When It Comes to Dietary Supplements, Natural Retailers Have the Advantage

Ayurvedic herbal pills on the glass plate with wild chamomile and tansy flowers. Healthy life concept

Now more than ever your customers typically know the value of dietary supplements—the most recent data from Nutrition Business Journal predicts that supplement sales will reach over 12% growth in 2020, climbing to $50 billion+. While online sales have grown, the “advantages” of online shopping may be more of a risk than a reward to the consumer. Risks are taken when purchases are made from a generalist e-commerce source instead of a dedicated natural health source. There are four key focus factors to explain why your natural health store can better serve your dietary supplement customer, and commitments you can publicly state.

 

  • Reliability:

 

NOW, Trust Transparency Center, and other organizations have tested hundreds of e-commerce products, primarily purchased from Amazon, and found that over 25% of the products do not meet label claims. Some e-commerce brands provide cheap substitutes for the ingredients that are supposed to be in the product, as indicated by the label information. This is not surprising as Amazon’s position is that the consumer is the one who will decide if the product should sell on Amazon or not. Savvy marketers have come to realize it is the quality of the message—not the quality of the product—that gains reviews, and therefore sales, online. Many exclusive e-commerce products only aspire to (barely) meet label claims at the time of production with little concern that many ingredients naturally degrade over time. Responsible retailers will provide an overage at manufacture to ensure products meet label claim at expiry.

The Natural Retailer Customer Commitment: This store will review independent test results, when available, to ensure the reliability of the products we sell.

 

  • Community:

 

E-Commerce companies offer convenience and competitive pricing. Your store can provide these benefits and more.

Collective Wisdom: Your customers want expert opinions, not fabricated or vague reviews. Intelligent consumers increasingly look beyond the review when it comes to ingestible items such as dietary supplements. Your store can provide access to both in-store and online experts to offer unbiased assessments of the products you carry, establishing a credibility baseline to support the community you serve.

Community Support: Your store provides a garden of like-minded people with common goals. Organize that community through in-store forums.

Conscientious: Customers care about many more things than price and convenience. All buying decisions have a consequence. While having deliveries to doorsteps might seem beneficial, there is a cost associated with the service. Growing concerns about landfills and traffic are being exacerbated by the number of delivery vehicles on the street and the considerable packaging requirements necessary to protect e-commerce shipments through the various stages of distribution. Your store can commit to a more simplified and environmentally friendly method of delivery. What’s more, this impact can be measurable.

The Natural Retailer Customer Commitment: This store will put our health-conscious local community as our priority. We know our customers better than anyone. It is our commitment to provide the highest quality of service and remain respectful of the more significant needs of our community.

 

  • Vendor and Ingredient Vetting:

 

Amazon conducts little to no research into the authenticity of manufacturing, ingredient identity or company responsibility. Ingestible products like vitamins and dietary supplements are given the same examination as belts and light bulbs—but they are not widgets. The common online process is not a responsible means of selling essential health products. While many believe dietary supplements are unregulated, that simply isn’t true. Many institutions and agencies oversee nutritional supplements as outlined in this article by my colleague Len Monheit. The FDA has issued a complete requirement of manufacturing regulations. The entire document called Current Good Manufacturing Practices (“cGMPs”) can be found at FDA cGMPs – Dietary Supplements. Trust Transparency Center has determined at least 17 key, distinct regulatory areas that many e-commerce brands do not know exist, much less follow. Repeatedly, Amazon has continued to sell brands and products determined by the FDA to be of inferior quality or simply non-compliant. A recent recall of Amazon-provided dietary supplements included a list of almost 900 brands. The Department of Justice mandated the recall after the contract manufacturer of the brands repeatedly, over several years of receiving FDA action letters and inspections, ignored FDA Warnings.

Additionally, Amazon was recently forced to conduct a significant recall of a top-rated probiotic product because the manufacturer of the product, Proctor and Gamble, determined that the platform had been offering a counterfeit version of its Align Probiotic. The Amazon product was almost identical on the outside of the packaging. Instead, your store can offer greater assurances of supply chain responsibility because of your purchasing and vendor vetting processes.

The Natural Retailer Customer Commitment: This store will research each vendor we carry to determine the authenticity of manufacturing. We will monitor FDA Warning Letters. If we learn of any infractions, as indicated by the FDA, or other independent, responsible entity, we will discontinue carrying the brand. The brand will only be reaccepted upon a review that ensures corrections have been fully implemented.

 

  • Consumer Education:

 

The cornerstone, and most significant opportunity to provide the ultimate service to your customer, is providing education. Your customer typically takes more than the cursory multivitamin recommended by the media. Your consumers are looking for more than just top-line information. Your store can decipher fact from myth and provide accurate information on an ongoing basis.

The Natural Retailer Customer Commitment: Our employees receive ongoing training on the dietary supplements we carry so we can continue to serve the requirements of our educated customers. We recognize our customers maintain a higher expectation of product information and verification. We commit to providing expertise, both digitally and in-person from our knowledgeable associates.

 

To maintain customer loyalty, the differences, challenges, and opportunities of your customers’ buying processes need to be recognized. Keeping your customers coming to you involves a different communication than what is commonly presented online. Be transparent in your dialogue with your customers of the differences and advantages your store offers over the e-commerce market. It is important to remind the customer that buying light bulbs and belts from Amazon can be ok, but when it comes to dietary supplements, knowing and trusting your source, platform, and provider is imperative.

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Scott Steinford, Founder, Trust Transparency Center
Scott Steinford has built a career of leading, learning and mentoring. Through immersion in many aspects of the supplement and pharmaceutical industry Scott has worked to redefine and improve business practices within the healthcare industry with an emphasis on transparency. His experience ranges from entry level to CEO and positions include organizations representing ingredient supplier, ingredient manufacturer, retail brand, private equity, M&A due diligence expert and trade organizations. Scott has a Pre-Law Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Texas at Arlington and a Master’s of Science Degree in Law from Champlain College. Scott currently is Executive Director for the CoQ10 Association and President of the Natural Algae Astaxanthin Association (NAXA) and Founder of Trust Transparency Center, a boutique consulting organization dedicated to assisting companies seeking to improve both their internal and external trust transparency. Scott’s prior experience includes CEO of Doctor’s Best and maintained a pivotal role with a variety of ingredient manufacturers including Eisai, Kaneka and was a founder of ZMC-USA.

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