You’ve got a thriving ecommerce store and a killer brand to boot. You’re ready to take the next step and partner up with retailers to help you sell more products. This is exciting—congratulations. 🥳
But what’s the first move? What kind of retailers should you be partnering with and how do you build good relationships with them?
In this article, we’ll guide you through everything you need to know to research, find and work with retail partners. By the end, we hope you’ll feel confident in taking the first steps to getting your product into stores. 🙌
What are the different types of retail partners?
First, let's take a look at the different types of retailers. This should give you an idea of what kind of partnership you’re looking for.
A retailer (or retail partner) is a business—either an online shop or a brick-and-mortar store— that will buy your products and sell them directly to their consumers. A retail store will be a brand in its own right, and they’ll usually stock your products in their warehouses or stock rooms. There are two different types of retailers: small independent stores and major retailers.
- Small independent stores: Generally, smaller stores will have a limited range of products and a very specific target audience. You’ll find some of them on the high street and they’ll often have an online store, too. For example, one of our customers, COAT, works with an independent interior design store, Grace & Grey, which stocks a selection of COAT’s paints on their website.
- Major retailer: A large, multi-product retailer will have lots more website traffic and cater to a much wider audience. Think of retailers like ASOS, Dunhelm and Boots—these are all big names that list similar products from loads of different brands—big and small.
A marketplace is a website where you can list your products and connect with buyers. It differs from a retailer because you’re responsible for uploading and pricing your products on the site. Depending on the marketplace, you might also have to deal with shipping too. Examples of marketplaces include Amazon, Etsy, eBay and Not On The High Street.
Online wholesalers bulk buy products from manufacturers and brands (that’s you) at discounted prices and sell products to retailers. You can list your products with a general wholesaler, or one that specialises in a particular niche. One of our customers, Food Huggers, sells to Big Green Smile who sell sustainable products.
A reseller is almost exclusively online and often sells goods by dropshipping products from third-party suppliers to their customers. Many resellers add their own branding to their products (this is called private labelling) and can list loads of items on their website without needing any warehouse space to store inventory. Bear in mind that there are different types of resellers that follow different business models.
💡Whatever type of retailer you choose to partner with, make sure you’ve got the resources to supply them. Whilst having lots of product demand is great, if you can’t supply the stock it’ll negatively impact your relationship with your partners.
What to look for in a retail partner?
So you’ve seen all the different types of retailers you could partner with. But which one do you pick? Here are some factors to consider to help you whittle down your choices.
Similar target audiences
You might not have the resources to partner with every retailer under the sun. In this case, opt for retailers that cater to your target audience. Take the statement eyeglasses brand, Bellinger House (one of our customers). They sit within the luxury fashion market, so you can expect to find them on high-end retailers’ websites like Roberts and Browns Opticians and Artistic Eyewear. You won’t, however, see them in mainstream stores like Specsavers.
💡Assess your product benefits to see if they align with the retailer's exact target market. You could also check whether they’re selling similar products from your competitors—this might indicate whether a retailer is a good fit.
If you’re working with small, independent retailers, they might not necessarily have set guidelines on how to set up a partnership with them. Often, these relationships are built through word of mouth, or—if they’re a growing store—they might hire merchandisers to hunt out brands to stock. But for bigger online retailers, look out for a straightforward and transparent signup process.
Not On The High Street is a good example of this. If you head over to the seller FAQ section you can read about the application process and how much money you’ll need to pay upfront. They also put an emphasis on sending really clear photos to accompany your product. This is super important for any retailer, no matter how big they are. You can use a tool like Dash (that’s us) to help you collect, organise and share images with your partners. Scroll down this article to learn how to do this effectively.
A good reputation
If your brand is showing up in other people’s stores and websites, you’ll want to make sure they’ve got a good reputation. A store that doesn’t treat its customers well will make you look bad—especially if consumers aren’t clear that they’re shopping on a retailer’s site. They might blame you for any bad experiences! Make sure you check out online reviews to see what customers are saying. Websites like Trustpilot and Google Reviews are a good place to start.
Where to find a retail partner?
We’ve already listed quite a few retailers in this post. But there are loads more out there. Here are some places to look:
- Small independent stores: Head to the web and look for small independent online stores. A small online retailer will have a nationwide reach but a niche audience. If your product is a good fit, you might be in for the perfect partnership. One of our customers OOLY, for example, sells on the independent store Bartrums & Co Ltd.
