ECRM’s proprietary virtual meeting platform has reached a big milestone. More than 100,000 meetings have taken place on the ECRM Connect platform, which the Solon, Ohio-based company developed to facilitate live, interactive digital meetings between buyers and sellers.
All told, more than 3,450 buyers and 2,965 suppliers have participated in 100,745 meetings across 92 category-specific virtual sessions focused on the U.S., European, Latin American and Asian markets since the launch of ECRM Connect last May. The platform allows for video meetings and offers such tools as the ability to take meeting notes, review products and supplier capabilities, rank meetings and communicate follow-up timelines and next steps.
"You can't match the efficiency that virtual delivers when it comes to product discovery," said Sarah Groves, senior category manager at Southeastern Grocers. "I've participated in eight ECRM Virtual Programs since the platform launched and have had hundreds of meetings with suppliers. There is no way I could have met with that many brands in-person."
The company also noted that participation among top-tier buyers has increased by more than 20% since before the pandemic, as retailers and foodservice operators embrace virtual meetings and the efficiencies and time savings they provide.
"I think it's a new way of doing business and it's probably going to stay even after COVID is gone," said Conor O'Farrell, buying manager for positive healthcare at Boots Ireland. O'Farrell is a regular attendee of ECRM in-person programs and attributes these programs with helping him and his colleagues become first-to-market with innovative brands.
ECRM said users have noted that virtual meetings have enabled buyers to follow up more quickly than in the past, making it easier to get products on the shelf faster. “ECRM's Virtual Programs have been instrumental in our plans for launching into the mass retail market,” said Ahmad Rifaie, vice president of sales and marketing for beverage brand Savia USA. "We're already on the shelves of one national retailer, and will soon be in another, each from ECRM Programs in which we participated the second half of last year."
ECRM said that it will be hosting more than 100 global virtual sessions across categories this year.
"It's clear from the feedback we've been getting from buyers and sellers that virtual meetings are here to stay," said Kurt Repola, ECRM senior vice president of marketing. "Remote engagement has been integrated into our customers' day-to-day operations since the start of the pandemic, and most plan to make it a key component of how they conduct business moving forward."