Many people think that the hardest part of bringing a new product to market is the original idea or the development stage. The truth, however, is that getting your product into stores and selling it to customers is often far more difficult than you might expect. Most inventors or product developers are incredibly creative people but don’t have the knowledge or experience which is required for effective branding, marketing, and customer outreach. Convincing big retailers about the merits and potential saleability of your product can be particularly difficult as they are pitched literally thousands of products every year.
So what can you do to give yourself the best chance of success?
In this article, we will explain everything you need to know, from how to identify your target customers to how to get your product in stores that are best suited to guarantee sales.
1. Make sure your product is ready
Before you approach retailers to see if they want to stock your product, you first need to make sure that the item itself is ready to go to market. It’s no use approaching buyers if there are issues with durability or design which need fixing before production can begin in earnest.
This means that you will need to have conducted stringent product testing. This usually happens in various stages and typically involves:
- Design testing and quality control checks to ensure that the product is fit for purpose and works as intended
- Trials to see how well the target market responds to your idea
- Customer surveys focus groups and blind testing
- Production testing to make sure there are no issues with the manufacturing processes or supply line
Certain products may also need to be tested and approved by certain governing bodies or health and safety regulators. Without these certifications, retailers may be reluctant to sell your product or may even be legally unable to do so.
2. Obtain intellectual property protections
The best way to ensure that you won’t have any direct competition is to create a totally unique product and securing the appropriate legal protections such as trademarks, copyrights, or patents. These types of protections will give you the sole right to produce and sell your product so that nobody else is able to hijack part or all of your idea without consequence. You may need help from an IP solicitor if this applies to you but it is important not only because it protects your design but also because retailers are less likely to take up new ideas which already exist elsewhere on store shelves.
When it comes to products, patents are usually the most important type of intellectual property. In the UK there are two main types of patents; utility patents and design patents. Utility patents are the most valuable as they protect how something works which is crucial if your product offers some kind of unique functionality to customers.
Design patents provide protection for your product’s distinct visual appearance, which isn’t always essential if your design is relatively simple or doesn’t have a major aesthetic component.
3. Get the price of manufacturing down
Retailers are only interested in products that they can make a profit on. If your product costs more to produce than it does for the retailer to sell, then there’s no point trying to get it into stores. Retailers want at least two or three times markup on the wholesale price that they will pay for your items, so you need to work out how much this is and ensure that the price of manufacturing reflects this level of profitability.
Some retailers may also require minimum order quantities (MOQs) which must be met before an item will go onto store shelves. This means that if you cannot reach MOQ levels within 12 months, most big retailers won’t take up your offer anyway because they know you’ll struggle with inventory management over time.
4. Focus on your branding
Modern consumers don’t just look for products that offer the most functionality or value for money. They also want products that are respected, fashionable, or convey a certain message. This is why your product and company branding is so important.
You need to ensure that your product has a strong brand identity that is consistent across all touchpoints from the label, packaging, website and other communications. This will give consumers an idea of what they can expect if they buy into your brand and will make them more likely to purchase your products.
If your branding is too complex or difficult to understand then you’re unlikely to get many sales in-store. Today’s customers are looking for unique, distinctive brands that provide a consistent, positive experience every time.
5. Identify your target market
Working out who your target customers are will help you to identify the stores which are most likely to want to stock or sell your product, as well as being able to tailor promotional materials and marketing approaches for that demographic group. If you have already established contact with retailers through attending trade shows (see below) or meeting buyers in person, this information may be readily available from them too.
Some products appeal more broadly than others do while some markets are far more niche or specialised. Retailers will also prefer it if there aren’t too many similar items on their shelves competing for customer attention so make sure that you have done thorough competitor research to ensure that you are filling a gap in the market.
6. Devise a sales and marketing strategy
Part of this process will be defined by the target demographic that you have identified, whether they are likely to purchase from a high street store or through their phone, which marketing avenues are more likely to resonate with them, and what trends you have analysed in their buying habits. For example, if your product is aimed at children, then television advertising on children’s television channels may be the best avenue, while if you are aiming your product at Millenials, social media marketing will likely be key.
