With an omnichannel approach to selling pet food taking hold, those brands who decide to work closely with their retail partners in the brick-and-mortar space are experiencing an evolution in their relationships. Those involved must make decisions about physical versus online shelf space, where their customers are most likely to see their products and how symbiotic the relationships need to be between retail and brands in order for both to be successful.
“Having a good relationship between brands and retailers is imperative when trying to compete with big box stores and online giants,” said ThumbStopper, a company that provides solutions for brands to amplify their content through their retailers’ social media networks, in “Five reasons why the brand-retailer relationship is more important than ever.” Such giants, said ThumbStopper, have the marketing budgets a brand would have with the brick-and-mortar following of a retail location. “Staying consistent with branding and marketing efforts can go a long way in staying ahead of your competition,” according to the company.
Committing to the partnership: Finding the balance between direct business and supporting retailers
NDependent Pet is a pet treat company created with a firm retail partnership vision in mind: Support the independent businesses that make up the fabric of every community. To further that goal, the brand We Are NDependent has been uniquely designed to succeed specifically at independent pet retailers.
“What we're trying to do at NDependent is create a unique brand with products that you know — our tagline is ‘everyday uncommon,’” said Jeff Sandy, co-owner of NDependent Pet. “Let's make things that are fun, ingredients people understand, and let's mix them together in uncommon ways: beef tripe with sweet potatoes, golden milk and beef liver, those types of things. But let's [also] provide stores with more products that they can engage with the consumer on. And then on our website, we want to drive traffic that way. [For example,] all of our Instagram content is going to drive people to the store and it's going to be a click to our store locator. You clicked on the store nearest you, great! Here's a coupon for that store, go buy from there. ‘Hey, I'm out of town’ or ‘I just want this delivered, I'm busy,’ great. Here's your product, we will ship it to you, but next time you shop you should go to this store.”
According to ThumbStopper, this can be a key strategy in both the brand’s and the store’s success when done correctly.
“Much of the heavy lifting is taken off of the shoulders of individual retailers under the brand’s umbrella,” said ThumbStopper. “The brand is able to build credibility through swaying public opinion with their advertising and marketing budgets. In turn this drives traffic into retail locations. By keeping a consistent message and making sure there are no disconnects in branding, the retailer can capitalize off of these efforts.”
Engaging with the community is a huge part of this strategy, according to Sandy.
“I think most people, when they talk about the communities they live in, talk about the cool unique restaurants, bars, shops,” he said. “Most of the time they're going to bring up independently owned places that they enjoy, whether it be an axe throwing place, a pickleball studio or a cool bar that has dart boards in it … they're not going to say, ‘Oh, I like to go to Applebee's to have a drink.’”
The desire, then, is already there. It’s simply up to the brands and retailers to work together to emphasize the benefits of walking into an independent pet shop.
Education: Ensuring retailers can effectively represent your brand
Of course, one of the primary elements to the brand-retailer relationship is making sure those working in the stores understand what the brand’s all about. In March 2023, pet food company Petcurean Pet Nutrition launched Petcurean University, an evolution of their original Petcurean Pet Nutrition University, which provided material to retailers on various areas of pet nutrition.
“We realized that retailers need that easy access to marketing material, and just general onboarding and training tools,” said Victoria Byrne, assistant trade marketing manager with Petcurean. “And so we want to make sure we're delivering first-person classroom material to them. Petcurean Pet Nutrition University was more brand-agnostic material, so we decided to go for it, just focus on all the wonderful benefits of our sub-brands and really identify [them] because each positioning is unique. We want to make sure that that is conveyed to our retailers and the employees, and it's been a long project to onboard, but we're very excited to finally be at the point now to be able to offer it to the retailers and stores.”
According to Byrne, the call for such educational material comes from both the retailers and the brand as they strive to develop a mutually beneficial relationship.
“We want to make sure retailers have the most current information,” she said. “So when they're having those conversations with our representative in-store, and when there's extended lead times from when a rep can come to the store again, they want to make sure that they have those easy-to-access materials right away. We don't need someone physically there in the store calling on them. So it’s a mixture of both the retailers coming in and asking for it from the reps and [us wanting] to identify that and fill that gap.”
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