At Crisp, we love challenger brands: the emerging companies that question the status quo, create new categories, and innovate in unexpected ways. But it can be hard to compete when you’re new to the market, especially in the world of retail. Earlier this year, Crisp CEO Are Traasdahl spoke at the Natural Products Expo’s Spark Change event about how challenger brands can thrive in retail with access to better data and technology. Here are five of his best practices, along with examples from successful brands on the Crisp platform.
Be your own growth hacker
Winning the retail game with limited resources means knowing where to focus your growth efforts. As a lean team, prioritization is key: you want to identify where you have a strong product-market fit and high potential to succeed.
The answers can be found in the data. Crisp’s dashboards include heat maps to help brands find the combination of products, regions, and retailers where sales are strong. The team at Zest Tea did this successfully, finding that a slow-selling product nationwide was actually a huge hit in the Northeast. Based on this insight, Zest Tea optimized their regional product assortment and drove velocity across the board.
Once you’ve found a hotspot, you can find where to go next -- perhaps a nearby store or a region with a similar demographic (say, near a college campus) that will snap up your product if given the chance. Once you’ve identified these stores, you can present a data-driven case to buyers. High Road Craft Ice Cream’s Sales Director did just that, saying that a data-driven conversation “Gives the retailer the comfort to say, ‘Hey, you’re clearly selling well here...we’re going to bring you into more doors.’”
Stretch your marketing dollars
Emerging brands know to use their precious marketing spend wisely, and marketing overall has become increasingly ROI-conscious. But when it comes to marketing that drives in-store retail sales, there’s still some guesswork involved. With Crisp, brands can better target (and evaluate) ads based on a real-time understanding of inventory for a given retailer, focusing ad dollars on customers who are actually near stores carrying their product. To get the most bang for your buck, try running an ad campaign that geo-targets customers near fully stocked store locations, and check sales dashboards to monitor the results.
According to SkinTe’s Head of Sales and Marketing, C.J. Roberts, the sweet spot for marketers is an area that shows promise with little to no marketing spend...yet. This is where you can make a big difference with a bit more effort. With Crisp, C.J. finds these opportunities: “I use data to look for areas that are getting warmer, where we can add more fuel to the marketing fire.” From there, he can leverage additional internal resources or work with retail and distribution partners on a promotion.
Acquire lasting customers
Speaking of promotions: With limited resources, it’s important that your promotional programs truly move the needle. As Zest Tea CEO James Fayal points out, “You’re encouraged to do all kinds of retail promotions as a growing brand...but what’s the long-term effect coming out of those promos?” Dig into the data to find out which promotions help you reach target customers who will actually stick around. For instance, doing a “get 10 for $10” promotion might make your product fly off shelves in the short-term, but those customers probably won’t come back after the promotion is over. You could instead run a $1 off promotion for three times as long, and build a long-term sales pipeline for a fraction of the spend. The takeaway: spend smarter, not harder.
Once you’ve identified a great promotion, make sure it goes as smoothly as possible. Monitor inventory levels at each distribution center or retailer, and proactively reach out to your buyer to make sure they’re stocked up.
Ace your next product launch
As a small team, you can pivot and innovate faster than bigger brands -- it’s been a big reason for emerging brands’ growth in market share. Key to this is responding to customer feedback and leveraging data in the product development process. Should you start expanding to a new category, or should you add a third flavor to an existing lineup to create that billboard effect? Katz Gluten Free, a pioneer in gluten free foods, finds answers in the data. VP of Marketing Roberto Cruz says, “We use data in key activities such as new product innovation to help validate product priorities in the pipeline. With the complexity in our product line, getting product-level data easily from Crisp is invaluable as a marketer.”
Once you’ve launched that product, getting early signals will help you course-correct as needed and identify hotspots where your product is a strong fit. C.J. at SkinTe tries to get new products into the hands of as many loyal customers as possible to not only get feedback, but to see how these customers describe the product. This can inform marketing campaigns down the line to ensure SkinTe’s messaging resonates with shoppers.
Efficiency is profitability
Strong sales numbers will open doors in retail, but other stakeholders from investors to potential acquisitions will be looking at profitability. Data can help you make sure those new revenue gains aren’t going right back out the door as costs. If buyers haven’t ordered enough, you can be proactive to restock and avoid rush deliveries. If they have too much product in stock, cut back so you don’t tie up money in inventory, waste product, or end up with chargebacks.
It’s also important to think efficiently about distribution, grouping sales into regions and prioritizing locations that are worth the transportation costs, especially when it comes to cold chain shipping. Peekaboo Organics used Crisp to re-evaluate their distribution during the pandemic as sales patterns changed. CEO Jessica Levison says, “Data really helped us determine where we are strong, where we should be leaning in, and where we might want to scale back.” Now, Jessica is seeing growth in sales across Peekaboo’s distribution network.
Crisp is here to help challenger brands succeed, equipping you with access to the same advanced insights that used to be available only to large manufacturers. As CEO of Zest Tea James Fayal says, “with Crisp, we have the data access of a much larger company.”
To learn how Crisp can help you win the market, contact us for a demo.
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