The future of trade media appears very bright thanks to an evolving generation of business operators that are extremely proactive and use it as a resource to help them better their business, whether it be to gain regulatory updates, information on new products or advice on how best to stock them. A different debate, however, is around how the trade media will evolve and in what guise it will flourish.

Looking back over the last five years there has been evidence of weaker titles, awards and exhibitions disappearing, unable to financially survive during challenging economic times. By and large this has left the industry with good quality publications, websites, events and associations which are passionate about the food, drink, retail and leisure sectors and supporting the business owners and manufacturers who operate within it.

Benefits for FMCG ManufacturersThe trade media and its associated platforms offer several key benefits to FMCG manufacturers:

· Provides a cost-effective way to reach a wide audience of customers that a company couldn’t necessarily reach directly through a sales force alone. This is particularly relevant to the independent trade both in on & off trade channels

· Adds the credibility of an impartial third party to communications, providing reassurance for customers. This can’t be achieved directly

· Delivers a visible way for manufacturers to demonstrate their on-going commitment to the trade, which can be leveraged during sales conversations

Real Time RelevancyHowever, the trade media landscape is evolving; from the way it is presented to the way in which end customers want to consume it. Print currently still remains a crucial vehicle for the trade media but digital and social media is becoming more relevant and this is largely due to the change to ‘real time’ communication and engagement, thanks to the progression of technology. This is relevant to the way in which journalists cover news and how customers want to receive it, right through to how manufacturers need to be ready to respond to any comments made online in the public domain.

Almost all publications have an online site and journalists frequently break news or comment on news on Twitter and Linkedin. A number have or are considering mobile phone apps to capitalise on the on-the-go media consumption trend.

Doing Business OnlineThe new generation of independent and symbol retailers are spending more time online or on mobile applications for business purposes than ever before, from online ordering, receiving industry news or visiting manufacturer sites for business advice. A recent survey highlighted that 50% of respondents used the web daily for work purposes citing ordering and new product research as the biggest reasons for doing so[1]. For operators within the leisure channel, online is even more developed with almost 70% of respondents citing they use the web for at least six hours a week for business purposes to find out about products, equipment, services and suppliers for their business[2].

Source: Big Hospitality

The Way ForwardThe trade media alongside trade communications agencies have evolved in response to these changes delivering more consumable content and working even more closely with sales functions in manufacturer organisations. The ultimate goal is to help manufacturers to deliver behavioural change and commercial gains, whilst giving customers from all channels the right tools to better their own businesses.

Despite all the benefits and opportunities that the virtual world has to offer, there is still a lot to be said for the strength of integrated communications and good old-fashioned relationships and personal recommendations. At Publicasity we believe that the trade media channel should not be used in isolation but integrated seamlessly with all other trade-facing channels i.e. events, sales teams, internal direct mailings etc… in order to get the most benefit. The power of direct relationships formed through networking should not be underestimated either. In an increasingly competitive marketplace where leading manufacturers all pride themselves on delivering first-class support, service and brands, the difference between a sale may just be down to who you know and the relationship you have with them.

Amy Burgess

Amy Burgess is Associate Director (Food & Drink) at Publicasity.

Follow on Twitter: @Starlet3000

[1] IRN 2013 Reader Survey

[2] Big Hospitality 2013 Trends Report