When launching a new product, companies undoubtedly have a laundry list of things they need to focus their time and resources on -- from design and manufacturing to sales and marketing. If you have your eye on retail shelves, you certainly have your work cut out for you.
Here are five tips when preparing your product with retail in mind:
1. Maximize your space.
Floor space in brick and mortar stores is expensive. That's why it's important for your product and packaging to take up as little retail real estate as possible. Visit your ideal retailers and take notes on similar items for sale. Where are they placed on the shelf? Do they hang or stack? How durable is the packaging?
Once you've gathered sufficient information, you may want to evaluate the need for a specialist. It's important to choose a reputable company who has the experience in designing packaging for the stores that you're looking to target.
2. Get to know your retailers now.
It's also important to select your partners early on and study their floor layouts, displays and product categories. You will get a better understanding of the buying cycles by doing your research, networking and asking store managers about regional and nationwide buyer information. Prepare to ship your product to buyers and have to wait up to six weeks before hearing anything back.
3. Figure out your product codes.
Each variant of a product, such as size, color and other factors, require a common 12-digit universal product code (UPC) prefix number and a unique extension to that variant. Companies must join GS1 US, a nonprofit that sets the standards for international commerce in order to obtain their own identification number that is the first part of the UPC. Aside from the initial fee to join, companies must also pay an annual maintenance fee that varies on the number of unique products you sell. It's easy to see how this can quickly add up.
The other option is to work with a broker that resells UPC codes for reasonable prices. The only downfall is that you're paying to use ones that ultimately are not your own. If you're targeting smaller retailers with just a few products, then you may consider going with a broker who will allow you to use their UPC codes at a lower cost. However, if you're aiming for the large retail stores, they require each company to have their own code for each product.
4. Pin down your actual costs.
Not only is it important for you to understand your true cost per unit -- be prepared for retailers and potential investors to disclose this as well. Always remember that the per-unit figure isn't solely derived from manufacturing expenses. A true cost-per-unit breakdown also includes shipping, packaging, UPC costs and other expenses related to getting that product created and onto shelves. It's essential to take all of that into consideration when factoring in the number.
5. Know when to protect your product.
Keep in mind that retailers see thousands of items each year. Because of this, they can't sign non-disclosure agreements before reviewing yours. If you're worried about having an idea stolen, speak with a patent attorney before developing the product. If you have special designs or brand logos, seek out a trademark attorney. In most cases, patent attorneys and trademark attorneys are one in the same so they should be able to help with those questions.
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.