Thinking About Taking Your Product Into Big-Box Stores? You Need Help in These 4 Areas

Introducing your online-only product into physical stores calls for a launch playbook that's completely different from that of the online world.
Thinking About Taking Your Product Into Big-Box Stores? You Need Help in These 4 Areas
Image credit: David Ryder | Getty Images

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President, Harbor Retail
6 min read
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Introducing your online-only product into physical stores calls for a completely different launch playbook. But as difficult as the task ahead may be, it won't be impossible. 

Example: Quip, an oral care company, successfully launched its product in Target, one of Harbor Retail’s partners, last year. And because Quip meshed well with Target’s new “cheap chic” branding, it was able to gain an additional $40 million in equity financing, after just one fiscal quarter on the retailer’s shelves.

Placing your own product in physical stores can help you create a seamless shopping experience for your customers, test new product lines and even create brand awareness. True, web-only brands are taking over ecommerce, but companies like Casper are successful because they’re available in traditional retail stores, too.

Related: How a Brick-and-Mortar Store Can Be the Foundation of Ecommerce Success

That kind of combination works: Playing in both the online and in-store categories allows brands, especially those with new products, to double down in “the three C’s”: convenience, culture and curation, and take a deep dive into consumer experience.

That's important because consumers are still human afterall and therefore in need of physical interaction with brands and products; no wonder even Amazon is jumping into the offline game. So, it doesn't matter whether you are seeking a permanent retailer or are opening a pop-up store: You need to put your creative top hat back on. Successful in-store product launches are as much about the shopper’s experience as they are about the brand's operational efficiency and conversion metrics.

Dancing your way to an in-store launch

If you can create experiences that are special enough for customers to share and memorable enough to foster repeat purchases in-store, you’ll be giving retailer procurement and merchandise teams what they need to champion your launch, as well as capture a sizable share of basket and repeat sales with greater ease.

Before you can do that, however, you'll need to understand your brand, the channels it will sell in and the retailers it will partner with. And you can’t do all that alone. Here are the important teams you’ll need to help you:

1. Channel marketing

Channel marketing will ensure the right channels are in place for your launch. Do you need digital, mass or specialty marketing? Each channel will have different nuances that people in this role will understand. Selling in a convenience store will be vastly different from selling through a mass merchant, for example. You won’t be changing your brand voice -- only the way you sell your product. The selling message must resonate with, and be relevant for, that channel.

Ensure you layer on mission statements for each channel. Considering that 77 percent of consumers use a mobile device to find products, according to Salsify, mission statements will give additional insight into who, how and why people shop specific retailers. Also, leverage the future state of the retailer: Is it increasing its product mix to capture more of your targets? If so, you might want to double down.

Related: Let's Get Personal: Using Technology to Improve In-Store Customer Experience

2. Customer marketing

Customer marketing can help you make sure the retailer you're considering aligns with your company's goals and values; it will ensure the retailer will be a good partner. Be as selective with your first retailers as you were with whomever you pitched for funding and whomever you recruited as your first team members. Is the retailer collaborative? What are the performance thresholds you must surpass to elevate your brand directly into marketing, store design and operations?

Take Harry's, the shaving company, for example. Harry's is all about giving customers "a quality shave at a great price." To accomplish that goal for women, as well, the brand launched Flamingo. Until February, Flamingo was available online only, but now both Harry's and Flamingo products can be found at Target.

This is an example of a great retailer-brand match. While Harry's offers high-quality products, service and style, Target is known for low-cost yet high-quality style, unique product lines and great service.

3. Retailer marketing

Retail sales are going up. In fact, according to the U.S. Census, they hit a record high of $5.7 trillion in 2017. Inside the retailer itself, you'll need marketers who can help determine the rules of engagement to combine customer-relationship management strategies and promotional power. Aligning your audiences and bringing a smaller or new product to their attention will help them compete better as the landscape continues to grow.

Ask yourself how your shopper base can influence the retailer’s current guest base. When it comes to working with this team, partner up to improve store traffic and drive conversion. Demonstrate how your brand brings more shoppers to the store and increases total basket conversion. For example, some holiday shopping crazes, such as Cabbage Patch Kids (1983), Furbies (1998) and Hatchimals (2017), brought in a ton of store traffic and sold out in a flash.

4. Store operations

A retailer's store-operations team has the goal of easing field operations for everyone. These team members know the path to purchase inside and out to leverage not-so-ideal aisle placement. Use a natural shopper flow per shopper trip profile to your advantage so your products can reach the eyes -- and basket -- of the shopper across mission-based or exploratory trips.

Just as when you were pitching and proving your business's worth when you were starting out, you'll need to hook the shopper with an authentic experience in the aisle that sells more than your features and benefits. You might do this through in-aisle experiences or even additional services that are attached to your product lines. Ulta stores are a great example: They offer an experience, education, samples and product sales, all in one.

Related: 7 Layout Secrets of the Big Retail Chains

When you first started out, you focused on the most important things you could do to drive value for your business in the moment. So, when it’s time to launch your product in-store, you'll be reverting to the same starting line. But, courage: You’ve trained for this. You’ve already competed in this arena. And you can renew your success -- this time in the retail sphere -- and do so with even greater confidence.

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