In late December, Drug Store News caught up with ECRM president Mitch Bowlus to find out what was in store for the company’s highly successful series of Efficient Program Planning Session meetings and the constantly evolving MarketGate technology that helps drives them.
DSN: Mitch, this recession continues to hammer consumers, yet it seems that ECRM continues to grow. How has your business managed that?
Mitch Bowlus: We offer an efficient and cost-effective format. Our customers recognize that, as well as the other benefits we provide, and continue to register for our events, fortunately. Suppliers have guaranteed, prescheduled meetings with decision-makers in one place over the course of a few days, as opposed to traveling all over the country — our customers are always telling us how much our format saves in not only travel costs but also their valuable time.
Our events are focused [and] very productive, so there’s not a lot of standing around waiting for the next meeting. We don’t offer our customers a lot of free time, but we do offer [return on investment] that’s second-to-none, which is critical in this rough economy. I am finding that new suppliers may be initially hesitant about the [cost], but after they experience ECRM, they are typically customers for life.
Our retailers also recognize the effectiveness of our format to review opportunities for not only their current suppliers but also new ones. The number of focus meetings our retailers have in just a few days saves them literally months of office appointments. Also, our MarketGate software is provided complimentary to all attendees, year-round, which significantly adds to the value we offer.
DSN: We understand ECRM has made some updates to MarketGate that are helping retailers and suppliers get even more from your meetings. Can you tell us more about that?
Bowlus: We plan to introduce some new, exciting components in 2012 … [including] a new mobile application. This application will offer a revolutionary way for our customers to manage their ECRM events and meetings, take notes and select products, but it will also be a way for them to stay connected to other [consumer packaged goods] contacts and happenings, all from their mobile device. We’re really excited about this because we’re going to include our MarketGate communities, … which will be integrated into this mobile application, allowing our customers to personalize and tailor their ECRM experience to meet their unique business objectives. We plan on releasing this during the second quarter.
DSN: What’s your vision for this year, and what can we expect to see from ECRM?
Bowlus: We’re going to [continue to] focus on how we can improve our customers’ experience. ... We’re going to focus on improving our core category events in the [United States] and abroad. ... We’re going to listen to our customers about their needs and ideas for potential new categories we can expand upon. ... They’re obviously the core of our business, and we will continue to provide them with the most efficient events and innovative technology for years to come.
For the full audio Q&A, click here.