You’ve spent months developing a product to drive growth for your company. The supply chain is filled, marketing is in place, and your sales team and partners are trained. You are prepared and ready to go. Now for the last piece, to make sure the product is ready and available at retail. Are you sure you’re ready for the real moment of truth?

We have witnessed this story play out for hundreds of brands.  It’s very exciting as new SKU innovation remains one of CPGs best growth levers.  It is also one of the greatest investments, and executing such a massive coordinated effort can be extremely time consuming and challenging.  

Some companies do a great job all from new product development all the way through retail execution but then fail where the rubber should meet the road, when the product first hits the store shelf. Fortunately we have seen some world class brands have huge success.  Companies like Talking Rain in their launch of their new energy line and their new spiked seltzer, and Health-Ade Kombucha with their launch of Booch Pop and Health-Ade Plus.  This was not surprising to us because top performing sales teams are also often leaders in driving successful new product launches.  This comes from the passion and hard work of top quality people.  It also comes from some of the approaches and systematic efforts they use to manage their business. 

There is no such thing as a perfect launch. In the CPG industry, problems are a given.  However, there are some tried and true best practices that top brands and sales leaders follow consistently to achieve success including:

  1. Speed to Shelf + Display support is the winning formula
    Everyday that even one single store is not executing the newly launched product, increases the risk of a new line being pulled altogether from the entire chain.  Every dollar spent on securing and executing displays on newly launched products is a worthy investment relative to the cost risk of a failed product launch.  Make sure the resources and timing of the new launch are aligned to maximize outcomes. There is never a better time to gain consumer and retailer adoption and confidence, than in the first month that the new product hits the shelf.
  2. Attention to detail matters more than ever
    Map out all dates for the launch for each retailer and banner and ensure your execution plan and tasks are mapped out to the day and task. A new launch is a time where micromanagement of details matters. It’s a lot of work, but consider the investment made leading up to this moment. This last bit of investment into execution planning is more than worthwhile.
  3. Track metrics the day the product hits the shelf
    This is where the sales teams may fall short as they are unsure of how to best do this. Integrated shipment and scan data can be set up to be a proxy to ensure product is on the shelf and selling. On demand audits from third parties, along with information from your own team and retail partners is also essential.  Integrating all of this into real-time or daily execution views that the team can react swiftly to is most important.
  4. Enable closed loop feedback and communication process
    It’s not only important to measure what’s happening with metrics, but to ensure the team is coached and prepared on how to take action.  Every retailer and distributor can be a little different so reviewing protocols for all will ensure the team is operating with high intent daily.  This also ensures that as new information and learnings are received, the team will be ready to pivot and react with less of a feeling of chaos.  When details and communication protocols are established prior, the team also becomes more prepared to adapt. In one instance, a fairly small miss on packaging design, actually caused the product to look off for consumers once displayed on the shelf.  With a quick correction, the team was able to make adjustments and mitigate any major impacts to their promotion.
  5. Tell your story by measuring before, during and after launch activity
    Not only should you measure speed to shelf and execution during launches, but you should also more broadly measure performance information that can help you understand velocity, impact to other SKU sales, overall lift, any data relative to category, etc.  These metrics are not intended to give your  internal team analysis paralysis, but rather to help your sales team tell a great success story and prepare for expanded post launch sales activity.  Perception can be reality, so while consumer sales will be the dictator of long-term success, you want to give your new product as much of a chance as possible to gain traction.  Being armed with as many data supported success stories as possible will help everyone promote the brand, and increase distribution and share of shelf over-time.

These five components are easier said than done, and an entire book could probably be written on each. If you would like to see some examples of reporting and communication systems that we have found to be most effective please request here

If you have an upcoming launch, but know you won’t have boots on the ground or data to measure in certain areas, Shelvspace can present an example of what can be done with even limited resources.  We can get a scorecard with live store pictures up and running quickly, so that the day the product hits the shelf you can see exactly what is happening. 

We hope this article helps gets you thinking of opportunities to prepare for your new product launch.  We have already helped plan for some exciting new product launches in 2021, and as consumers, we can’t wait to see your new products hit the shelf!

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