Settle Spotlight Series: Q&A with Vividly

December 11, 2023

LEARN

Start scaling your brand's growth

Welcome to Settle Spotlight series, where we highlight innovative software tools, service providers, and agencies focused on helping CPG brands scale.

This month, our very own Head of Partnerships, Anna Briggs chatted with Alyshah Walji from Vividly. Vividly is a trade promotion management (TPM) software built by and for the consumer packaged goods industry. Vividly helps CPG companies increase trade promotion ROI by more effectively planning trade promotions, forecasting sales and revenue, and improving deduction management with automation. 

Anna: Thanks so much for joining us, Alyshah!  Can you tell me a bit about the Vividly founding story?

Alyshah: Yeah, definitely. Two of our founders, Nikki and Stu, used to work at Justin's, Lily’s, and Perfect Bar,  building their promotional strategies and managing their deductions. What they found was that it was really difficult to find the right tools to help them scale. Most of the tools that existed were reserved for brands with an enterprise budget; were really complex to implement; and had outdated user interfaces. At the same time, our other two co-founders, Alex and Daniel, were doing a project to figure out what are some of the challenges that CPG businesses face. One of the things they found was that trade promotions accounted for the second largest line item on the P&L, but all this data was being managed in spreadsheets and it required a ton of manual work. They ultimately worked together to create Vividly to help bring a new solution to the market that was affordable, easy-to-use and could scale with businesses as they grew for sales and finance teams. 

Anna: That evolution makes a lot of sense.  They saw the problem in real life and then were committed to figuring out the solution.  Can you tell me more about the problems that you and the team are aiming to solve?  How would you articulate the company's mission?

Alyshah: Our company's mission is to help brands be successful with trade using a platform that will scale with them as they grow.  A lot of brands that we talk to are just starting to scale, and very quickly it becomes overwhelming. You have so many things to think about as a founder, and you need to be focused on gaining distribution, managing cash-flow, and becoming operationally efficient. They get caught up in the minutiae of spreadsheets rather than focusing on the important areas of the business. Oftentimes these brands have to compete against much larger players in a grocery store, so technology can help them do that in a way that's more efficient than their competitors.

Anna: And what do you do at Vividly?

Alyshah: I lead our Partnerships and Integrations here at Vividly. There's a lot of really valuable technologies and services that help our brands be successful, from brokers and consultants to financing tools. What I find with a lot of our brands is that they want all of these separate partners to work together to better support them. They also often want recommendations on tools or services other reputable brands are using —what Outsourced Financing team should I work with? Or is there an AP tool that can help me with invoicing and payments? So my goal is really to understand the ecosystem and build relationships with reputable partners that are going to help our brands scale.  We want to be a trusted resource and have recommendations when brands are growing and need help.

Anna:  That’s great.  Something you said earlier is that trade spend is a really significant line item on the P&L, and things get very complex as brands first start to get into wholesale. What are some of the unexpected challenges that you see brands facing as they expand into retail?

Alyshah: I think one in particular is super relevant to what Settle does and why we’ve partnered with your team. When a brand gets distribution and they get into new stores, they realize very quickly—holy crap, how am I going to produce enough of my product to meet the volume requirements? And where am I going to get the cash to fund that purchase? Brands get excited about the opportunity, but the additional stress of being operationally capable means they lose focus on whether that promotion is good for the business. This is even more overwhelming for Brands that don’t have a Trade Promotion Management tool like Vividly, and they get stuck in the weeds of looking at spreadsheets and PDFs to validate deductions, rather than reviewing promotional effectiveness and focusing on distribution growth.

Anna:  That definitely resonates with what we hear from a lot of our clients.  Another thing both Vividly and Settle are really focused on helping scaling brands simplify and automate workflows. Getting out of the spreadsheets, and bringing together a lot of disparate processes into one tool.  You’ve touched on this a bit, but, what are some of the risks that you think are present in managing trade in spreadsheets or other kinds of manual processes?

