What Do Retail Merchant Partners Really Want?

For brands that sell their products at major retailers, figuring out how to maximize channel sales is critical for business. It can be challenging to know how to begin, how to interact with retailers and how to stand out from competition.

In the retail world, the merchant is an important gatekeeper and stakeholder when it comes to a brand’s success. For every retailer, “winning” is the top priority. If you’ve ever met a merchant, you know they’re fiercely competitive and want nothing more than to drive business and capture more customers.

This begs the question, “why are merchants this way?” Ultimately, merchants are driven by hitting their sales and inventory plans, which means the fulfillment of their customers’ needs.

Merchants live by their buy-plans and are constantly looking at their sales and inventory forecasts and measuring how that stacks back to what they agreed to “buy” from brand manufacturers. This data gives them insight into the performance of the products they stock on their shelves, but it doesn’t necessarily tell them why products are performing well or poorly.

Because of this, brands have an opportunity to tell a more comprehensive story about their products and ensure their sales head in a positive direction.

So, how is this accomplished?

Collect important consumer feedback early

Having customer reviews for products is always important, but the earlier a brand can get them, the better. A great way to do this is through implementing a sampling program in which the company sends complimentary products to customers in exchange for their honest feedback and product reviews.

Sampling campaigns are a valuable and cost-efficient way to collect product reviews and quickly gain insights into what shoppers think about certain products. These reviews can even help surface unpopular characteristics or quality issues that may have been missed in the product design and development process.

Customer reviews can help brands identify key problems before customer dissatisfaction and return rates become costly and detrimental. In many cases, low-performing products compel merchants to mark down a brand’s prices, or worse, discontinue selling altogether. Imagine if companies could address and fix recurring customer complaints before their products hit the merchants’ shelves. Getting customer reviews early can be a preventative way to ensure customer feedback and overall perception around a brand’s products is positive and healthy.

Collect, collect, collect

Customers can’t always touch, try or test a product. Having images, strong product copy and explanatory video is key to successfully converting online sales (and even offline sales). However, if a brand sells at multiple retailers, their content is often mass-produced and not unique, presenting a challenge when it comes to page views and conversion. In this case, retail merchants will often ask for more budget to spend on marketing to drive traffic to their products.

Before spending precious dollars on marketing campaigns, brands should do everything they can to source fresh, unique consumer-generated content (CGC) for their product pages. Content is still king — product pages with fresh, relevant content perform well and help convert more shoppers. In fact, research shows that shoppers who read reviews are 104% more likely to buy a product.

Brands should consider the following tactics to collect content:

  • General email request — Don’t underestimate the power of the simple ask. Email CRM lists and ask previous customers to write a review.
  • Post-interaction email — Whenever someone buys a product, brands should send out a post-interaction email a few days later requesting their feedback.
  • Sampling programs — Use a third-party service or ask retailers if they have in-house sampling programs that can be utilized – many of them do.
  • Sweepstakes — Run a contest (through email, social media or an event) that invites customers to provide their honest reviews in exchange for a free product or prize. With this tactic, brands can concurrently collect content and foster loyalty and engagement with their customers.

Make marketing dollars work harder

Once a brand has acquired review content, they must ensure they can squeeze the most possible value from it. Merchants will always want marketing dollars to fund price promotions, but they need to be thoughtful and strategic about how they can drive the right sales while still protecting margins.

CGC goes a long way on product pages, but it goes even further when it’s incorporated into marketing and advertising campaigns. With CGC, customers are able to tell a brand’s story and highlight the competitive differentiators. Word-of-mouth campaigns can include star ratings and/or quotes from actual customers, which lends credibility and authenticity to organizations.

Word-of-mouth campaigns can be used across a variety of channels — social media, advertising, packaging and even in-store displays. When CGC is coupled with marketing and advertising efforts, brands can deliver more product views, drive higher conversions and get more bang for their buck.

Ask merchants what keeps them up at night. Outside of price wars, what do they think will compel customers to choose their store and a brand’s product? Brands should let them know that they are prioritizing CGC that is a proven way to help drive traffic and product sales.

Lindsay Bruyn is Business Development Manager for Bazaarvoice


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