… are you sure they’re going to come? (continued from last week)
As I mentioned in last week’s blog, you can’t really rely on web sales to make your product-based business profitable. You need to consider retail channels, which is easier said than done. After they realize that 100% web-strategy may not work, many entrepreneurs think:
This product is so cool that everyone is going to go to Macy’s (or Target / Starbucks, etc.) and it’ll just fly off the shelves.
Maybe. Now you have very different challenges:
1) What shelf is this product going to sit on?
Often, when you’re an innovator, finding a home in retail outlets can be challenging. Both major retailers and small boutiques are pretty much set up for things to have obvious homes for the products they sell. If you write a book, they think, which section of the store will I shelve it? If you created a shirt, the they decide if it goes in juniors, casual, dressy, etc.
What if you’re creating an entire new category? When Pom Wonderful first came out, there was no real home for it in grocery stores. The owners intentionally created an oddly-shaped bottle that needed to be fridgerated (and they didn’t want it in sitting soda section). Fortunately they had the deep pockets had to pay the stores to reconfigure the fridges in the produce section to accommodate their juice. Now there are other juices that sit next to Pom, but Pom led the way here (and had to front a lot of cash to do so).
2) How is your product going to stand out?
Sometimes it’s pretty easy to find a home for your product in retail channels if it’s a standard item (i.e., article clothing, children’s book, table linens, wine, etc.). Your only problem now is to figure out how to make it stand out, and this is when great design and marketing come in handy.
Pom did a great job creating packaging and merchandising, but but not all of us can afford such tactics. The challenge is creating fantastic packaging, while ensuring that it still can fit in it’s obvious home. If you created a new hair care product whose dimensions don’t match the competition, where will the store owner put it?
We designed our Smarts games to fit on shelves in bookstores as well as stand out in a gift store. The covers were striking and when they were out on a table, they moved quickly as great impulse buys. However, in hindsight, I think we could have done more to make our spines more intriguing to the casual book store browser.
3) How are you going to get your product into the store?
This is a biggie. How are you going to get a hold of the buyer at Macy’s / Target / Starbucks? (Hint: it’s nearly impossible to do on your own) And how are you to call on the thousands of independent retailers across the country?
Answer to those question to come next week ….