Some of the best symbiotic relationships occur naturally, without much effort. Others may feel more one-sided and require a bit more investment to strike a fine balance. If you and your retailers collaborate strictly on the distribution level, chances are you are missing out on the wide array of ways you could both benefit. For instance, how can you capitalize on your retailers’ online presence and sizable audience? Additionally, are your retailers missing out on all the ways you can help them with their own marketing efforts? As a product brand, you need to stand out from the thousands of other products the Targets, Walmarts, and Best Buys of the world sell to their consumers.
Rather than passively standing by and hoping for bigger and better features in their digital properties and social streams, you can take an active role in your retailers’ online presence by proving your ability to support their marketing objectives. Simply put: when you scratch their backs, they are more likely to scratch yours. We’ve put together some examples and tips for how to get the most out of your online retail presence.
Give Retailers Quality Content
Despite feeling like your retailers hold all the cards and control the access to their online buyers, you have something valuable that they want too. Quality content. It’s hard for retailers to churn out a steady stream of engaging marketing content for all the products they sell, which gives you the opportunity to step in and help your retailers. So, offer them access to your beautiful, informative, and/or entertaining content that they can use in their marketing channels. They will appreciate it and you will both benefit. Here are a few examples of brands successfully catching the attention of and winning the spotlight from their online retailers:
Offer stellar imagery and rich media:
You’ve invested in stunning photography and imagery that help your potential buyers see themselves with your products. Your retailers want their shoppers to see themselves with your products too. Spare your retail partners the expense of creating beautiful content from scratch by sharing your top-performing creative assets with them.
Take notice of BaubleBar’s color-popping product photos on their Instagram account. Each jewelry product is featured against a clean, feathery white background. It’s not surprising that the very same photography shows up in big-league retailer, Target’s Instagram feed. There’s no doubt Target is tapping into BaubleBar’s dazzling creative content, while BaubleBar gets to enjoy the social media spotlight.
It’s impossible for large-scale retailers to be the experts on everything they sell. Yet their prospects and customers will want access to expertise and experience to help them make the best buying decisions. Chances are, as a seller and provider of special and unique products, you are an expert on a lot of topics related to it. Offer up your expertise and provide an educational, informative point of view that your retailers can share with their audience.
Body and hair care product provider, Depth, took this approach and landed itself a marquee spot on Whole Foods’ corporate blog. Tim Schaeffer, founder of Depth, started his career as a marine biologist and had plenty of insightful information about the function and merits of incorporating algae into everyday life. In exchange for enlightening and exciting their followers about marine botanicals, Whole Foods handed over the reigns of their blog to this expert guest blogger. Tim not only praised the virtues of the Whole Foods Market Premium Body Care Standards, but he was able to subtly and meaningfully mention his own product brand as well.
Offer customer validation:
If a retailer sells your products through an online site, they need to take into consideration the same product page design best practices as everyone else. Studies have shown that including customer reviews in the website experience can increase conversions and purchase. You might have a wealth of customer reviews and feedback to help your shoppers feel confident about their purchases, but your retailer might not. You can help your retailer increase online sales by sharing this wealth of customer validation.
For example, BaByliss ensures every product they sell through their U.K. site has a list of customer reviews to assist in the consideration process. In the meantime, their U.S. retailer Macy’s taps into the same resource of consumer reviews to effectively sell BaByliss product on their site.
This might sound like a lot of work on either end; capturing and publishing reviews for your own site might be hard enough. But there are tools that can help automate and streamline the review publishing process for you and your retailer.
Once you’ve kick-started the symbiotic exchange with your kick-ass content, more serendipitous opportunities are likely to follow. Your retailer is more likely to feature your product more prominently on their site and mention you in their social streams. It might even lead to transcending their online presence into their physical stores. In some cases, retailers may be more inclined offer exclusive, in-store displays and deals. Ultimately, your retailer may see your brand as means for differentiating itself from the other retailers it competes with.
But there are a few additional factors to consider to take control of your destiny with your retailers.
Avoid Going in Cold:
Keep in mind that what you are aiming for is valuable brand exposure that a retailer would normally ask a brand to pay for. Nobody likes a smarmy, uninformed sales guy asking for money to buy a product they don’t even need. Before you engage with your retailers’ marketing teams, do some digital reconnaissance to gather a sense of your retailers’ brand voice, reach, and reputation. Study their websites; subscribe to their social channels; follow their spokespeople, influencers, and experts. Understand where your brand fits into their marketing approach and how you can contribute.
Timing is Critical:
It’s important to do your homework on your retailers, but time is of the essence. From the moment your product has been picked up by your retailers’ distribution channels, you’ve got roughly one quarter to stand out from the countless other brands they carry. The key is to act smart and act fast when making the initial engagement with your retailers’ marketing teams.
With these tips, you can tap into the network of your retailers’ online marketing channels and extend your marketing reach, but don’t stop there. A successful relationship is one where the mutual exchange is consistent and long-lasting. Be sure to keep finding new ways to scratch their backs, so they’ll continue to scratch yours.