Trade shows can be a huge distraction and expense for retailers, but they don’t need to be. You can maximize these opportunities to gain a competitive advantage in your market.
The original purpose for trade shows was for brands to display and introduce new products to retailers. This is where retailers would typically order new products for their stores. Trade shows have changed, though. Much of the focus now is about the exhibitors and attendees and not what matters most—your customers.
What differentiates natural retailers from your mainstream competitors is your relationship to the consumer. Instead of trying to be a one-size-fits-all retailer, your ability to connect with your consumers on a more intimate level gives you unique insight into what they really want.
For this reason, I advise viewing trade shows as the ultimate shopping trip for your ideal consumer. What would your customers like to find on your shelves? This way of thinking can be the difference between converting occasional customers into loyal evangelists or constantly trying to reacquire the same customer—like your mainstream counterparts.
The 3-step strategy I recommend:
- ID the key trends driving sales across your entire store. Don’t only look at specific categories but focus instead on the shopper’s market basket and work backwards. Seek to identify the common theme in the choices your customers make as they check out of your store. For example, are most of the items in their basket plant-based?
- Ask customers these questions: Why did they chose the items in their basket? (This will help you identify common ingredients or product attributes.) What problem are they looking to solve? (This will help you identify their needs, like low sodium, Keto, etc.) A lot of brands and retailers overlook this powerful yet simple strategy. How do you know what your customers want if you don’t ask? Big brands and retailers tend to rely on focus groups, but it’s my experience that focus groups rarely uncover real shopper buying habits—especially natural shoppers. There is no substite for having a one-on-one
conversation with your customers.
- Armed with this info, consider what new items meet that criteria. At the show, look for new products that feature those attributes, plus new and novel items that won’t appear on competitor’s shelves for months. This is how you get a jumpstart on the competition, offer unique items your customers want, and how you convert occasional customers into loyal evangelists, becoming their store of choice.
Note: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author(s) and contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher and editors of WholeFoods Magazine.