Being a social influencer isn’t always everything it’s cracked up to be. You learn that large groups of people tend to be hyper-critical and very vocal. You become the target of a barrage of cyberattacks. And as soon as your notoriety ends, all those followers jump like rats from a burning ship. In other words, popularity comes at a cost.
It’s the same in ecommerce. Just like how not every follower is your best friend, not every retail partner is a good partner. It’s common for brands to assume that more partners means more visibility and, therefore, more sales. While that generally may be true, even partners that generate sales can hurt your business.
If you’re after long-term success, you need to be cautious about these crucial business relationships. It’s always a good idea to vet your partners in advance, but you should also continually assess the value they bring to your brand and weed out any that do more harm than good.
How do you know what a good retail partner looks like? Here are five tips for choosing them.
1. Expand your reach
Ideally, every partner you take on should increase your market penetration and help you reach segments of your target audience that you’d otherwise be unable to. This is less of a concern with retailers than it is with sellers in a marketplace, as retailers generally already have an established customer base. So it’s important to consider the audience a partner is helping you access.
How well do the demographics they serve align with your ideal customer? How much traffic does their website generate? Will they be a good channel marketing partner?
It’s also worth thinking about how crowded your product category is in their catalog. Will you be the only brand available? One of a select few? Or are their customers inundated with so many brands that they can’t tell the difference or won’t even notice your products? The more brands a retailer carries in your space, the lower the potential reach and the harder you’ll have to compete.
2. Consider their reputation
In the fast-moving world of ecommerce, where new brands are constantly emerging and knock-offs run rampant, retailers play a critical role for consumers: quality control. The best retailers go to great lengths to select and partner with high-quality, trustworthy brands to protect their customer experience. They know that the brands they carry are a reflection of them. When a product they sell disappoints their customers, they disappoint their customers.
Not all retailers are so scrupulous. Some will take any brand they can get their hands on, with minimal controls in place to ensure quality. Worse, they may have policies, processes, or a culture that consistently leads to poor customer experiences.
As you pursue partnerships with retailers, think about how consumers perceive them. Are they considered a high-quality store? If they carry your products, will it cheapen or strengthen your brand’s reputation? Will they provide customer experiences you’re comfortable with?
A retailer can lend credibility and trust to your brand or take away what you’ve already earned. Will a retailer help your brand benefit from “the halo effect” or hurt you with “the horn effect” (when individuals believe that negative traits are connected to each other)?
3. Find partners who embrace your catalog
Each of your products represent an entry point into a relationship with your brand. As your customers use them and have quality experiences, they’ll be more willing to try your other products. They may even seek out your brand by name when looking for related product categories.
If a retailer carries a large percentage of your catalog, it creates more opportunities for “cross-pollination.” Depending on the retailer, you may even be able to promote related products from your catalog on your product pages.
The more of your catalog a retailer carries also communicates buy-in. How invested is your partner in your brand? If they’re constantly asking to carry more of your catalog — or asking you to produce limited-editions, bundles, or special configurations — it’s a strong indicator that they value your relationship and see you as beneficial to their business.
4. Make sure you can trust them
Retailers have the potential to do a lot of damage to your brand, even if they sell lots of units and they have a good reputation. One of the most common ways a retailer can hurt your brand in ecommerce is by violating your minimum advertised price (MAP) or pricing policy. Without MAP monitoring software, you may never even notice that sellers are playing games with your prices. Before you know it, your margins are gone, along with your brand integrity.
You should always have a plan in place to monitor and enforce your MAP policy. It’s just a lot easier when you have partners that you can trust. Make sure your MAP policy includes a clear process for terminating relationships with sellers that continually violate your price.
There’s another big way retailers can cause problems for you: by passing along special savings to customers who buy bulk. It seems innocent enough, but if the bulk discounts are steep enough, one of their “customers” may turn around and become an unauthorized seller online.
These customers-turned-sellers don’t care about your brand, your price, or their relationship with you. They’ll do anything to make a sale, slashing prices deep into their margins to gain an advantage. That’s bad for you and your partners. Don’t work with retailers that create holes in your distribution network.
5. Ensure they comply with your brand
Over time, your brand guidelines will evolve. Your products may go through updates and require new assets. You might discover better ways to position your products and new use cases, or you may learn more about how your customers actually find and explore your product category.
As your guidelines change and your product pages go through updates, it’s vital that your retail partners replicate these changes on the assets they control. If they don’t, it weakens your brand integrity, and can create frustrating customer experiences or inhibit your performance.
Retailers that value your brand will either give you the tools to update assets on their site or promptly update pages themselves when asked. Brand monitoring software such as PriceSpider’s digital shelf analytics solution is a crucial piece of this puzzle. Brand compliance is not a process you want to handle manually.
Make the most of retailer relationships
The larger your product catalog and the more sellers you work with, the harder it is to monitor, analyze, and optimize your retailer relationships. But with PriceSpider’s brand commerce platform, you can let software do the heavy lifting. Our platform includes solutions for monitoring and enforcing your pricing policy, analyzing your digital shelf performance and brand compliance, and much more.
Learn more about PriceSpider’s brand commerce platform.