How emerging brands can create their early retail strategy

Lee Barwin
Lee Barwin Marketing Director, Retail & Merchandising Solutions

How emerging brands can create their early retail strategy

As part of our webinar series in collaboration with Branchfood, we brought together founders of emerging brands to discuss best practices for brands to successfully engage with buyers, boost conversions, and grow their presence to win in retail. Listen to the full webinar or find out more about Trax Dynamic Merchandising for emerging brands.

It’s easy to assume that once a product-market fit happens, then it is simply a matter of fanning the flame, stoking the demand and delivering more of what worked. Unfortunately, as any seasoned retail leader would share, what first gets you into the stores won’t necessarily keep you top of mind at the shelf. Here are 3 strategies that will help you develop an early retail strategy that can later evolve as your brand grows.

  1. Focus on where your consumers would go

    For the prebiotic apple cider vinegar-based soda brand Poppi, the focus during launch was on merchants familiar to its ideal customers. The target market already knew the health benefits of Poppi’s primary ingredient and were frequent shoppers at natural-focused food stores. Co-founder of Poppi, Stephen Ellsworth found that natural independent grocers recognized the opportunity, which opened the door to “natural national” chains like Whole Foods and Sprouts.It was only then that Poppi began moving towards the center of the country – America’s “heartland” of tier 2 grocers. Emphasizing where the ideal customers would go first allowed Poppi to launch strong and expand into diverse markets later.
  2. Tailor your launch around product limitations

    A brand’s launch strategy has to be based not only on where your customers are, but on how you can reach them within the boundaries of the law, particularly when dealing with ingredients like cannabidiol (CBD). The CBD-based drink brand Recess hit a unique challenge because of regulatory limitations, so founder and CEO Benjamin Witte had to find alternative ways to connect with consumers while still staying within the legal parameters.Recess launched in 2017 direct-to-consumer (D2C). The brand leveraged online buzz to build offline recognition. This approach was relatively new at the time, as was the focus on “earned media” – creating a brand where the consumers would excitedly tag themselves on social media posts while drinking Recess. After the D2C success, Recess began its store launch in New York to take full advantage of the prominent bodega and corner store culture for easy distribution rather than trying to get into heavily regulated national retailers straight away. This strategy worked, and within three months, Recess was in 1,000 retailers in New York.
  3. Be transparent and go to your customers

    For The SWEY Corporation and its Gen-Z CEO and Founder Alana Andrews, scaling meant being as transparent as possible with the energy drink SWEY. Many marketed energy drinks are heavy on sugar and additives, which may have the opposite long-term effect of their health claims. Andrews felt that non-sugar, athlete-focused SWEY drink had to be honest about its contents, intention and branding, especially for younger consumers that could quickly deduce a false claim.

    Appealing to its young demographic, SWEY launched on e-commerce as a D2C brand. After its initial success, the brand plans to go offline in 2022 with a focus on Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and Chicago – all cities with a high Gen-Z population. The emphasis isn’t just on indie stores and national chains, but also schools, independent gyms and other places where older skewing or legacy-based drinks may not acknowledge.

    When emerging brands conscientiously plan a small but targeted initial launch strategy, they have a better chance of long-term success instead of trying to go too far too fast right at the beginning.

Lee Barwin
Lee Barwin Marketing Director, Retail & Merchandising Solutions Lee is the Head of Marketing for Retail Solutions at Trax. As a highly experienced marketing leader for retail technology, Lee is passionate about revitalizing retail via the digitization of grocery stores.
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