To some manufacturers, online retailers feel like a necessary evil. They can scale your business, expose your products to a wider audience of consumers, and dramatically increase sales and profit, but it means a smaller percentage of each sale makes it back to you.
But the reality is that while consumers may develop brand loyalty toward manufacturers and prefer your products over your competition, they also develop loyalty toward their favorite online retailers. Large online storefronts like Amazon, Target, and Walmart offer incentives like free two-day shipping, credit cards with special rewards programs, and exceptional return policies. Marketplaces like eBay offer a unique purchasing experience that manufacturers can’t replicate. And consumers can often have products shipped to a local store for free, where they can pick it up in person—also known as buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS).
All of which provides a quality experience and makes customers more confident in their purchases.
These large retailers also tend to have tons of ratings and reviews, which help people comparison shop, research what other customers had to say about a product, and ultimately decide if they should buy. 93 percent of consumers say reviews influence their purchases, and seeing positive ratings and feedback can make people more confident in their purchase—and they’re most likely to find those things when they shop with a large online retailer.
People grow accustomed to shopping with particular retailers, and whenever possible, they prefer retail experiences that offer the greatest incentives and the least amount of hassle. If manufacturers choose not to sell their products with online retailers, they inevitably miss out on sales and brand exposure.
Even consumers who really want your product have to decide at what point the cost of shipping or the loss of certain perks outweighs the downsides of choosing a competing product they can buy from a retailer they trust.
For example, ordering directly from you might require someone to create an account or recover a password, add payment and shipping info, and wait several days for your product. That’s pretty inconvenient if they can just say “Alexa, send me [a competing product],” or make a single click and have what they need in two days.
If you’re not leaps and bounds ahead of your competition, and their product is available from major online retailers, customers may choose them simply for the superior shopping experience. And if your competition is outselling you, but they’re not available from other sellers, working with retailers can give you an edge in the market.
Ultimately, even though working with online stores makes things more complicated and retailers take a percentage of sales, manufacturers tend to gain more from the relationship than they lose. And by recognizing the retailers that benefit your organization the most, you can strategically work with them to move more product.
How to identify your top retail partners
As you expand your business and work with more online retailers, it can be hard to keep track of all the retailers that sell your products. But it’s important to “take inventory” of your partners and compare which ones are doing the best job selling and representing your products.
Your strongest retail partners may be the big ones like Amazon, Walmart, Target, and Best Buy. But you may also find that smaller retailers and third parties that operate on sites like eBay and Amazon are actually having the most success.
Once you’ve identified all your retail partners—or at least the ones that are moving the most product—compare how they’re supporting you in the following areas:
At the end of the day, your retail partners need to move the needle. Your best retail partners are always going to be the ones that actually make sales and impact your bottom line.
Some online sellers like Amazon may sell a lot of your product, but take a greater percentage of each sale or charge higher fees. If a retailer takes a smaller cut from your product sales, and still sells a lot, that’s a good indicator that they’re one of your better retail partners.
Some sellers do a much better job promoting and encouraging reviews. They might ask customers to review your product in follow-up emails, or emphasize them on the product page. The more positive reviews a product page has, the more compelling your product is.
If your products have significantly more reviews (and better ratings) on a particular seller’s site, that’s a partnership you’ll want to focus on. And inversely, if your products have consistently low or negative reviews (or no reviews) on a seller’s site, you may want to investigate why.
Some online retailers do a much better job following your guidelines and representing your brand. Maybe a seller has outdated images or descriptions, or worse, outdated products. Or they still haven’t put up that video you sent them months ago. A good retail partner doesn’t just make sales—they make you look the best. Your top partners are the ones that present your products as you intended them to be presented.
Retailers and manufacturers fight tooth and nail for prized product slots like “Amazon’s choice.” These titles give your products greater exposure and appeal, helping you stand out among your competition. If a retailer gives your products a privileged position in your category or signals your superior quality in some way, that’s a partner you want to work more closely with.
Additionally, if a retailer is willing (and able) to work with you by promoting your product to their email list, social media accounts, or other channels, it’s a big sign that they’re worth focusing on. Good retailer partners boost your promotions by engaging with you online and cross-promoting your giveaways, messages, or sales, marketing on your behalf.
Once you’ve identified your top partners, it’s time to explore some mutually beneficial opportunities and ways to get more from those relationships.
How to get the most from your retail partners
Some manufacturers avoid sending traffic to their retailers at all costs. They’d rather make the sale on their own website, where they can protect their margins. That makes sense, but as we discussed, many consumers may be more loyal to a retailer than they are to your brand. They want your product, but they’d take a competitor’s product if it means they can take advantage of Amazon Prime’s free two-day shipping, or get cash back on a credit card.
When it comes down to it, manufacturers should focus on providing the best possible shopping experience for potential customers—even if that means sending some of them to an online retailer.
And once you decide to work with retailers instead of trying to compete against them, you’ll find that there are plenty of ways you can leverage them to shorten the path to purchase and make a more compelling case for your products.
Tell people where they can buy your product
Instead of forcing people to head to their preferred seller (or worse, Google) to find your products—which runs the risk of them choosing a competing product instead—you can highlight your top retail partners right on your website.
Our Where to Buy tool gives consumers real-time information on pricing and availability from the online retailers you choose. If they have location data turned on, your website visitors can even see physical stores that sell your products near them along with the current price and stock availability.
When it makes sense, you should also mention retail partners in your promotions. It might seem counterproductive to drive traffic to a retailer instead of your website, but the reality is that by mentioning retailers your audience already uses, you’re reinforcing how easy and convenient it is to get your products. Whether it’s in an email, social media post, blog post, or something else, consider telling people your products are available on the sites they know and love.
When you give consumers multiple options, they can purchase your products in a way that’s most intuitive and appealing to them.
Import ratings and reviews
Even if you have a great testimonial page, consumers are wary of ratings and reviews that appear on a manufacturer’s website. People assume they have been curated to present the best possible picture of your products. To bypass that perception, manufacturers like you can import the reviews and ratings from a neutral retailer like Amazon or Walmart.
Our Ratings & Reviews tool lets you display information from your top retail partners, increasing consumer trust in your products.
Monitor everywhere your product appears
Brand monitoring is an important part of working with online retailers. You want to make sure everyone selling your products presents them in the way you intended. Brand monitoring is about working with retail partners to deliver the same experience, no matter where your customers order your product.
By using tools like Brand Monitor, you can easily see which retailers are following your guidelines, and who needs a reminder to update their product pages. We streamline the entire process, so you don’t have to constantly analyze every product page.
Monitoring your brand helps ensure your retail partners authentically represent your products, and ultimately, make more sales.
Leverage your retail partners
It’s easy for manufacturers to see online retailers as competition. But by strategically using their data and even linking directly to their product pages, you can make your products more appealing and improve your website visitors’ shopping experience. If you force people to choose between loyalty to you and loyalty to the retailers they love, you’ll win some of those battles–but you’ll lose plenty, too.
PriceSpider is a conversion optimization platform designed to help manufacturers sell more products. Our suite of tools was built to help you maintain the integrity of your brand, increase conversions, and intelligently leverage your retail partners.
Check out what PriceSpider can do for you.