Ok, so I may be channeling that famous line from the 1986 Top Gun movie, but the need for speed when it comes to product awareness is greater now than it ever was back in the 80’s.
There has always been a speed to market gap when it comes to new products hitting the shelves, however 30 years on from that iconic movie and nothing much has really changed for the retailer. Consumer awareness on the other hand has taken giant leaps forward with the introduction of the Internet and social media. So what does it all mean?
To answer this we only need to look back to the 80’s to realize that we did not have the Internet, social media or online shopping. Extended trading was not even thought of, and products stayed on the shelf longer with product life cycles running at around 10 – 20 years. Iconic brands ruled and the churn rate of new products entering the market was much slower and less frequent than it is today.
Long gone are the days when the shop assistant was the keeper of all information about products, ready and willing to impart their knowledge on to eager consumers, to assist them in making the right product choice. The arrival of social media in the last 10 years has changed the way information is conveyed to consumers, empowering them with knowledge at a far greater rate and within minutes of it being posted, further widening the gap between retailer and consumer.
Consumers do not shop like they used to and are more informed today then they ever were 30 years ago. Over a relatively short space of time (5 years), a new wave of influencers have emerged via Instagram, with huge followings and the ability to communicate a brand or product to a targeted audience in a matter of minutes. These influencers are being used more and more by companies to launch brands, without the need for protracted negotiations, providing both smaller and larger businesses with the same opportunities.
When Clinique launched it’s global campaign #FaceForward in 2015, it used millennial megastars Hannah Bronfman, Margaret Zhang and Tavi Gevinson to do it. These are young 20 something women who have launched themselves through social media, each having created massive social media empires. These influencers are a quick, measurable and targeted means to grow a brands awareness, achieving tens of thousands of likes for their products and raising consumer brand awareness at a rate that cannot be matched by traditional marketing techniques.
Last December, Stolen Recipe ran an awareness campaign using social media influencers with audiences of a million plus followers, and in a matter of minutes had over 15,000 likes for their product using a simple shot of their product in hand. These new forms of consumer marketing are providing real time results that are measurable, quantifiable and authentic.
In 2010 Entrepreneur.com reported that the product life cycle was now less that 12 months, giving us some indication of how dynamic the market now is. Of greater concern is the fact that the practice of gaining retailer awareness and buy-in has changed very little, with account management following the same pattern of presenting to accounts, negotiating an investment and promotional strategy, sorting out the logistics and reviewing planograms and shelf space, before field teams go out and implement.
This process can be defined as the time to market (TTM), the period of time from when a product or idea has general agreement and resources are committed to the project, to when the final product is supplied and in-store. For larger companies with extensive field forces and merchandise teams, this can be weeks and for smaller companies can be months, with some companies reporting up to 9 months to gain traction in certain industries.
The reason that this window is so important for a company’s product is that with the shortness of a products life cycle, the time involved in getting product on shelf, coupled with the speed at which consumers are accessing product information these days, a product could be all but redundant even before it hits the shelf. The earlier you get your product to market (without cutting corners or compromising quality) the greater the revenue you can generate because your product faces less competition. In addition, you earn revenue for more of the product lifecycle.
The market is moving at pace, and social media is educating consumers at a faster rate than traditional retail education programs can. Consumers do not shop the same way they did 30 years ago and the process of controlling the retail space with traditional TTM practices will mean that you are at risk of being “too slow” for your target audience. In the race for sales and market share growth, suppliers will only remain relevant to retailers and consumers if they can close the speed to market gap.
Thanks for reading
Craig Matthews is the founder and MD of Stock Box, a product awareness program simplifying the process of connecting retailers and suppliers. With over 30 years experience in retail and brand development, Craig has turned his attention to addressing the inherent business problem of product awareness and speed-to-market for all players. For more information on how your company can get involved email Craig at firstname.lastname@example.org
Craig Matthews is the MD of Stock Box, with over 30 years industry experience in retail development, specialising in independent retail programs.