Five tactics to leverage suppliers to drive private brand sales

In a previous post, Supermarkets: Why a price diet won’t make you more attractive to consumers,  I put forward the proposition that retailers need to spend more time looking at ways to leverage their suppliers’ passion and expertise to make their products more compelling than simply squeezing them to cut prices.

In this post, I’d like to share five ways that you can do that.

First of all, the power behind this approach is that all suppliers are unique. They each have their own story about why they love their product and what they believe makes it special. Therefore, my first tip is:

#1 Get to know your suppliers

And importantly, this shouldn’t just be down to your buyers. Get your marketers, cashiers and call centre staff out of the office and onto the farm or factory. Experiencing the passion and expertise of a supplier themselves will improve their own ability to articulate it to your customers.

Seeing is believing, after all.

#2 Prominently feature your supplier and their story on point of sale (POS) materials

Supermarket aisles offer a dizzying amount of choice.  A multitude of packaging colours, fonts and slogans compete with each other to be heard – “Pick me! Pick me!”

But when people walk down the bread aisles, they aren’t just looking for loaf. Subconsciously they are looking to feel connected to a particular brand. And this is why national brands can end up dominating the basket – they invest in the advertising to make you feel a connection with their brand.

Private brand advertising rarely focuses on specific products. This means your POS merchandising needs to work much harder than its national brand equivalent.

A great way to maximise the chances of your customers feeling a connection with your private brand products is by telling your suppliers’ stories – Who are they? Where are they from? What do they look like? Why do they do what they do? Have they got kids? What do they love about their product? How would they recommend you use their product?

We do see this most prominently in produce where some retailers name the farmer, but isn’t there an opportunity to apply this more broadly?

All of these answers build a connection through the supplier’s authenticity and passion. This maximises the chance that customers will choose your product over what could be perceived as a ‘faceless, big brand’.

#3 Let customers scan QR codes and NFC chips on packaging to learn more about the supplier

Don’t let your suppliers’ stories be limited by the physical. Shelf space does come at a premium but there are clever ways to circumvent this. Add a QR code or NFC (near field communication) chip to the packaging or POS material to add another dimension. Recent research showed that 48% of millennials feel more loyal to a brand that provides interesting experiences of which 42% said interactivity was important to them in stores.

Upon scanning this could take your customers to your website, the supplier’s social media page or even a video. Sainsbury’s recently launched a fantastic example of featuring suppliers in online video.  The emergence of SmartLabel™ could see this become more prevalent.  What are your plans and will they include information about suppliers and provenance or just product facts and figures?

#4 Set-up a YouTube or Instagram channel dedicated to your suppliers

Taking our earlier example of the Sainsbury’s supplier video further, you could create a dedicated YouTube or Instagram channel to tell your supplier stories.

Online content services like YouTube are replacing traditional media channels for millennials with 72% of this group regularly using the platform. This makes it their number one source of content – above television.

One particular type of video that has quickly gained popularity is the ‘Vlog’. A vlog - or video blogging - is a low-cost, often self-shot, video about an individual’s life or interest. My daughter and wife don’t go a day without watching one. And they are not alone with two out of three internet users having watched a vlog before and two in five internet users have watched a vlog within the last month.

Creating supplier vlogs is a low cost and incredibly impactful way of building brand familiarity and loyalty. Just imagine the connection your customers could build with your suppliers by following their activities day in day out.

Recipes are another great way of leveraging your suppliers’ expertise to create engaging content. I often feel they’re done to death. However, that’s because most supermarkets are following the same formula: freelance TV presenter, kitchen studio and recipe walkthrough

I find these often lack passion or depth. I would personally much rather see a video shot in a supplier’s own home, using their own product in recipes that they make for their very own family. All of these touches go towards building that stronger connection and subsequently driving sales.

#5 Feature your supplier’s story on your website

This is the last of my digital devices to drive sales. And it’s the one which ties them together.

By expanding your online grocery shopping site to include supplier information, you can create a completely unique shopping experience. Create a landing page per supplier which consolidates their products, videos and recipes in one place. Give customers the ability to search for products by supplier or region.

Allow customers to interact with the supplier and the content that represents them. “Have you made Mary the cheese producer’s homemade lasagne recipe? Share your picture here!” As with any social interaction, you have the added benefit of empowering your customers to market your products and content on your behalf via their very own social network.

It’s about mindset, not magic

None of these tactics use any technology that is not readily available or not already being used by your organisation. It’s just simply a case of thinking of your suppliers as an asset and exploring how to leverage them.

If you’re yet to be convinced about the value of supplier stories, I encourage you to read my post on What can crowdfunding teach private brand retail? I hope it shows that leveraging supplier stories could be worth millions to your private brand.

Tags: Supplier engagement

David Taylor

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