- B2B marketplaces: A B2B marketplace (or wholesale platform) is a place for you to showcase your products to retailers. NuOrder, for example, is a digital platform where retailers can go to find and order products for their stores.
- B2C marketplaces: You might want to consider listing your products on B2C marketplaces like Amazon, Etsy and eBay. Whilst massive corporations like Amazon might not be aligned with your brand identity (and that’s fine, you don’t have to associate with them), just bear in mind that your competitors are probably present on these sites so you might risk losing out on customers.
- Trade shows: Another place to find retailers is at a trade show. These are multi-day events that take place in major cities around the world. Brands, retailers and wholesalers attend these events to find new partnerships. From specialist foods and jewellery to books and baking—there’s a trade show for most industries. Take a look at ExCel London to see the range of shows.
How to pitch your products to a retailer?
Once you’ve found the retailers you want to work with, it’s time to send them a pitch.
For independent retailers, the best approach might be to pick up the phone and speak to someone directly. If you can find a contact for a retail store buyer or merchandiser then even better. If they have a physical store as well you could go in and chat to the owner (if it’s convenient). This is a great way to find out more about their business and customer base and to let them put a face to your brand’s name.
For major retailers, you’ll often find an application form on their website.
Whatever store you pick, chances are they have loads of requests for stocking products, so consider sending a short elevator pitch in an email (or in person). Here are some pointers to include.
Highlight how your product benefits the retailer and its customers
Retailers want to know they’re going to get a good return on investment, so make sure you highlight how your product is going to benefit them. How does your product solve their target market’s needs? What’s your unique value proposition? Does your product’s price point match similar items in the retailer’s catalogue? What success have you seen with other retail partners?
To give you an example, here’s a product page from the online retail store Clove and Creek. They’re a lifestyle and concept store selling simplistic and modern items for the home and garden. If you browse their website, you can see products from lots of different lifestyle brands. Prices differ depending on the type of product, but the key thing for Clove and Creek is quality.
Send clear, high-quality product images
Product photos are vital to your pitch. The retail owner or manager needs to see what your product looks like. And showing them off in the best light will give you a better chance of getting your products into stores.
So pick images that show your product off in different angles, colours and sizes (if applicable). Not on the High Street suggests:
“Well-lit photography maximises sales for our Partners. In our experience, images of products on mannequins or with black backgrounds do not work as well.”
And instead of attaching big files to an email, or setting up a massive WeTransfer, use Dash for a quick and easy way to share your images.
Dash is a digital asset management (DAM) tool that lets you find, manage and share your visual content. It’s a super important tool for ecommerce brands who need to get product images and videos out to their channels, fast. (You can read Barney’s post about why ecommerce brands need a DAM).
To share product images during your pitch, you can collate everything into a Dash collection and share via URL. When a retailer opens your link, they’ll get a nicely branded view of your assets. (Once you secure a new partnership with a retailer, you can also use Dash portals to let your partners self-serve their own assets. But more on that later.)
Here’s what a collection looks like in a Dash we created for our demo brand, Planto.
💡Remember to also send pictures of your product packaging. Brick-and-mortar retailers in particular need to know what your products will look like on their shelves, as well as on their website.
🤓 Read Emma Dunham’s post for tips on creating stunning product photos.
Decide your price per unit
Everyone wants to make a profit. Your retailer will want the best possible return on investment. And you need to cover your manufacturing and shipping costs, whilst still making money. So make sure you state your price per unit and what a minimum order should be. It’s not cost-effective to send out small deliveries of your products to every retail partner, so consider a minimum order value (that could be a minimum spend or a minimum number of items in a shipment).
Create a product sell sheet
If you’re sending lots of product pitches to loads of retailers (either in-store or online) it might be worth creating a product sell sheet. This is a one or two-page document that contains all the information we’ve already covered, along with product specifications like dimensions, ingredients or chemicals contained in your product.
Send product samples
If you're going into a physical store or you have a contact for the person dealing with merchandise, why not offer them a sample of your product? This way they'll get to touch or taste your product in real life (which is essential if you sell food products). They'll even get to see how your product packaging will complement the other wares on their shelves.
How to use Dash to keep your retail partners happy
You’ve settled on a new partnership and your retailer is excited to sell your products. But your work hasn’t finished yet. You’ve got to nurture and maintain a good relationship with them if you want to continue selling to them in the future.
A big part of this relationship will be supplying them with the most up-to-date marketing materials for them to promote across their channels.
