The brands and the consumer insights teams that we work with here at GutCheck are faced with a constant barrage of “what ifs.” Many of these are small, like “What if I adjust this color of this package? Will people like it?” Some are larger, like “What if this new advertising copy doesn’t resonate with my target audience?” But there is one “what if” that rules them all and keeps even the most seasoned brand and innovation teams up at night.
“What if I launch this product and it’s a failure?”
Market research exists specifically to combat this fear by giving brands the confidence that they are building the right products for the right customers. As a new innovation is moved through the development cycle, audiences are brought to life, products are refined, and messages are developed. When all of these critical components are meeting key performance indicators (KPIs), you have most likely achieved internal alignment.
But often times the most critical stakeholder in this process is external. Retail buyers are perhaps the most important external stakeholder that brands need to satisfy, and knowing a retail buyer’s goals is an absolutely critical step when preparing insights for your sales teams. Having a good grasp of the buyer’s goals will increase your chances of securing shelf space when your teams take your insights out to retailers.
So, let’s take the most basic question that a retail buyer is going to ask your sales rep: “Will this grow the category and by how much?” When we peel back the onion, underneath this buyer’s question is most certainly a higher–level financial target for the category which she is held to year after year.
“…underneath this buyer’s question is most certainly a higher-level financial target for the category which she is held to year after year.”
In today’s ultra–competitive retail environment, buyers want proof that your new innovations can grow the category, because growth for your brand also needs to align to their strategy. It’s not enough to simply move dollars around the category through switching and trial; buyers need to show real category growth. However, source of volume estimation research has traditionally been slow and time consuming and was built for a 1980s supply chain.
While market research has become increasingly agile and audience centric, source of volume research has a bit further to go. Here are a few tips on how to make this research work harder for you:
- Stay Agile – As innovation cycles are compressed, this type of research needs to be done earlier in the development process. The sooner you can get a read on market impact and source of volume, the sooner you can enable retailer conversations to stay ahead of the competition. Getting a read on market impact earlier also helps enable product and messaging changes during development, to help meet the goals of your retailers.
- Demand Flexibility – Many modern consumer packaged goods innovation initiatives do not fit squarely into traditional categories, and with good reason. Source of volume insights should provide a view into consumer behavior across categories and occasions. Without those second–level insights, retailers are being expected to trust your math. Audience insights focused on consumer behavior and needs add the crucial context that helps explain the numbers.
- Focus on the Audience – Behind a volume estimate lives an audience, and understanding their needs and motivations is critical, not only for you but also for your retailer. Remember that retailers are trying to build a brand identity as well. To ensure your sales team can tell an effective story to retail buyers, put audiences at the forefront. Don’t be afraid to bring your audiences to life with qualitative or even video testimonials when you send your sales team out into the field. This will let you showcase how your consumer’s journey will lead to purchase at your retailer’s shelf.
“Remember that retailers are trying to build a brand identity as well. To ensure your sales team can tell an effective story to retail buyers, put audiences at the forefront.”
Retail buyers can make or break the success of a new product innovation. Using flexible research methods that help align your goals to theirs will result in a smoother sales process and build more confidence with your buyers. And above all else, keep key audiences front and center as they are critical to success for not only your brand but your retail buyer’s growth targets.
Learn more about how you can conduct research to measure product cannibalization in our recent blog “The Importance of Measuring Cannibalization to Achieve Product Innovation Success” and checkout our Cannibalization & Incrementality measurement overview to see how you can get an accurate, in-depth read on cannibalization, switching behavior, and incrementality—quickly and affordably.