Alyshah: It works for the short term, but very quickly as retail revenue grows, so does the importance of promotional ROI and managing the loss to your business from deductions.

 With spreadsheets, you don’t have the visibility, nor the cross-functional ease to manage that. The reason this changes as a brand scales is they promote more. So they move from having primarily supply chain-related deductions, like shortages, to promotion-related deductions, which are often more expensive and harder to contest. And that's where cross-functional visibility becomes super critical to contest the invalids. To help quantify this, if you’re a 10 million dollar brand, we’re finding around 10% of your deductions are going to be invalid, with an average 20% trade rate, that’s $50,000 left on the table you could be using for growth. Not to mention the time it takes for your sales and finance team to be in all the spreadsheets and retailer portals, when they could be focused on gaining distribution and managing the business. With trade being your second largest line item on the P&L and promotions being a necessary part of doing business, it's so important to look at the data holistically and understand where you’re succeeding and not.

Anna: Absolutely.  So then how do you think that brands can then use a tool like Vividly as a competitive advantage?

Alyshah: Because all your data and documents will live in one platform, that offers a couple different advantages for brands. The first one is bringing Sales and Finance into one single tool. That helps save your team a lot of time in back-and-forth communication and makes aligning on what happened a lot easier. Teams can then spend more time on understanding where the business is going strategically and leveraging automation for promotion and deduction visibility, rather than looking through the minutiae of spreadsheets and PDFs. The second advantage is having access to that data over time. People don't really put enough emphasis on the value of having years and years of data in a platform that can help you learn and iterate. We often see brands that use our platform improve forecasting accuracy year over year, and more intelligently talk to their buyers about promotional successes and failures. This becomes even more valuable as you scale and promotions become a strategy for growth, rather than just something you have to do to get into a retailer. Spreadsheets are one and done—they don’t learn or help you become better, so by using a platform brands can make smarter decisions and save money when it comes to deductions.

Anna: That's awesome, thank you. Another area where we share a similar focus is on helping brands manage their cash efficiently—whether that's trade spend, or buying inventory, or whether they want to pay with cash or finance their purchases.  How do you see a brand using Vividly and Settle in a complimentary way?

Alyshah: I think one of the strongest ways to do that is by being able to have consistent and accurate forecasting for your promotions so that you have enough inventory for your upcoming promotion. One of the main reasons why promotions are unsuccessful is shortages, you created enough demand for your product, but you didn’t produce enough so now the shelves are empty. Being able to do forecasting accurately is going to give you a better idea of what your consumption is going to look like for the year, and how much you need to raise or find in debt financing to get enough inventory to meet that forecast. Shortages not only hurt your revenue growth, but also your relationship with retailers and distributors that are so important to maintain. One of the reasons we partnered with Settle was how great of a solution it is to pay your vendors, saving a ton of time with automated workflows, but also giving you access to Working Capital to ensure you’re able to produce enough product and prevent those shortages.

Anna: How should a brand who’s interested in Vividly reach out to get started?

Alyshah: Have a conversation with us, you can reach me at alyshah@govividly.com, or on our website govividly.com. We have a team of experts that have worked in CPG brands in roles just like yourselves, so a lot of what we do in the early process is helping a brand understand whether they actually need a platform. One of the areas that we’ve been consulting brands on is how to evaluate bringing in technology for efficiency, versus bringing on headcount into an already inefficient process. There’s a lot of pressure right now from boards and VCs to be tight with money. So if you can use technology to be more efficient going into 2024, rather than investing that money in headcount, it can be super advantageous to get the efficient growth you’re looking for.

Opinions expressed in the interview belong solely to the individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of Settle Inc. or its affiliates.

Get connected with a migration specialist

*The information in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, financial, or professional advice. Settle makes no representation or warranties, expressed or implied, and in no event shall Settle or its affiliates, agents, or employees be liable to you or anyone else for any decision made or action taken in reliance on the information contained herein.