SPECIAL SERIES-Post #3: Retaining the Retailer

This is the third of a “back to basics” review series  of the marketing process.  For series introduction, see 4/5 post

With the average supermarket carrying around 45,000 SKUs that need to be sold during economic doldrums,  many retail chains today face an uphill battle.  Savvy marketers know that to ensure their own success they need to help retailers win the war.

In marketing there are two key strategies that work in tandem for an effective program:  push and pull.  The “push” is the call-to-action message via advertising, publicity and promotion.  The “pull” is the ability to draw interest:  people come to you because they see you have something of value to offer.

Retaining retail accounts is thus a pull strategy that ensures you sell your stuff.   By partnering up with your customers to deliver real-time information or tools valuable to them makes you an invaluable resource.  This way you retain your position on the short list of vendors:  no small stuff with today’s pressured buyers.

These are some of the strategies smart marketers use to ensure retailer loyalty:

  • DON’T SHORT.  Suppliers willing to sacrifice the long-term loyalty of a tried-&-true account for short-term profits from a new and exciting prospect often lose in the long run.  (See previous post about this)  Retailers today want to ensure consistent supplies at a fair price, regardless of market conditions.  Good retail partners will help ensure you also profit, but not at their expense.
  • POINT OUT PROBLEMS & SOLUTIONS.  Retailers who want to stay atop their game appreciate it when a vendor mentions that something is amiss at one of their stores,  be it bad quality, display, personnel, pricing. etc.   Although many get out to the stores to see  for themselves, the days of large retail merchandising teams canvassing all chain stores are over.  They need your help here.  But don’t just point out the problem:  provide a viable solution so your chain contact can be a hero.
  • BECOME CATEGORY CAPTAIN.  Per point above, since chains now lack personnel to oversee all store activities they count on suppliers to do that.  They also count on you to review sales data and make recommendations to increase category performance.  Seizing the moment by offering category management programs (carpe categoria?) that ensure your product delivers sales and profits makes you an invaluable partner.  Better yet, become a “category captain” by designing a plan for all products within your category, including your competitors’.
  • PROVIDE THIRD-PARTY SERVICES.  Along the same theme as being category captain, many suppliers offer buying services, personnel training,  in-store merchandising/store re-set or even auditing functions in their bag of customer-retention tools.
  • DELIVER USP.  Retailers need to promote key points of difference about their stores against the competition.  By ensuring your product delivers an USP (unique selling proposition) and by offering “exclusives” with new launches, even for a short time,  help set your retailer apart from the fray.

NEXT POST:  The retailer’s point of view.

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