Selling your products to retailers in this new paradigm as a startup
This blog is a contribution by Yohan Jacob, known internationally as the Retail Coach. A noted author, retail consultant and retail coach, Yohan teaches entrepreneurs, inventors, and small suppliers on how to stand apart from the competition and get their products sold to retailers and distributors. Visit him online at www.retailbound.com
What a year 2020 was! Like most people, I have put 2020 in the rearview mirror and really focused on making 2021 a year to remember! Birthdays, school graduations, weddings, and other major life events have all been affected some way or another this year thanks to COVID-19. This was also no exception to the annual DATG “Day After Thanksgiving” sales event. As a former Sears and OfficeMax buyer, I have seen my fair share of DATG sales events to last a lifetime. However, at last year’s’ DATG sales event, I noticed a trend emerging.
Instead of retailers listing the hot price on a 4K television, I saw promos on chess sets and other board games. Why? As many states instituted stay-at-home orders in the Fall, consumers were looking for products to “play at home”. Retailers also promoted products in these trending categories as well:
- Work from home
- Study at home
- Workout at home
- Cook at home
In addition, many retailers chose to push their blockbuster sales items online versus having to deal with crowds in stores during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Most offered sales on their website throughout the month of November. One major retailer launched one hot DATG sales item on their website every day in November while another major retailer offered a 10% discount when the consumer would purchase the item online but picked it up curbside outside the store.
So, what’s happening?
First, consumers are discovering new products almost exclusively online. Potential customers are no longer browsing shelves or taking trips to the local shopping mall. Rather, they are being targeted on Facebook and Google by both manufacturers and digital ad agencies.
Second, consumers are validating purchases with online product reviews. Manufacturers who develop strong reviews online run the market. At Retailbound, we have clients that have thousands of verified 4 and 5-star reviews on their items at Amazon. Since demand exists online, retail buyers at brick-and-mortar stores are no longer feeling that they are taking the risk on in-store placement for small brands.
What does it mean for Consumer Product Startups?
Consumer product startups are well-positioned to take advantage of this new retail paradigm. Here are a few ways a startup can best adapt:
- Improve your content and images online: Your website is a reflection of your business. Hire professionals to edit your copy and improve the content online with high-res images. One of our clients recently updated their website and saw their sales equal to both Amazon and Best Buy during the DATG sales event.
- Build your social network: Start a Facebook, Instagram and Twitter account on behalf of your brand and start building followers. Not sure what to post? Pick a favorite brand and emulate the ways that brand engages with its followers. No need to reinvent the wheel!
- Make customer service your #1 priority: Bad customer service can result in negative online reviews for even the best products. Ensure you have a process in place to deal with all levels of customer complaints. Your goal should be to convert every angry customer into a fan.
- Outsource your PR and marketing efforts: It would be a terrible mistake to cut back on your sales and marketing efforts to retailers and just wait till we are past COVID-19. Many consumer product start-ups don’t have the time or the experience to do public relations or channel selling themselves. It’s best to hire professionals who can manage these tasks while you focus your efforts elsewhere.
Hopefully this blog post inspires you to continue your dream of getting your products sold into major retailers someday. While retail is tough, it’s not impossible. I look forward in seeing your product in retail very soon. Good luck and good selling!