This guest post is written by Jan Fura is a co-founder of S4RB and a highly experienced senior IT professional and business analyst. He has developed award-winning software solutions for a wide range of retailers during a 25-year career. Fura’s leadership has enabled the S4RB team to help retailers succeed with a wide range of initiatives, from new product development and product quality surveillance to engaging with suppliers in efforts to drive increased accuracy and efficiency. Fura is a passionate advocate for supplier engagement and underscores the importance of collaboration as a key ingredient for the success of any private brand initiative.

Learn more about Unified Brand Experience when Kieran Forsey, CEO & Co-Founder, S4RB North America presents “Unified Brand Experience – Private Brand Success Reimagined” at Velocity: The My Private Brand Conference.


Solutions for Retail Brands (S4RB) commissioned a study focusing on private brands at the top US and UK retailers and understanding customer care services and website reviews in 2016.

This research benchmarked what S4RB calls Unified Brand Experience (UBX). This includes levels of customer care and product knowledge alongside the positioning of how open the retailer was to receive and indeed encourage feedback. The results were extremely interesting and over the following weeks, in a series of blogs, I will talk you through some of the related observations and conclusions, as we tracked the evolution of private brands in the key area of consumer brand engagement.

Happy Ostriches! – “Sheltering from, rather than embracing quality feedback”.

The first group we identified represented roughly 20% of the US retailers; we nicknamed this group the ‘Happy Ostriches’. These retailers had performed well on execution for call center engagement particularly about industry knowledge of the consumer requests and access to detailed product information and at first glance, the premier brands all seemed to align with our expectations. However, as we delved a little deeper into the data and considered how easy it was for the consumer to get access to this information we found they all had one important thing in common. Our Happy Ostriches were not making it easy or inviting consumers to provide feedback or engage with their brand and products.

So, our Happy Ostriches highlighted the first obvious difference in the development of private brands in the UK versus the US. Every major UK retailer has a clear call out encouraging feedback about their own brand products, either by placing a number in a prominent position on pack and/or by providing a method for product reviews online.

The high levels of call execution for the Happy Ostriches were therefore directly related to the number of calls being placed into the retailer via these channels. This was allowing in most cases the private brands quality team to be getting involved in responding. It is well documented that the best time to impress and retain customers is often around the point that there is a problem; an issue or complaint. At a time when retailers are searching for methods to secure and maintain millennials, it seems inconceivable that the door might be half closed at what has been proven to be the best time to turn from zero to hero in the consumer’s eyes.

What makes these findings even more surprising is that we see the same group of retailers joining the industry spending a huge amount of time and money in getting vital panel feedback on their products and building new test kitchen facilities but will then setup an in-house associate driven panel process. We believe there is an additional wealth of feedback from existing customers, by encouraging feedback whenever possible and delivering a customer experience which encourages brand advocacy. Surely it should be better to find a way to make these advocates central to your product feedback rather than locking out the advocates of the brand when it is exactly those passionate consumers that represent the future success for your products and brand.

As already mentioned another worrying aspect of this group was that it contained several identified “Premier” US private brand performers. How could that be?  Our conclusion from this study was that the consumer was actively being driven away from the phone and online channel and back into the store where associate engagement was superb. This may align with the retailer’s strategy but this means they also ignore the wish of the consumer for omnichannel performance in brand performance. For millennials, particularly that ability to engage in the way they want is a must!

In my next blog in this series, I will look at the group that have evolved into what might be considered as the ‘norm’ for private brand retail and we will discuss the potential opportunities that group are ignoring.

Learn more about Unified Brand Experience when Kieran Forsey, CEO & Co-Founder, S4RB North America presents “Unified Brand Experience – Private Brand Success Reimagined” at Velocity: The My Private Brand Conference.

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Christopher Durham
Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.