The number one question everybody asks me constantly is, "How long is it going to take to get my product into retail?" They've created the product, figured out how to make it, produced a prototype, etc. At this point, they're super proud of it, it's stacked in their garage, their spouse is all over them with the, "When are you going to get rid of this?" barrage. So, once they get to me, they need answers and sales, now.
The answer is complex but I've worked with Timothy Bush, host of the On The Shelf Podcast to come up with the factors that might affect the process and/or speed in which you launch into big box retail.
1. Is your product groundbreaking or an enhancement?
Groundbreaking: You found an issue, problem, or niche, and created a product just to fill or fix it with a solution that is new to consumers.
Enhancement: There was a product out there, and you identified ways to make it better, cooler, faster, easier, or more efficient.
Why this matters: The big difference is the pre-existing category, sales trends behind it, and pricing history. With enhancement products, a lot of the leg work is done. There's a quicker, more defined path. With groundbreaking products, you have to do a lot of heavy lifting convincing the buyers.
2. Have you priced your product across all channels? No matter whether you have one product or ten, you need to do a pricing strategy that goes across all channels. You also need a pricing strategy for club store, grocery, specialty, and eCommerce.
Why this matters: Many clients have only ever priced for Amazon. A lot of times when we try to price it for big-box, there is not enough profit margin. Before you launch your product in the market, no matter where you're going to get it on the market, price it out for every sales channel.
3. Do you have any sales on your product? This is going to be a big factor. Buyers will want to know where you are selling and what you've sold. Have some sales data, even if it's just from your website or Amazon, it matters.
Why this matters: Retailers don't want to be first to pull the trigger and take a chance.
4. What type of category are you trying to sell? Let's say you are trying to bring a new coffee brand to market, it's going to be tough. Not because your coffee isn't good, because there are a million people out there selling coffee. It's more difficult to stand out.
Why this matters: Category is key and only in context of how long it is going to take you. If you're selling coffee, it could take you longer than if you were selling yoga socks. Knowing your category helps you prepare your strategy and your overall assault onto retail, understanding full well what you're up against.
5. What are your substantiated uniques? What sets you apart from your competition? One of the first things a buyer will say is, "I already have this, this, and this in your category. Why should I carry yours?" You need 3-5 solid quantified uniques, substantiated with facts.
A word of caution: A lower price is not a substantiated unique. If it was always a better price retailers were looking at, they'd be constantly switching products to make something cheaper.
Why this matters: Buyers need you to be able to clearly explain to them why. Why do you have something that deserves shelf space? Why should they take a chance on you? You need to be able to answer these clearly or you aren't ready.
6. Which retailers are right for this product? Make a list based on demographic of customer. When you're done, ask yourself whether or not each retailer is a good place to enhance your brand.
Why this matters: The retailers you choose are going to affect your brand for a long time so it's important to actively plan where you're going to sell your product, and which retailers are right to enhance and grow your brand.
7. What's your level of influence? Social media, publicity, and content drives product sales now. The level of influence you have with your own authority platform levels you against the bigger brands.
Why this matters: Buyers are now consistently asking, "What are you doing on social? How can we tie into what you're doing on social media?" .
Strike Out or Home Run?
Timothy Bush can tell countless stories about how you can do everything right, and you still end up waiting for buyers to get back to you. Average time to retail is 18-months. It might be more, it might be less, but this is what you should expect. And thank your lucky stars because you will need that time to make sure everything is perfect before you launch into place where strikeouts are more common than home runs, and there's an abundance of eager players hoping you'll get out.