Ask a Retail Expert: Cameron McCarthy, WeStock

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Any food brands selling to retail know it’s a constant challenge. Every time you surmount one obstacle, another pops up! Even if you know your brand has fans, how can you show that to buyers? And even if you get into a store, how can you tell fans to purchase you there? We chatted with Cameron McCarthy, a retail expert who’s worked with food brands large and small, about this challenge. He’s also the founder of WeStock, a new app for food brands to connect with fans and grow their distribution. We’re thrilled to partner with WeStock to offer a 20% discount on their services as part of our Toolkit membership!

You worked in sales and marketing for food brands for years. What challenges did you encounter when trying to bring a brand to a new store?

First, you have to be self aware enough to realize if a retailer is a good fit for you or not. Go into the store, and be truthful with yourself on whether or not your product actually makes sense for that particular retailer. Many brand owners struggle with this, and they get upset when they are unable to penetrate a certain retail vertical.

After you have identified the retailers that you want to target, you have to understand that getting on the shelf is much easier than getting off the shelf. Opening the account is just the beginning! You have to understand how demanding it is financially to get customers to reach for your product. Be straight forward with the buyer, and get a clear understanding of how many promotions, ads and demos it is going to take to gain traction. Even simple things, like making sure the product actually hits the shelf when it gets delivered, can make or break a new retail partnership. This is the reason most brands don’t want to scale too quickly. Make sure you dominate in a region or retailer first, and that you have proven velocity before moving onto the next goal.

What sorts of metrics do buyers look at when considering a new product for their store?

I think most brand owners would be surprised how intuition-based the buying process is. That’s why it falls on brands to sometimes say no to the retailer! Some retailers will ask you for SPINS or Nielsen data. This is scan data, and it shows how well you are currently selling in the market versus the competition. This is one of the key reasons we started WeStock! The platform shows the buyers your brand’s demand data and de-risks their buying decisions. Being able to articulate demand for a product, and then being able to reach out to those customers once the product hits the shelf, benefits all parties involved. It also cuts down on brands that fail after launch.

What sorts of metrics do buyers look at when evaluating a product they already sell?

The most-used metric I have seen is APSW (average sales per store per week). Typically, the buyer has a dollar or unit number that they have to meet. This dictates whether they keep or terminate the item.

How can brands use WeStock to increase their sales reach and volume?

WeStock allows brands to mobilize their current customer base into new sales opportunities. They also get exposed to new potential customers daily, who can request that their product be carried at a local retailer. We then organize that information into an easy-to-read data set, so brands can see which retailers and regions to target. This allows them to have data-driven conversations with potential buyers. It also helps with velocity, since WeStock actually notifies customers when the product hits the shelf.

How can brands engage their fans to maximize their WeStock success?

Many brand owners get asked by their fans, “Where can we buy your product?” or “I wish you were sold near me!” Most brands will tell those customers to fill out an item request form and take it into their local store. We have essentially streamlined that process, so brands can have your loyal fans download the app and request the product easily. We call this process crowdstocking. It’s all about getting current and new customers to rally behind your brand, so that retailers can’t ignore the demand for your product.

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