But don’t worry. Keeping your retailers happy is easy when you use Dash. Here’s how. ✨
Give your retailers access to marketing assets
Both you and your retailers want to sell as many product as possible. So make it easy for them by giving them access to your brand and marketing assets. For this, use portals.
Portals are separate from your main Dash account and offer a place for your resellers to browse, search and download all the assets they need to sell your products. Here are some of the useful things portals let you do:
As a brand manager, you can:
- Create multiple portals
- Control what folders and fields your resellers have access to
- Add a personalised welcome message for each retail partner
- Choose to add a password
- Keep retailers up to date with the latest product assets
Your retail partners can:
Search for content using keywords
- Filter assets by the fields and folder you’ve chosen
- Download any asset included in the portal, using any of the preset sizes available in your account (including preset sizes for social media platforms)
- Your retail partners won’t be able to share the portal with anybody else. And they won’t have access to your full Dash account.
As an example, let’s take a look at how one of our customers Haws uses portals. They sell beautiful watering cans to 100 + brick-and-mortar retailers and online stores around the world, including independent retail sites like Beards & Daisies.
To get this imagery over to Beards & Daisies, the Haws team gives them access to a public portal. As you can see in the image below, Haws’ partner can view and download images from their lifestyle photography, product photography, logos and icon folders.
Not only does it let retailers grab the assets they need quickly, but they can adjust permissions depending on who the retailer is. For big customers, Haws sets permissions so their retailers can see everything; for smaller customers, they hold back some of the newer content to make it easier for them.
Pretty nifty, right? Plus, it helps their retail partners sell more products. Josh, Haws’ purchasing manager, says:
“Some of our partners don’t have the budget to spend on beautiful lifestyle images or product photography. By providing that for them, we help them on their journey to sell more Haws. And it’s a win for us, because the more of our products they sell, the more they’ll buy from us.”
🤓 Read the full Haw’s customer story.
Keep retailers up to date with your latest brand assets
Dash also helps to ensure your partners have your latest brand assets like logos, graphics and fonts, as well as guides on how to describe and talk about your brand and products. Your partners need these to help promote your products across their marketing channels.
For example, take a look at how Kinetics keep their distributors up-to-date with their branding. Using Dash’s integration with Corebookº, they give their partners access to an online brand book that shows them the latest logos, images and typography.
Use Dash to organise your best content
Dash isn’t just a place for you to share content with retailers—it’s the home for all your marketing and brand assets. If you and your team have access to all your visual content, it’ll make it much easier to launch campaigns, drop product images into your Shopify store and get videos ready for your social channels.
Here are some Dash features that help you launch and run your marketing campaigns.
- Quickly search for images using tags: Dash detects objects within your images and automatically assigns tags. These tags make searching for images really easy. Take a look at the tags Dash has added to an image in Planto.
These tags let Dash pull up relevant results when you type a keyword into the search bar. So when we search for ‘living room’ we’ll see all images containing that tag.
- Drop images into your Shopify product pages and CMS: With our Shopify integration, you can quickly drop images from Dash into your product pages and CMS. You can also automatically adjust your images to fit Shopify’s image requirements.
- Resize images for social media: You probably use multiple social media channels to help promote your brand and products. Use Dash to quickly resize your visuals to suit each platform's requirements.
- Get UGC from your creators: Dash makes it super easy to collect user-generated content for your campaigns. Simply set up a guest upload link and ask your creators to submit their pics. You’ll then get to approve the images you love, and reject the ones you don’t.
- Find your best-performing content: You can create fields in Dash and assign them to your assets. For example, the ‘performance’ field is great for tracking how well your images and videos performed in your social campaigns. So when you’re next planning some Instagram content, you know which ones are likely to resonate with your audience.
💡See Dash’s full list of features in our article.
Sell more products with retail partners
There you have it: a complete guide to getting your product into stores. 🙌
Some of the most important things to remember are:
- Find retailers who align with your brand and audience
- Clearly highlight how your products will benefit your chosen retailers
- Maintain a good working relationship by giving your retailers access to your latest product and marketing assets
If you’d like to find out more about how Dash helps brands manage their retail partners, take a look at some of our customers:
- 🍹Goodrays use Dash to keep on top of their marketplaces
- 🍦Fwip use Dash to get product information to their brick-and-mortar retailers
- 🥕Food Huggers make sure their wholesalers have access to all the assets they need to succeed
And if you want to give Dash a try yourself, sign up for a 14-day free trial—no strings attached.