then McConnell found Mercury Retail Services, a San Antonio, Texas-based company that offers merchandising, product representation and order fulfillment and logistics. In 2011 Mercury Retail Services created The Retail Gateway, a website designed to streamline business-to-business communications.

“It was very serendipitous for us,” says Trey Holder, president and CEO of Mercury Retail Services. “When we built the website we identified GMDC because of our long relationship with them. When Dave approached me, we had been planning to go to him with The Retail Gateway in three months.”

A beta site for GMDC365 went live in January. Retailers have given the solution positive early reviews, some of which are noted on the site in text and in videos.

GMDC365 features news headlines and information to help industry insiders stay up-to-date on store openings, business news, executive moves and other information. The site pulls the news from RSS feeds, and a staffer sifts through the stories to make sure they are not redundant. Users who click on a headline are directed to the news source, such as The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and industry trade publications.

The real selling point of the site, though, is the product information and the ability for suppliers and buyers to contact each other, says Deuschle. Suppliers pay a fee to post information about their products and GMDC365 offers several different tiers of online product presentations.

The Product Catalog acts as the storefront for the supplier company. The buyer can sort the choices by Nielsen category and subcategory. “Say I’m a pet products buyer and I want to see all the new leashes. I can start looking for leashes and not see any baby products for example,” says Deuschle. Users can also filter searches by keyword, product category, price point, regions, and other categories.

The Company Portfolio acts as a micro site for the vendor. The site contains the company’s contact information, all the product portfolios, and information on certifications the company has earned. The Company Portfolio will be available for retailers, suppliers, and distributors, as well as sales agencies, marketing firms and consultants to post contact information and other materials.

GMDC365 also offers suppliers an opportunity to highlight certain products so they can be noticed more quickly. The top part of the landing page, the Marquee, features “new and notable” products and limits the number of products per category. The user can click on the product to access the Product Page, which provides information such as product attributes, lead-time, the size of the packaging and whether the packs are retail ready. There is also a list of retailers currently selling the product, and a profitability calculator to enable the buyer to quickly figure out projected annual sales for the item.

Another limited product tier is The Spotlight, which shows multiple products and suppliers, which the user can sort by category, date, and other features.

There is also a link for retailers to send email. “You can request more product information, pricing or a sample,” says Deuschle. “So it’s a one stop exploration and discovery. You exchanged information so you effectively eliminated the first discovery step, the flying over there for a half hour meeting.”

Deuschle adds that over the years, much of the feedback that GMDC has heard from large retailers is that they would like to see more products, especially from small manufacturers that can help the stores differentiate themselves from other retailers. Also, some large retailers are especially eager to find suppliers who are certified as a Minority and Women Business Enterprise (MWBE), information that suppliers can include on their product pages. “Now they have given me product descriptions, sales and commercial material, so I can send an email saying, ‘Hey I want more information, don’t call me, here is my email.’”
The site can offer valuable information to suppliers too. GMDC measures the number of visitors to each product page, the number of click-throughs and other important data. The technology can help the vendor figure out whether people usually sat through the entire video or just skipped to the next item.

Holder says that retailers can customize the site. When buyers log in they can indicate which category they handle, such as health/beauty/wellness, or general merchandise. That way, when the person logs in, they can get only HBW or GM videos, new product announcements, and news articles. “We know everybody is trying to streamline his or her lives,” he says.

Improving communications
The site can also help manufacturers and retailers communicate with service companies and distributors. Sometimes small manufacturers get interest from large retailers, but the retailer does not want to work directly with the manufacturer. GMDC365 can help the small business find distributors that work with certain retailers and in particular regions. The site is available to members and non-members.

One of the features that GMDC will add to the site will be GMDC Connect Powered by Telepresence, a service that the association launched last year. GMDC Connect is a virtual meeting, and attendees at the GM conference in Orlando and the HBW conference in San Antonio last year were able to sample the new technology to see how they could meet with people who were unable to attend the events. Soon GMDC members will be able to set up GMDC Connect meetings through GMDC365.

Like GMDC Connect, GMDC365 is not intended to replace face to face meetings in general, and especially not the meetings at the GMDC conferences. “We get recognized and we get credit for putting on two great conferences a year,” says Deuschle. “We have the hearts and minds of our members for about seven days year, and now we can have it for 365 days a year.”

McConnell says the new technology can actually enhance the conference experience. “It has got to be a hybrid,” he says. “You can’t take people out of it. Our teams communicate through the telepresence units but they still need face to face meetings.” GMDC Connect is also useful for global meetings, such as with CPG companies who cannot afford to send people to the U.S. for meetings with retailers.

Only the beginning  
The GMDC365 site that will go live this spring will be an introductory site, and will add features in the near future. Deuschle says GMDC’s goal is to have 100,000 items on the site. That might sound like a large number, he says, but a large company might have 4,000 products.

Holder says that GMDC365 will give members the ability to look at products before they go to the conferences. “This really does improve the process,” he says. Holder adds that The Retail Gateway will still exist, and it will feature information, content, articles, and a link to GMDC365. For more information, visit www.gmdc365.com.

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