Contributed by Angela Fernandez, vice president of community engagement, GS1 US.
GS1 US, an information standards organization that helps brands identify their products for commerce, recently surveyed more than 500 entrepreneurs to identify best practices to achieve sustained success. The results are presented in “Charting the Growth Journey: From Product to Profitable Business.”
Respondents were classified as “leaders,” those who achieved sales growth of more than 25 percent in the last year, or “laggards,” those whose sales declined in the past year.
Explore the results to determine if your brand will lead the pack or stay in a holding pattern.
1. Are you prepared to think big?
In the early stages, an entrepreneur’s energy may be sustained by the excitement of sharing their new product with the world. In fact, 51 percent of the business owners surveyed said that pursuing a passion, ambition or skill is the biggest motivator for starting their own companies.
However, small brands would benefit from taking a broad perspective and diversifying their sales channel strategy to position them for future growth. The research found that leaders use an average of three sales channels, compared with laggards, who typically sell through just one channel. While traditional brick-and-mortar retail channels are still relevant, leaders are more digitally savvy—73 percent of leaders sell through their own website, compared with just 44 percent of laggards, and 57 percent of leaders work with an online marketplace, compared to just 16 percent of laggards.
2. Do you have what retailers and online marketplaces want?
Prioritizing accurate product information to support these channels is also critical to long-term growth. Comprehensive product content enhances customer trust in your brand and makes products easier to find and buy.
It also fulfills an important retailer requirement, as product information has become an essential part of creating a seamless and consistent shopping experience.
The study revealed that leaders recognize the value of providing more than just basic product information in their online product listings. They’re much more likely to include product images (65 percent of leaders versus 46 percent of laggards) and more than twice as likely as laggard brands to include extended product details, such as organic or GMO-free claims (59 percent of leaders versus 22 percent of laggards). In general, 59 percent of leaders have seen a direct correlation between complete product information and the number of products sold, compared with 36 percent of laggards.
Also, leaders are almost three times more likely to use UPC barcodes on their products than laggard brands, which shows they recognize how this can help the company achieve greater credibility with retailer partners, as most require authentic UPCs as a basic part of their vendor onboarding process.
3. Can a consultant or solution provider help you grow?
As an entrepreneur, you wear many hats but you don’t have to wear all of them. Leveraging partners can help your business scale. Leaders believe in the value of partnerships, according to the study, and are enlisting outside help including business advisors, consultants, retail brokers and software providers to grow.
In fact, 55 percent of leaders said external partnerships are critical to understanding what it takes to grow, compared with 26 percent of laggards. Additionally, 51 percent of leaders said an external partner has improved their understanding of product listings and the business impact, versus 30 percent of laggards. Partnerships can help reduce the burden on small business owners and help them close any knowledge gaps in their expertise.
Ultimately, the study indicated that creating a viable product is just the beginning of a brand’s journey, and new brands can hit a plateau when they fail to think strategically. Retail-focused small businesses can thrive in a rapidly-evolving industry when they master their channel mix, work to present consumers with robust product content, and collaborate with partners to expand their capabilities.
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Angela Fernandez is the vice president of Community Engagement at GS1 US, where she oversees programs designed to support growth for companies of all sizes. With more than 20 years of retail supply chain experience, she is an expert in helping companies understand retailer requirements and achieve source to store supply chain visibility.