Do you approach a line review as a chance to throw products at the buyer and see what sticks?
In his recent blog, The Successful Big Box Line Review, Whizard Strategy’s Mark Mitchell tells building product manufacturer’s that instead of fearing a product line review, they should see them “as an opportunity to set yourself apart from your competitors.” Great advice for manufacturers but it’s only half the story.
In a line review, understanding what the merchant needs to win is as critical as to why you think you’re the best solution.
Are you just another product pitch to the buyer?
Sadly, too many buyers tell me that what they want is someone who understands their challenges. Not another product pitch.
Like you, they have goals to grow the business. To do more with less.
And, whatever their decisions, they have to successfully sell them to the leadership team. Which means not only do you have to deliver a compelling product proposition, you have to arm your merchant with the trends, data and research to show how and why what you believe possible, is possible.
Buyers want answers to these four questions in a product line review
These four points look easy and sound intuitive but they are tough to do. It takes time and preparation to answer each fully. And although they sound expensive – and can be – they really don’t need a lot of investment to do.
- Educate me on the market: who’s winning and who’s losing in the category – and why. Help me learn how to think about the category and my role in it.
- How do consumers shop the category? What’s important to them and why. Help me see product trends and show me how I can take advantage of them.
- What I need is newness and freshness. My shoppers are looking for me to offer innovative project solutions. They are coming to my store with a to-do list that I need to be able to completely satisfy. That means having innovation as well as basics. (It wouldn’t hurt if I could be exclusive or at least have a head start.)
- Help me be successful. Sure I have to increase comps but that may not be my biggest driver. It may be inventory or margin. How I get there is balancing many pieces across the entire department. Like you I don’t have unlimited resources.
Just because you educate your buyer doesn’t mean you are going to win
Let’s be honest. If you come to me with research, insights and good analytics, you are arming me to be able to defend my decisions. It’s a good chance that you’ll see trends early and have products that reflect them. That helps me but it doesn’t guarantee placement. I often need to prove something works.
Your competitors all want the shelf space. They are telling me how you come up short and highlight where they are strong. Maybe they have a better brand name or maybe they’re willing to be own brand. Your approach isn’t always the best or only approach and selling harder isn’t the answer.
More importantly, I know that too much change is equally dangerous. I’m stuck with old inventory, my shoppers are confused and I don’t see growth. Testing is my way of building a fact-based case. So don’t push me constantly for more stores (or more test, for that matter).
Bottom line? Manufactures need to educate their buyers with facts – not offer phrases like “I think, I hope and I believe” – to demonstrate that they are the category innovator and partner the retailer needs to take sales and profitability to the next level.