Line reviews come in many shapes and sizes. Whether your merchant is reviewing product mix and performance for a modular reset in their brick-and-mortar stores, or analyzing product placements on their online shelves, they rely on their suppliers to build strong category strategies. While process and timing might vary by the retail customer, you can prepare to ace any line review with these five steps.
Step 1: Understand your role
The first thing to understand going into a line review is the role you have to play in the retail relationship. See yourself as more than a sales or replenishment step in your product's supply cycle. You are, in fact, an extension of the merchant team for your retail partner. And you should be the subject matter expert (SME) on behalf of your company for your retail customers.
To be a successful SME, you need to balance the expectations and goals of your company with those of your buyer and their category. Your job is to figuratively wear your buyer's shoes along with yours, thereby viewing the category holistically and with expertise. You need to know what your buyer is concerned about, what tools or strategies they can employ, and what their strengths and weaknesses might be (which you can then complement). You also need to stay at the forefront of knowing your shopper, consumer trends, competitors (both yours and theirs), and any other outside factors that might impact either of you (such as supply chain disruptions).
Step 2: Nurture the buyer relationship
To get the inputs you need to be your buyer's SME, invest in listening to your buyer and their team. Learn about their needs and the challenges they are facing to grow the category. Like you, your buyers and merchant teams are very busy managing their business, so building relationships may not entail the traditional phone calls or meetings.
A little creativity and focus on delivering value with each communication will lay a solid foundation of trust. Sharing shifting consumer trends early or highlighting your successes that boost the category are valuable insights to any buyer, who may have missed that information otherwise. Soon, you will be seen as a resource, not just another checkbox on their endless to-do list.
Step 3: Data, data, and more data
Now that you are the trusted advisor to your buyer on behalf of your company, the line review is the time to validate your value. Buyers will typically expect you to share:
- US total category size: Be sure to factor in current trends and opportunities in your category.
- Your share in the category: What market share does your company have of the total?
- Category overview with that retailer: This is an overview of your current product mix, selling locations and selling channels.
- Your performance: Since the last line review, how did you perform for the retailer (sales, fulfillment, etc.)?
- Suggestions on product mix and assortment going forward: take this time to discuss future opportunities or improvements.
These are the basics. However, if you have invested in your merchant team relationship and embraced your role as an extension of that team, you will go to your line review with more than a basic presentation of stats. You will strategically use key data points to craft your story. For instance, instead of sharing the list of regions or stores that carry your product, share a map of where your products are selling and how sales have grown over time. Or show a map of where you have a strong customer base and point out opportunity gaps in your distribution.
Your data and story need to focus on giving your buyer the information needed to build and present the category strategy to their leadership. If you become that leader, you leave your buyer with the data story they need to position the category for growth. With this approach, you are taking facts and weaving them into your narrative.
Step 4: Prepare to win the category
After sharing your data story, your next goal is to capture your buyer's attention on the strategies that you propose to win the category. This is where your partnership and expertise will shine. Walk the buyer through your business plan for the category with your product mix, promotions, pricing and trade spend. Confirm your company's capability and capacity to fulfill the proposed plan and demonstrate how your plan elevates the overall category for their success.
Step 5: Follow through
Stay focused on being a good partner. After the line review, iterate with the merchant team to finalize product mix, costs, retail pricing, store counts, item setup, plan-o-grams/shelf sets, logistics, signage and more. Continue to lean on your data and communications through this process to send key updates to your buyer. Now that you have earned the merchant team’s trust, make sure you execute to maintain that trust.
As your data partner, Crisp is behind your line review journey. Crisp connects and analyzes retail data sources in real time, providing CPG brands with meaningful insights and trends to run their business, improve efficiency, and unlock growth. Contact us today for a demo of our business insights dashboard.
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