Retail shelf space is a hot commodity for suppliers and distributors.  With so many products on the market and so little room available to display them, retailers are more selective than ever about which items will make their way onto shelves and into the hands of consumers.  When negotiating for shelf space at a new retail location, suppliers need to prove that their product will measure up against the competition and handle consumer demand.  Using data collection and analysis, as well as digital forms, suppliers can demonstrate to buyers their ability to perform in the retail arena.

Flaunt Your Strong Track Record

Small and medium-sized businesses generally do not have large amounts of capital at their disposal to afford the hefty slotting fees associated with obtaining retail shelf space.  However, clout is a resource businesses have that lies within their span of control. Clout and credibility can be established through a business’s track record.  When approaching a buyer, suppliers should highlight their past successes at other retail locations. Types of data that can be presented to retail buyers to demonstrate efficacy include retail audits, information about past client visits, contact information for key personnel at a given retail location, custom forms, and purchase orders.  A supplier that utilizes Field Activity Management Software will have access to these types of data and much more.

Why is this data useful?  The answer lies in field reps’ improved performances.  For example, businesses that adopt a mobile software solution can use its data collection capabilities to perform regular retail audits that in turn can prevent out-of-stock problems.  Additionally, notes about previous client visits and competitors’ activity can be made directly in the software’s mobile application and shared with other reps or managers.  Reps can use custom digital forms and purchase orders that are saved in a mobile application for repeat use in the future.  This feature replaces the need for paper forms, saving both time and money.  The high-resolution photo sharing capabilities available with some Field Management Software can supplement verbal communication done via note taking and instant messaging. Suppliers that are able to showcase their prior success will appeal to retailers.

Relationship with the Retail Buyer

When vying for shelf space, suppliers should consider the objectives of the retail buyer. Buyers develop the product assortments that are available to the consumer and identify growth opportunities and risks in their assortments.  They also assemble business plans and promotional programs and maintain relationships with vendors.  Suppliers who can show that they are able to avert risk and sustain a mutually beneficial relationship present an advantage to retail buyers.  Suppliers that are able to minimize out-of-stock problems and communicate other concerns efficiently with management present an ability to avoid risks associated with inventory control.  Furthermore, the use of digital forms makes interactions between vendors and retailers smoother since reps don’t have to fuss with paper forms that can be lost or destroyed and are time-consuming to fill out.

Wayne Poggenpoel of retail property management and consulting firm Synergex explains what key information should be presented when offering a product to a retail buyer.  Some factors that he lists are knowing who your competitors are, how to display and promote the product, and the security of supply continuity.  As previously mentioned, photo sharing, note taking, and instant messaging are all tools that field reps can use to relay competitors’ activities to management.  Regular retail audits done through a mobile software solution software can be helpful with inventory control.  Data about in-store promotional campaigns is of course useful for the supplier.  This data can also be disclosed to buyers to illustrate promotional campaigns that were highly lucrative at other retail locations.

Differentiation is essential for suppliers looking to gain shelf space in the competitive retail market.  Selling a product that is appealing to consumers isn’t always enough to excite retail buyers.  By showing that your business is able perform in the demanding retail market and manage a healthy relationship with the buyer, your odds of receiving desirable shelf space will increase.