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Manufacturers: 4 Tips to Make Your Big-Box Retailers Love You & Your Products

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Jan 10 2014, Posted by InReality
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In today’s hyper-competitive landscape, the battle for shelf space and in-store presence is ever increasing. Consequently, if your goal is to improve your retail presence or, better yet, to simply ensure a continued place for your products on retailer shelves, you need to think about ways to add value to your retail partner relationships. Here are four tips to help you do just that and ultimately increase your ROI:

1.) Knuckle Down on Implementation
Surprisingly, only a fraction of brand marketers factor implementation feasibility for a new merchandising concept into their planning process. This does not score big points with retail partners left to connect the dots. The reality is, retailers not only expect your new merchandising concepts to function within their existing structures and standards, but they expect a smooth implementation and an improved customer shopping experience. So, make sure to factor implementation into your plans and do not keep your strategy and execution teams separate during the planning processes. Otherwise, your plan may not truly capture what it takes to execute the new merchandising concept. Also, since execution can be a bit of a minefield, ensure that you have a team in place to address challenges as they come pouring in—so your retailer partner won’t have to.

2.) Understand your Product’s Category/Department
Category managers are always looking for new opportunities for preferred vendors, often providing them with dedicated spaces of higher visibility for promotional activities. You can help your retailers by identifying the characteristics of the most profitable customer group for each category product assortment—tracing buying patterns and lifestyle traits that motivate spending on certain items. This will also help them become more customer-centric, focusing on customer wants and needs, rather than product-centric. Remember, while you are trying to grow space for your products, they are trying to grow the overall category performance. Providing a category classification analysis, as well as, detailed metrics required for your product’s profitability will help retailers outline an approach for better managing their categories.

For most retailers, there are generally five main marketing roles for their merchandise mix. Every merchandise category lives in at least one of these marketing roles (the nomenclature of roles may vary between retailers).

  1. Traffic Generators (maintains loyalty)
  2. Transaction Builders (drives impulse, add-on purchases)
  3. Revenue Builders (the turf protectors, category killers)
  4. Value Perception (creates favorable price image)
  5. Profit Generators (builds brand authority and expertise)

3.) Don’t Forget to Consider Retailer Pain Points
As you create your new merchandising concept, you’ll certainly be concerned with: providing customers with the necessary information and creating an attraction element that will get customers to stop. But what are your retailer’s concerns? Considering retailer pain points could impact your design, so review them early in the strategy phase. Focusing on these points will likely result in a more effective, consumer-centric merchandising tool and better ROI. Here are a few key retailer concerns to think about as you create your new merchandising concept:

  • Clutter—Retailers are becoming more selective about choosing the most effective POP tools to excite and educate consumers. Help them make their stores inviting and as easy to shop as possible.
  • Ambiguous Choices—Retailers need product choices to be simplified, quick and easy to compare.
  • Product-Centric Communications—Retailers are looking for more targeted consumer-centric communications that speak to their consumers and that differentiate on something other than price.
  • Loss of Confidence in Buying Experience—Retailers want to move shoppers away from simply looking for the best price—this inhibits buying new items. Help them by providing meaningful reasons for customers to trade up or buy new items, getting customers deeper into the aisles, and offering ways to demonstrate new items for customers.
  • Stocked & Priced Marketing—Retailers want a plan for in-store marketing outside of priced inventory on a shelf.

Essentially, what you need to do is help your retailers connect three dots: 1) all tactical elements (store layouts, fixtures, digital & print signage, POPs, etc.), 2) the four Rs (relationship, relevancy, retrenchment & reward) and 3) the four Ps (price, product, promotion & place).

4.) Approach Digital Channels Carefully & Share Insights
Retail has always been location, location, location, but now mobile has joined the mix. Empowered consumers use digital channels everyday and most of these channels are outside of the store’s ability to control. Social media, blogs and Youtube are just a few examples of digital channels that consumers use to research product information, pricing and inventory. In fact, in many cases consumers use mobile technologies to gather information right in the store—something neither the brand nor the store has very much control over. However, there are things that can be done to manage this digital onslaught. Place-based, in-store digital elements can help brands and retailers regain control and reframe the conversation. At the same time, technologies like touchscreen kiosks and tablet computers can serve as a virtual concierge to the consumer, offering product recommendations, helping shoppers to locate items in the store and improving the overall shopping experience. This has a tremendous benefit to the retailer, and data collected from these devices should be shared to give your retailers insights into how the devices are being used by costumers. This also has big picture implications when considering how consumers move within the store, where the hotspots are and how long shoppers may dwell in a particular area.

If you do decide to go digital, it is important to note that these experiences must be well designed or consumers will not use them. Most retailers do not have signage standards specific to digital elements, but they will appreciate a vendor who goes the extra mile to execute digital elements that complement the store experience rather than detract from it. Overall, the key is to have a comprehensive strategy that provides value to the consumer, the retailer and the brand.

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