Are you retail ready?
You’ve been working for months (or even years!) to bring your product vision to life and you think you’re finally ready to pitch it to retailers. You have your hit list at hand, some marketing material and sample products. But do you really understand what today’s retailers are looking for – not just in a product, but in a supplier and a business partnership?
Make sure you can tick off this checklist before you go knocking on doors.
Compliant and shelf ready packaging
Compliant packaging needs to meet all applicable Australian standards. You need to understand what these are for food and drink (see Food Standards Australia New Zealand), natural health and beauty and personal care products (see the Therapeutic Goods Administration) and ensure your packaging meets all the relevant rules. For natural, organic and healthy brand owners, it’s critical to understand what health claims you can make. And while not strictly related to compliance – consumers are wise to ‘green washing’ and hopefully this will extend to ‘health washing’ as we become more educated – so whatever claims you make, you better be able to back them up. See also Country of Origin and warning labelling for food and drinks, and mandatory product safety standard for labelling of cosmetic ingredients, and other guides here.
Complaint barcodes are critical for trade locally, online and internally. GS1 is a good place to start with many Australian retailers requiring GS1 barcodes. They help with full supply chain traceability and are also valid for major re-sellers like Alibaba, Amazon, eBay, and Google. You also need to understand barcode design and how that interfaces with your packaging and printing.
Your product and packaging must meet Australia’s trade measurement laws regulating the measurement of pre-packed goods by quantity. Manufacturers, packers, importers and retailers must ensure all batches of pre-packaged articles meet the legislative requirements for correct measurement. This includes requirements for the position, size and format of measurement labels. It also includes requirements for the type and units of measurement to be used on labels for specific products. If your products are inspected and found to be underweight, you may need to issue a recall, which can be both costly and devastating to your brand. See the National Measurement Institute’s guide here.
You need to consider where your product will be stocked and the type of shelf ready packaging required. Will your product hang or sit on shelf in cartons? Sit on the long or short side? Do you need counter displays? Packaging serves to protect your product in transit and prolong the life of your product. It needs to be durable and suitable to how a consumer would use it. Consider things like convenience packs, resalable pouches, vacuum seals, and outer packaging.
Key messages, front of pack claims, colours – your packaging has a lot of work to do. What is the most effective way to achieve shelf presence? Go into stores and visualise how your product will look on shelf, and get in the experts. Read more here.
Quality assurance plan
Suppliers must have a quality assurance plan in place for the manufacturing of products. Quality control is concerned with sampling, specifications and testing as well as the organisation, documentation and release procedures that ensure all necessary and relevant tests are done, and that products are not released until their quality meets established standards. See HACCP, GMP as examples.
The channel strategy is your plan for moving your product through the chain of commerce to the end consumer. Things to consider include how to stage and scale your market entry from initial launch to growth; how to plan and split your range across channels to capture different markets or price points (and honour each retailer partnership with a unique offer); and how to balance selling via your own e-commerce website, online resellers and marketplaces with bricks and mortar stores.
Your distribution plan should consider third-party distributors, warehousing and sending direct to store. Third-party distributors are the link in your supply chain between you and the retailer. While many smaller or independent retailers don’t require you to have a third-party distributor, you’ll need a robust system in place to distribute to large format retailers without one. If using third-party distributors, you need to consider which ones are the best fit for your product and target channels, how to set and monitor KPIs, and whether you assign exclusive distribution rights or split by channel or by geographical location. We’ve marked this down for a future article soon, so sign up below if you want more on this topic.
Product supply continuity
Scaleable ability to supply is one of the top considerations for retailers assessing whether to take on your product. Retail buyers need to know they can trust you to supply and manage their account efficiently, professionally and effectively.
Failure to meet consumer demand due to inadequate inventory or poor inventory management is a major problem for you and your retailers with several consequences, including lost sales, lost customers, and negative publicity. If it happens too often, retailers will stop stocking your products, and you may even pay to have them removed from store. So consider your ability to meet demand both now and into the future, and what systems and processes you need to put in place to ensure continued product supply.
Competitive pricing model
For your pricing model to work it needs to take into account each aspect of the supply chain, including production; warehousing and distribution; distributor, retailer and broker margins, costs and rebates; and consumer and trade marketing. Do you have enough margin to employ distributors where necessary? Where does your competitor sit? How does your price point reflect your brand positioning?
In-store point of sale and support
How are you going to support your brand in store and what material will you need? Point of sale and education material in retail outlets can be critical to achieving sales potential. A system for sampling and in-store demonstrations support brand awareness and retail staff to sell your product, and is also a great research tool for garnering customer feedback.
Consumer marketing plan
Getting on shelf is just the beginning – selling off shelf is critical to staying there. Retailers want to know you have a strong consumer marketing plan to raise brand awareness and drive consumers in store. Take a close look at your consumer segments and consider how you can reach them via events, digital, social and partnerships.
Trade marketing plan
A trade marketing plan takes into account marketing your product to retailers via available channels like trade expos and trade publications; educating retail staff; and initiatives with retailers such as price promotions, catalogue support, and sampling.
Customer enquiry system
A system to handle both trade and consumer enquiries is essential. Ensure website FAQs are robust and updated to minimise the burden on staff, use online forms, and explore social and digital tools like Zendesk and chatbots. Assign an account manager for trade enquiries, make reordering as a simple as possible for existing customers and have a process for new customer sign up and on-boarding.
Effective online presence
A website and social presence is critical. Ideally, you will have generated a social following before approaching retailers to demonstrate consumer demand. Make sure all of your basics are set up and connected – Google Analytics, Facebook pixels, email marketing sign up and conversion tracking.
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