by Joe Zalta
Ecommerce may steal the headlines in today’s retail world, but more than 90 percent of retail sales in the United States still occur in physical stores. This fact has led to an interesting emerging trend — a growing number of brands built and established in the online arena are now looking to expand their horizons in the brick-and mortar realm.
For a retailer, this presents an opportunity to take a presumably winning and popular brand and bring it (and its fanbase) into your store, but there is significant risk too. Will its online performance translate well to a store setting? Is the brand prepared from a marketing, packaging, and supply chain standpoint? Do the brand’s products meet the quality expectations of you and your customers? The list of questions can seem endless.
Below are some tips for retailers on how to evaluate an online brand before placing their products on your shelves:
Analyze their customer reviews
Read through the brand’s reviews from online marketplaces. Do buyer’s give them a good score? What are the major complaints, if any? Do they receive a high volume of reviews? A product or brand with a lot of reviews and a high star rating (4+ stars) should be the bare minimum before you consider bringing them into your store. Also take note of any common complaints or product defects that customers may mention.
Look at their sales rank
Some online marketplaces provide a ranking of each product based on its sales. The number is typically located below the item’s detailed description and can include rankings in multiple relevant categories. A good ranking may signal high sales and a product worth considering, but it may not tell the whole story.
Research their social media presence
An established, frequent, and consistent social media presence is ideal and shows that the brand has an active marketing team and is willing to put branding budget behind their products. Does the brand provide customer support through social media? If so, that is a good sign as well. Also be sure to take a look at the size of their social followings and how engaged (likes, comments, shares, etc.) consumers are with the brand. Include social forums such as Quora and Reddit in your search, too. If the brand is highly talked about and most of the commentary is positive or neutral, it is likely a brand worth considering.
Determine their Google Search volume
Search volume is a good barometer of a brand’s reach in the industry, and a rough representation of the number of consumers who are interested in that brand. Using a free tool such as searchvolume.io can help you determine how often shoppers search each month for a product or brand keyword. Paid tools such as SEMRush can provide even more insights, details and trend information.
Typically, anything above 1,000 searches per month is worth consideration. However, in some industries, a lower search volume may be significant, depending on the competitive landscape. Retailers can compare the search volume to similar sized competitors to get a better average of where the brand stands.
Look at their assortments and packaging
Analyze the brand’s online stores and determine if they have assortments that would be appealing to your customers. Based on their current offerings, do they — or could they — create value packs that would engage your customer base? Retailers can also search YouTube, social channels and product reviews and comments for unboxing videos and photos that may give you a glimpse into their current packaging.
Evaluate their marketing and merchandising
In addition to social media, bringing a brand into brick-and-mortar stores requires good, old-fashioned branding to tell their story (and yours). Brands today must be willing to spend money on marketing, PR, and advertising in order build awareness that brings in buyers. They also must invest in the brand’s look and feel as well—everything from their logo, packaging design, and a quality website that the brand has built to support itself.
While there are many considerations for bringing a new brand into your store, it mostly comes down to a bit of due diligence on your part to see how the brand is currently perceived in the online space. While the transition to brick-n-mortar is not natural for every brand, those that have put time and money into their products are those that have a better chance of succeeding on your shelves. Do not forget to ask experts for help in evaluating a brand you may be considering. Those that have an understanding of both retail realms can help you navigate this decision better than going it alone.
Joe Zalta is co-founder of Riverbend Consulting, a company that helps sellers on Amazon solve urgent business needs and grow. He is also a partner at Project Retail, which helps retailers and online brands connect. You can reach Joe at riverbendconsulting.com or projectretail.com.