How to recognise when your brand is ‘retail ready’

The tech retail market is an ever-changing place, with competition now just a click away. There are so many great brands out there who have fantastic ideas and products, but lack the strategy to crack the UK market, which is extremely saturated -- both online and in bricks and mortar. One of the biggest downfalls for brands entering a new market is that they simply replicate their business strategy that might have worked in one market into another, without proper research.

The average retailer today is a sophisticated animal. They often have access to a plethora of information and data on their product category, and most have become experts in their field. It is important to remember that they are being approached on a daily basis by a myriad of brands, agents and distributors who all believe that they have the latest and greatest that the market has to offer. So making sure you are really ready for the retail space has never been more important, especially for startups. So how can you can maximise your chances of securing a listing with a major retailer?

Establish a solid pricing strategy

One of the biggest downfalls for brands entering a new market is their pricing strategy and maintaining price integrity. When considering approaching a new retailer, it is important that you check your price against similar products online. You don't want lots of resellers discounting your product through highly visible sites like eBay and Amazon when pitching your products into major resellers, as you can be certain it will be one of the first things a retail buyer will check when considering stocking your products. Although you can’t fix this price, you can manage it and ensure that your brand isn’t losing value online.

Packaging

Packaging is a very subjective area on which everybody will have an opinion. Most of the comments you’ll receive will be about how it looks, what it says, and how it functions. Ensure you’ve done your homework and addressed each of these points in detail. Really look at all the main areas and get people who are independent and whose opinion you trust to critique the packaging for you. By asking all the right questions, you can document all the responses, ready to show to the retailers who will try and convince you to change the packaging.

Once you are happy with the design, don’t forgot to look at the wording used on the product to make sure that the branding is clear and concise. Remember, people don’t buy features, they buy the benefits these features provide. Take some time to research this, perhaps even look at what your competitors are doing, as they have already been through this journey.

Become the retailer

This isn’t as obvious as it sounds! Make sure you test the functionality of your packaging in the retail world. Consider how your product is likely to be merchandised in store. Will it be hung from a peg or sold off a shelf? Perhaps both! Is it secure yet accessible? Does it protect the product? Testing the packaging and ensuring it is fit for purpose is crucial, so time spent doing this will pay dividends in the long term. Before approaching the retailer, make sure you have a product and packaging ready for the pitch. There’s nothing more off-putting for a buyer than a unpackaged product sample.

It would also be useful to consider the ways in which your product will be sold. If you are looking at in-store retail, think about how you are going to engage the sales assistant to promote your brand on the shop floor. Draw up a ‘Key Feature and Benefit’ statement to make sure the sales staff are informed enough to do your product justice. Telling the retailer how you are going to help them sell the product also demonstrates you’re serious about managing the ongoing success of your product.

Create a marketing plan

If you want to avoid being a one hit wonder, then the ongoing promotion and development of your product will be critical. Indeed, it is increasingly likely that retailers will expect you to have plans in place already to promote your brand outside of the exposure you’ll receive by having it listed in their shop. The marketing plan doesn’t need to be a complex and sophisticated document -- simply ask yourself who your target customer is and how you are going to tell them about your product.

Generating buzz around your product is also key, and although some brands can afford to employ PR agencies and bloggers to handles this, it is possible to do it yourself. The key is to research your market and identify who the key influencers are. You can also reach out directly to potential customers through targeted social media efforts.

As you start to drum up a strong social media following, you can look at planning campaign activities for throughout the year. Even if it’s a simple online competition via Facebook, having a series of planned campaigns for your brand will help you to continue to drive product and brand awareness throughout the year to keep up the momentum following the initial launch. Depending on what funds you can access will dictate how you promote the campaign, but don’t be put off by not having huge pots of money to call upon.

Once you feel your brand is retail ready, start booking appointments with retailers and buyers and think about where you can see your brand and product range in the mid and long-term. This will demonstrate to the retailer that you are a serious brand worth investing their time in. Be clear on what your core focus is and how new products will strengthen the overall product portfolio and brand message. Retailers won’t be impressed with lots of ideas - they want to see tangible and thorough plans that they can get behind and support.

Mark Rogers is MD of Launched