Upmarket grocer Waitrose is set to embark on a new business insights project later this year, as it looks to monitor its performance compared to other supermarkets in the UK.

A collaboration with insights company IRI will commence in September, with the vendor also sharing the same data and insights with Waitrose's suppliers as the retailer looks to strengthen its relationship with its partner brands.

The Bracknell-based grocer will use IRI's online Supplier Advantage tool as it looks to “talk the same language” as its supplier base, in terms of market intelligence. IRI also has established partnerships with a number of Europe's largest retailers, including Tesco, Casino, Costco and Marks & Spencer.

Jacinda Norman, insight manager at Waitrose, remarked: “We’re putting customer insights at the heart of our decision making processes.

“Insight needs to be more than just data and we believe IRI will help us to better understand what the retail data is telling us, so that we can make strategic and tactical decisions that are relevant for our customers.”

Waitrose's move to invest in business insight comes during an increasingly competitive period for the UK supermarket industry, and at a time when research group Nielsen suggests that most grocery trade promotions lose money for suppliers.

A three-year global trend report from Nielsen, published last week, found that six out of ten supermarket trade promotions lose money for FMCG suppliers, with the average loss on these special offers also growing over that period.

According to the market intelligence firm, it analysed the performance of almost 212 million “promotion events” for five million universal code products in seven countries – the US, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Canada and the UK.

For the UK specifically, the research across nearly 200 product categories found that the best promotional returns in 2014 were on skin cosmetics, toilet paper and dishwasher detergent. Worst promotional returns were said to be on fresh fillings, pates and abrasive cleaning pads, with just 6% of special offers for the latter making money.

Last week saw the launch of a new scheme at Waitrose, which will give loyalty programme members the option to choose a selection of their favourite products to purchase for a reduced cost – a move that effectively gives consumers the chance to pick their own special offers.

Alongside the wider business insights project starting later this year, the Waitrose team has said it will be monitoring the success of the new loyalty programme and tweaking it where necessary – as it did last year with the policy that permitted free hot drinks for all of its card holders, but now requires people to buy an item in the cafe before they can receive their beverage.

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