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How Brand Managers Use Market Research to Earn More Shelf Space

decision makers

To the intrepid brand or product manager, the retail line review evokes the specter of sleepless nights, tense negotiations, detailed forecasts, and 90-minute presentations that make or break the financial future of the product. Today's retail line review is an exhaustive, high-stakes, and sometimes fruitless struggle for prime shelf space.

What's really at stake at your next line review? Nothing less than next year's market share growth and the very future of your career, that's all.

"What's really at stake at the line review? Nothing less than next year's market share growth and the future of your career, that's all."

Year after year, quarter after quarter, these make-or-break line reviews are played out in tight quarters at leading retailers across the country. The retail buyers weild power that is matched only by their iconic prestige and enormous consumer access.

These retailers...Wal-Mart, Kroger, Safeway, Costco, Target, Home Depot, Lowe's Home Improvement, ACE Hardware, Sears, Walgreens, CVS, and more...must make buying decisions about thousands of products. You are just one manufacturer in one category.

You have 60-90 minutes to make your case. So, what's your plan? What are your recommendations? What's in it for the retailer and their specific customers? How do your products directly support their goals and strategies? And, where's your data...where's your proof?

If you cannot answer these questions before your next line review, your odds of winning are greatly reduced. But, when you have all the right recommendations and the facts to back them up, winning your line review is a near certainty.

Preparing to Win Your Next Line Review

What you need is a solution as unique as your product, one that addresses the specific concerns (beyond just the numbers) of the retailer with whom you are trying to grow a relationship.

What that solution looks like is dependent on the research you’ve conducted on your category and consumers. In many cases, a detailed customer segmentation study, which will provide you with the ages, genders, purchase drivers, preferences, and attitudes of each type of consumer that will buy your product, is the key.  

When you combine the segementation with awareness and usage (A&U) insights, which measure your brand strength as well as that of your competitors, you have the fact-based leverage you need to make a succcesful case when sitting across from the all-powerful retail buyer.

With both studies in hand, you can then:

  • Tailor and target your marketing and product development efforts to these personas

  • Identify and act on specific purchase drivers from a supporting marketing program

  • Differentiate your goods from competitors by showing (with data) how fast the product is likely to move within the specific customers segments

  • Outline, by store, which products will likely perform best by segment that shop at that location

  • Establish successful price points for your products

  • Grow market share and expand your product line

Arming yourself with deep insights about your products and their stores/customers is a real game changers. You go from a reactive product manager who is hoping for the best to a proactive category leader who has the facts on how to help the retailer (and you) win big. It simply isn’t a fair fight—your competitors’ efforts will pale in comparison to the fact-based strategy and rationale you'll bring to the table.

retail, consumer, shelf space, CPG

Establishing True Category Leadership

Let's dig a little deeper on the insights you'll need. To build these powerful profiles of your retailer's end consumers (and enjoy the benefits at the line review), you need a foundational study upon which to build.

Specifically, you need a specialized and thorough awareness and usage survey conducted among consumers in your potential market. This provides the following:

  • An overview of whole category, including awareness, usage, preference, and key drivers

  • In the appropriate product categories, real information about what customers buy and why

  • What your competitors sell and how they rank against you with consumers

  • Your competitors’ weaknesses and how to exploit them

This information, viewed in context of consumer segmentation analysis, allows you to hone messages and products really that resonate with your largest groups of potential customers.

These powerful tools give you rare peace of mind in line reviews. The demonstrate to the retailer that you are invested in and commitmented to their retail success, their customers' satisfaction, and both of your career paths.

Dino Fire
Dino Fire
Dino Fire

Dino serves as President, Market Research & Data Science. Dino seeks the answers to questions and predictions of consumer behavior. Previously, Dino served as Chief Science Officer at FGI Research and Analytics. He is our version of Curious George; constantly seeking a different perspective on a business opportunity — new product design, needs-based segmentation. If you can write an algorithm for it, Dino will become engaged. Dino spent almost a decade at Arbitron/Nielsen in his formative years. Dino holds a BA from Kent State and an MS from Northwestern. Dino seems to have a passion for all numeric expressions.