Product line reviews are an important process—for both you and the large distributors who carry your building materials.
As big box stores and other retailers take time to evaluate which SKUs (or stock keeping units) will remain available on their shelf in the coming year, you have the opportunity to make the case for your products during the review process. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to show up to that meeting unprepared.
You want to provide a reason—backed by data— why distributors should continue to carry your SKUs. The most effective way to prepare for a product line review is to conduct pertinent market research beforehand so you can successfully negotiate for the outcomes you want.
What to Expect from a Product Line Review
From a distributor’s perspective, the whole point of a product line review is to assess what is working and what isn’t, or in other words, what products are driving foot traffic and contributing to category sales.
During a product line review—typically conducted on an annual basis—the account manager or other representative from a big box store evaluates which SKUs produced by you and other manufacturers will remain available for purchase through their business. Overall depth of product line is typically considered at this time as well.
At first glance, it may seem like you have more to lose than gain during this process, with worries spanning from new competitors in your product category to fewer SKUs or a demand for lower prices. Since product line reviews are a standard part of doing business with big box stores, however, it’s important to get used to them and, more importantly, to approach them as an opportunity to educate the buyer and set your brand apart from the competition.
How to Prepare for a Product Line Review
Oftentimes, national account managers at big box stores and other major retailers don’t have complete insight into the motivations and purchase preferences of their shoppers, even though they’re trying to grow their product categories and sales across categories. If you do market research ahead of time, you can provide data to fill in the gaps and help them out.
In this case, you should take a step back and primarily concern yourself with the buyer—not just your brand or your product. Approach your product pitch from the retailer’s point of view. They’re aiming to be more successful in their category as a whole and build year-over-year growth; they need the product lines and demand generation strategies that will get them there.
Data for Your Buyer Presentation Checklist
Presenting holistic data—beyond how your own products are performing on a store-by-store basis—enables you to fill the position of an industry leader and gain more leverage in negotiating.
Here is some of the information you should analyze ahead of an annual product line review:
- Who is buying your product and why? Are there notable changes in who is purchasing your product?
- What motivates consumers for their home improvement project and how can the distributor grow the product category as a whole?
- What trends are affecting the market? What are professional versus homeowner sentiments towards current market forces doing to impact purchase behavior?
- What factors impact the types of products that are selected and why? How do consumers shop the category and what is most important to them?
- How does packaging reinforce the drivers in a particular product category?
- What changes and/or challenges are big box stores experiencing? What can you as the manufacturer do or offer to help them successfully navigate these changes and overcome the challenges?
- How are your SKUs driving foot traffic to the big box store or other distributors? What distinctions can you offer through your product line and partner programs to make it work better for the retailer?
- How can you help drive traffic to your distributors to increase digital sales and physical sales?
Conducting customized market research enables you to glean answers to these questions and have the right facts and figures to address the buyer’s concerns.
During a line review, you can make the case for your SKUs and negotiate a better outcome by coming prepared and demonstrating that you not only want your products to be successful, but you want the big box store to be successful as well.
You can provide information on product trends and solutions and consumer motivations and behaviors, empowering the retailers to take advantage of these market trends and offer innovations to stay competitive. From there, you can demonstrate why the retailer is more likely to succeed with your product lines in the mix than without them. With the right data on your side, the retailers have less room for argument. Plus, you position yourself as an indispensable partner.
While trade associations and government agencies may have generic, secondary research available that you could use to provide context to your dialogue during product line reviews, specificity is more valuable. Working with a custom market research firm to conduct proprietary research gives you the nuanced data you need to tell the story of your brand and your product line in a way that can better inform the decisions of your retailers.
Conducting Market Research for Your Product Category
As you prepare for your next product line review, take time to assume a more proactive role and make a strong argument for your SKUs based on concrete market analysis. Be prepared with talking points and partnership enablement ideas that will help big box stores or other retailers succeed in their product category.
The Farnsworth Group can assist you with market research that is tailored to your brand and your product lines. With various possible findings to seek regarding market sizing, product development or customer usage and behavior, we can collaborate with you to develop a customized research approach that will produce detailed insights for your next product line review.