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Product line ratings (PLRs) are a constant and often annual process for big box home improvement projects. Given the size of the prize and the sophistication of the audience, these high-pressure sales presentations must provide new and powerful insights. Successful retailers must differentiate themselves from lower-priced competitors by demonstrating a fact-based approach to bringing more value to the table.

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PLRs present challenges to incumbents and new entrants. A struggling or underperforming incumbent is particularly vulnerable, but even strong players must meet the high bar of improving on past successes where marginal gains are difficult to achieve. Incumbents may enter into a regular data-driven dialogue with big box merchants, but at PLR these vendors still bring something fresh and new in addition to a clear message of continuous growth.

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Incumbent must clearly show why they deserve to put shelf space or gain additional versus relevant to the competitive parish. Likewise, they must demonstrate what a good job they’ve done — not just against some obvious metrics, such as sales growth, profit margin and gross margin ROI — but in addressing major market trends and serving the retailer’s strategic customer groups, all of that. will drive future performance.

The new entrant’s value proposition is unknown to the seller. Persuading a retailer to make a change requires a new entrant to demonstrate that the product, brand, and execution have the ability to justify that change. Getting a big box set can deliver compelling ROI to new entrants, and they need to prove their case. New entrants need to bring a strong value proposition to the table — but not just as brand-additive or “me-too” products and features; but they emphasize how their offering is differentiated and fits into the evolving needs of the market. The most likely way for a new entrant is to prove that the retailer’s lineup is missing a customer/product segment and the new entrant can fill that gap by taking only a portion of the retailer’s existing shelf space. Making that case requires showing a granular level of insight into customer and product segments.

Through PLR, marketers as well as new entrants must deliver a powerful presentation that is supported by “killer” insights. Success requires transcending fundamentals and impulses to active conclusions in four areas.

Buyers should just feel like learning new things. An incumbent or new entrant is expected to do the following;

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2. Clearly state how the big box channel differentiates and drives incremental sales for the retailer

Manufacturers launch into big boxes when they have proven success, but a strong presence in other channels is a potential source of conflict. Incumbent vendors may be asked to justify whether their support for the retail channel is sufficient; Sellers can claim “similar” products and services they see on other channels. All retailers will need to address cannibalization concerns from other channels who may be concerned about the retailer’s potential siphoning from existing channels (eg, specialty channels or wood dealers).

These conflicts can best be managed by demonstrating knowledge of who markets the categories in the big box retailer and how other properties and channels can be integrated with the big box. For example, one salesperson was described by some of his employer’s clients as a “convenience store” for pros (i.e., the ultimate salesperson/citizen or convenience store). Most of the pros bought through the channel for specialty but used the big boxes for the office site to request items, for weekend purchases and to serve the office of several remote locations (when the propola was located nearby).

In another category, the big box retailer supplied many different, accessories and other non-category-related supplies that were complementary to the range of products found in the more “main product” inventory in their own channel.

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These examples specifically illustrate that a retailer can manage channel conflict concerns by increasing the granular understanding of how the customer base and shopping needs in the big box can be complementary to other channels. This deeper understanding of channel coexistence allows marketers to better articulate and “prove” how they can successfully manage channel conflict.

Artists must also bring necessary and challenging evidence to their new ideas to increase their value. Targeted studies can inform new ideas and policies. We supported the retailer to prepare the review line, using five strategies based on existing successful marketers to target the retailer who achieved the product, packaging, branding, promotion and organizational alignment strategies.

Retailers supporting marketing strategies such as BOPIS (buy online, collect in store) have another significant opportunity. This strategy allows retailers to play an active role rather than a passive one, because they become digital and logistics partners rather than just responding to big box requests. One manufacturer proactively advertised the days to fill a single/unstocked item and identified opportunities and practical suggestions for the retailer and retailer to collectively reduce customer wait times. This type of active participation can increase ROI and customer loyalty.

These case studies and learnings can be developed with or without the target vendor, although the connection with the vendor will provide more access, insight and collaboration. Salespeople who can draw on other marketers’ successes and transfer them into their own category do more than generate new ideas; they also set their sights on identifying the box office needs of a large retailer, using models familiar to the retailer.

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3. Focus on the long-term perspective – transformative changes may fall outside the scope of a typical review line

Many PLRs occur every two to three years, so some marketers only consider shorter investments such as price action and promotion for these reviews. Unfortunately, it can be challenging to “move the needle” on a category of big box retailer within two years. Collocations based on available experience, services and product lines take time to be approved and gain vendor approval. A salesperson, especially a pro, can be lazy to change buying behavior, even when the offer is necessary. Sellers may consider approaching a big box with a long-term business case of investments that need to be made.

We recently worked with a retailer to put together a five-year impact improvement project for the retailer’s home improvement partners. In addition, we shared a 10-year identification mission for improvement. Increases in communication between store conversions from customers compared to other categories, customer conversions big boxes and conversions from other channels – for consumers and pros (see Figure 3), we helped.

Approaching a product review from a long-term perspective Image Approaching a product review from a long-term perspective Image

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In this case, the marketer could determine where to target the most conversions. The analysis shows how loyalty to the seller (lower willingness to change) varied by customer segment (see Figure 4).

Understanding the sources of conversion at the Image segment level Understanding the sources of conversion at the Image segment level

Big box retailer 1 is positioned to focus on initiatives that are most likely to appeal to and convert segment B, propola 2, a large segment with a high willingness to change. On the other hand, propola 2 is mainly used by the salesperson for segment 1 in target C, a relatively large segment with a relatively high willingness to change.

A long-term approach, supported by annual targets and metrics, can enable the seller and supplier to build a long-term and committed relationship.

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4. Take a hybrid approach of both leading and following in marketing strategy and other brand/product support

Big box retailers and retailers should follow and lead in designing programs and other brand/product support.

Marketers need to lead by coming up with ideas and programs that build loyalty and support promotional time. This is especially true when they are only for needs where they can learn from other channels beyond the big box. At the same time, sellers should avoid “going it alone” and developing marketing aids and campaigns that are not integrated and aligned with the seller. Without deep entry, the seller will question whether the campaign is really profitable for the big box versus other sales channels. Likewise, the promotion and campaign conversion metrics will be negatively impacted if the supply of personnel and other operators is not clear on the mechanics of the campaign.

Retailers follow big-box retailers who have deep marketing expertise and knowledge of the consumer’s secret and insight into cross-buyer — as opposed to inside — product categories. It makes sense for the marketer to follow the marketer’s lead in terms of how best to target the customer and how to run the campaign, unless the author is the customer himself. Under this scenario, the seller pays primarily financially. At the same time, retailers need to bring more to the table than a financial role so they don’t simply become a marketing support.

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