Brands are built in the minds and hearts of consumers. Many elements of marketing help building brands. One of the most important ingredients is the retailer. Therefore in brand building respect your retailer.
Is the understanding of the consumer behaviour sufficient to build your brand in the Indian context? I think it is necessary but not sufficient. In addition, it is important to understand retailer behaviour. In fact, sensitivity to the behavioural patterns of both consumers and retailers is the best thing for your brand’s health.
Why? Simply because it is the interaction between the retailer and consumer that leads to a sale. The quality of this interaction is among the most important determinants of not only your brand’s market share, but also of whether your spend on advertising your brand is being fruitfully translated to purchase conversion. Despite consumer demand for a well-advertised brand, if a competitor’s brand is pushed strongly by the retailer, chances of a lost opportunity on a sale are bright. If the retailer has managed to convert his customer to a ‘regular’, the latter could well entrust enough faith in him to consider his recommendations seriously.
While building relationships with the consumer and with the consumer and with the customer (trade) has been fashionable talk in the recent times, perhaps an understanding of what really triggers retailer’s interest has remained somewhat fuzzy. Contrary to popular belief that retailers are, first and foremost, interested in their margins, the truth is that they are keen to have other assurances and benefits first.
After a lot of work, over two decades, in the market places across the country, I’ve have come to the conclusion that there are four things the retailer primarily looks from a marketer. Foremost among them is the assurance of the company’s (offering a new brand) continued existence. He first makes an assessment on whether it is going to be there the next day, the next year, the next decade. If he has any doubts, he will probably not stock the brand, even though the margins may be attractive. Like the brand marketer, he has to put in time, effort and shelf-pace, apart from money, on the brand and he certainly doesn’t want to get stuck with a dummy on his hands.
The next concerns: service from the field force. He expects regular visits so that while remaining behind his counter, he can have his problems addressed and his information needs satisfied. Third, he looks for an assurance on regular supply before he puts in the effort to build the brand with the consumer. His regular customers are as important to him as loyal consumers are to brand marketers. If he is not able to come up with a brand after pushing it with his customers, he loses face and runs the danger of perhaps losing out on that much money or, god forbid, even his customer. No way is he going to risk that.
Finally, yes, he does look for wholesome, juicy profits and margins, including attractive terms of payment. The significant point, though, is that in his list of priorities, margins come fourth. The customer comes first, increasingly so in an environment that is getting highly competitive for his business.
That’s the whole point. Are you, as the marketer, putting in the effort to understand your retailer well enough to contribute to increasing his store traffic, helping him to increase his revenue through satisfied customers? For, he’s the guy capable of retaining your consumer for you over a lifetime, or even over generations.
Thus without the cooperation participation and help from the retailer you may not be able to build brands. Hence, for profitable and vibrant brand building respect your retailer.