People have been speculating the demise of retail ever since ecommerce first emerged. However, even though consumer shopping behaviors are shifting, a significant portion of shopping continues to take place in physical retail stores. A recent study found that 94 percent of retail sales still take place in stores.
I can confidently say my company wouldn't be where we are today if it weren't for retail, nor would we have sold 10 million units as quickly as we did. Big retail outlets provide a sense of trust and credibility that you just can't get by selling direct. Much like advertising, being seen on store shelves helps build brand awareness. Getting coveted real estate in respected stores can help elevate the status of your brand.
But major chains are notoriously choosy. How do you break through the noise and convince them to give your new product a chance? Here are a few tips that worked for us:
Fear of missing out is a powerful motivator. What builds FOMO? Numbers that go up and to the right. Show them how well you have been selling on your website or crowdfunding campaign. Let them see your sales growth and positive ratings on Amazon. Start with a small number of retailers at first so they can have the feeling of exclusivity. If you do well, others will follow.
Lay Out Your Vision for the Future
Buyers want to see where you are planning to take the business. Explain your vision for the future and how you will build a community around your customers. When you are about more than just a product, retailers will believe in your potential.
Don't Be a One-trick Pony
Big retailers can't risk their valuable shelf space on a company that won't be around next year. Provide plans of how you will build a portfolio of products for different purposes and customers, and at different prices. Bring mockups of future products. Talk about when and how you will introduce them to the market.
Show, Don't Tell
Invest in talented package designers, photographers and copywriters, as well as high-quality materials, and bring your new packaging to the pitch meeting. The packaging for retail might be different than what you used for website sales. Back then, your package was a shipping container. Now it's a commercial. Customers make a decision in a fraction of a second. Aim for a clean-but-eye-catching design and brief-but-compelling copy. We leveraged the data from our website sales to let us know what copy worked best.
Retailers expect you to create demand and awareness for your product. Bring a detailed marketing plan. Show them the ad campaigns you plan to run over the next few quarters. Share the marketing budget you're dedicating to it. Walk them through your PR plan and show them stacks of positive reviews. A retailer wants to know customers will be coming into their store looking for your product.
Get Your Stuff Together
Show them you have your manufacturing and supply chain dialed in. Be prepared to answer detailed questions about your process. If you want to be in stores before the holiday sales rush, work backward from a target date of October at the latest. Allow time for shipping from your manufacturer to your distributor to their warehouses. Always give yourself extra time because somewhere in the process, something will go wrong, guaranteed!
Proceed With Caution
Don't rush to retail because you think it will save your business. Just because your product appears on a shelf in Walmart does not mean it will sell. If you take the leap before you're ready, you could flop -- and if you do, you might not get another chance.
Take the time to build your brand. Sell online through your own site and Amazon. When you're confident your product will sell in retail, and you have a detailed plan to make that happen, then you're ready.