Digital marketing has become the most effective way to build customer awareness and engagement with new products and companies. This includes blogging, social media marketing, email campaigns, video content creation, website design and search engine optimisation. Building a strong customer base before you start pitching to retailers will show them that there is interest in your product and that it will be worth their while stocking it.
7. Find the right distributors
Many retailers will only deal with distributors, so you need to find one that is well-suited to your product and target demographic. It’s important here not just to consider the size of the distributor but also their reputation in terms of customer service and ability to deliver on time.
If you don’t have any prior business experience then it may be worth bringing someone onto your team who has worked with suppliers and distributors before as this expertise can help significantly when trying to secure deals.
As part of this process, make sure that you are aware of all legal requirements regarding distribution such as safety testing certificates for children’s products or other certifications which must be included if importing from overseas markets. If there are no compliance standards around these procedures within your industry, then it might be useful to consult a legal advisor about setting some up.
8. Develop a winning sales pitch
Every retailer will need to be convinced that your product is worth selling and so you’ll need to develop a sales pitch that echoes many of the points made above. A winning sales pitch needs to be both compelling and comprehensive, so you need to wow retailers but also satisfy them in terms of the numbers. Making sure that you have calculated projections, profit margins, deliverable quantities and supply times are all key because there is nothing that retailers hate more than businesses that don’t know their numbers. This will involve analysing historical data from similar products within the industry as well as consumer research conducted beforehand. You will then be able to convince the retailer of the saleability of your product, and also help them understand what success looks like for both parties.
9. Match your product to the right stores
Getting your product into stores will be a real achievement, but it’s important that you don’t just get the biggest and best retailers on board. Your retail strategy needs to match the marketability and USP of your product with the right store. This means considering factors such as the location of a store, how it fits into the local community and whether or not your product will be appealing to their customers.
In some cases, you may find that retailers are only interested in stocking products from companies that have been trading for several years, while other stores might want smaller lines that they can build up over time. It’s important to research what these requirements are before choosing potential retailers to pitch your product or you could waste a lot of time and miss out on a different opportunity.
10. Reach out to small local stores
Many local independent retailers are struggling to compete with larger companies but still act as vital community hubs within their local area. By selling your products through these small local stores, you can build brand awareness through word of mouth marketing which has its own unique value.
Even though there may seem to be a lot of competition for these smaller buyers’ attention, they appreciate it when brands take the time to make contact by sending them product samples or visiting them in person at their store. With some persistence and charm on your part, you could end up developing a mutually beneficial relationship.
11. Frequent trade shows
Trade shows are a great way to meet potential buyers, network with retailers, and also check out what the competition is doing. If you’re exhibiting at a large trade show then there are likely to be many buyers from different retailers in attendance so it’s a great way to get your products in front of them. This is also an opportunity for you to meet and impress some influential industry figures, which could prove very valuable later down the line when it comes time to negotiate deals or expand your business.
If you are planning on taking your product to a trade show, here are some important things to consider:
- Make sure your stand looks professional and well designed – It’s important to make a good first impression so you need to have branded banners, business cards and uniforms.
- Be prepared for tough questions – If your product is new then you may have to be open about the fact that it’s not selling very well yet. This means that you need to be ready to whip out your sales pitch on-demand multiple times over the course of the trade show.
- Prepare samples of your product – If you have a physical product then it’s important to be able to show people what you are selling. Make sure your samples are finished and look professional so that the buyer can easily see their potential.
12. Partner with other brands and companies
If you are confident in your product, but struggling to find buyers then this is another option available to you. By partnering with other brands and companies that already have established relationships within the industry, you can offer them a percentage of sales or profit from each sale made through their distribution channel.
This type of partnership usually works best if it’s between complementary products rather than competitors trying to sell direct-to-consumer through the same retailer channels. For example, an accessory company looking for new customers could partner up with a fashion brand selling similar styles at different price points. This will give both parties access to more consumers without stepping on each other’s toes.
It can take months or even years to get your product into stores and that is just the beginning of what will likely be a long journey. The most important thing is that you ensure your product is up to scratch and that you have thoroughly researched your market and crunched all the numbers. Retailers want guaranteed sellers and you need to show them that they will be missing out by not stocking your product. While nothing in life is 100% certain, now you know how to get your product in stores, you will have a great chance of success.
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