Nothing happens until someone buys your product.  I cannot say that enough.  It provides the fuel for future brand growth.  But what then?

Most every brand places all their focus on getting their products on retailer’s shelves and into the hands of shoppers.  Few if any think about what happens after that.  This is not the time to put your feet up and pat yourself on the back!  On the contrary, the selling process never stops.  In fact, what happens next is even more important.

What am I talking about?  The relationship you build with the shopper who just purchased your brand or shopped in your store.

You’ve worked hard to “get the sale”, sometimes spending a lot of money in the process on promotions, slotting, merchandising, broker and distributors fees, etc.  What is your customer acquisition cost – a term used frequently by your investors?  Most would agree that getting a customer to try your product one time is the easy part.  It’s what happens next that determines the success or failure of your brand.

Getting a repeat purchase over and over again is the real objective. This is how you build a healthy foundation for your brand – one that can sustain you for years to come.  Think of a high-rise building.  If the foundation is not strong, the building will eventually collapse no matter how tall it is. This is compounded by stormy weather, time, and environmental concerns (or more applicable to your brand –  competition, the economy and ineffective strategies).  Focus on building a long-term relationship with your customers and you’ll be able to weather most any storm.

What strategies do you use to delight your shoppers? 

Canned topline reports are a great first step toward understanding how products are performing on retailer’s shelves. They can tell you how a product ranks in a category at a retailer and in the market and if your sales are up or down. What they don’t tell you is how well the item meets the shopper’s needs and what issues/concerns remain beyond the sale.

Let me explain

Deeply discounting and promoting products encourage consumer trial. A single sale does not mean your customers are happy with the product. A single sale is no indication of potential repeat purchases, especially after the promotion.  Promoted product sales are not sustainable for any brand.

Some shoppers will only purchase your product on promotion, holding off on buying it until it is promoted again.  This is the trap that every brand needs to avoid. This strategy can quickly become a roadblock on your brand’s ability to grow and thrive. In this situation, a brand may have a sales increase, but they are eroding the foundation and the health of their brand.

Sometimes shoppers are rewarded with a promotion when they had planned to purchase your product anyhow.  While this may seem like a good thing, it’s not. These are called supplemented sales.  While it may be great for the shopper, it does not help you build a strong foundation.  There are much better ways to build brand loyalty and drive repeat purchases.  While you can’t avoid this, it’s important to understand the concept.

The goal is to have a shopper purchase your product in the absence of any promotion.  These are called base sales. These sales contribute to your brand’s health.  Measuring your base sales growth is the key to building brand health.  Multiplying strong base sales growth with a lot of distribution should be your ultimate goal.

Let me put this in another context 

Repeat purchases do not mean that a consumer would purchase your product at a higher price point. For example, I recently purchased a popular brand of yogurt on markdown. The price was good and the items were close coded so I thought I would try the brand. Even though I got a great price, I felt like I paid too much. In the end, I couldn’t “give away” the extra yogurt. No-one in my house would eat it. I do not intend to buy that brand again.

The key takeaway is that shoppers are always in the driver’s seat. If I liked the product, I would have eagerly recommended it to my friends and family.  The most trusted reviews are the best form of advertising for any brand—word of mouth endorsements. Consumers pay close attention to the opinions of their friends and family.

So, how do you accomplish this with your brand? 

Brands and retailers need to learn to “speak” to their loyal shoppers on their level and in a language they understand. They need to develop an intimate personal relationship with their core consumers.

Shopper/consumer research only goes so far to address this. Grassroots gorilla market research that focuses on how shoppers use your product is a great start. You need to answer these key questions that get to the heart of why shoppers choose your brand over others and vice versa. The advantage small natural brands have is that they are closer to their customers.  The achilles heal of big brands is that they tend to commoditize their customers overlooking their true needs and wants.

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