Last week I introduced the term “Product Creep” to explain the phenomenon of retailers carrying multiple products that do the same thing in their water garden departments. Product Creep occurs because retailers are trying to service the requests of their customers, and therefore bring on many brands to do so. Question: If you go into McDonalds and ask for a salmon sandwich what will you get? Filet of FISH! Although probably not the best analogy in an article on pond departments the point is this: McDonald’s sells one kind of fish sandwich because they will sell more, or better yet, make more doing it that way. McDonalds most certainly has a strategy when it comes to fish sandwiches, and everything else it does for that matter, and so do all highly successful companies.
In trying to define your stores product strategy here’s 3 factors all companies could use to help avoid Product Creep.
Keep It Simple Stupid (K.I.S.S.): Need I say more? Product Creep is the polar opposite of this approach – too many brands, and too many choices equals too much confusion, for not only your customers, but equally if not more so, for your staff. From the retail store staff, to your buyers, to ultimately your customers, a stream-lined good, better, best (or even a better, best scenario) helps keep inventory costs down, product turns up, and Product Creep out!
Logistics: Often the hidden costs of being in business are in the back end. Who you get your products from, and how, is vital to your store or business success. Multiple invoices, salesmen, catalogs, programs, suck something equal to money, your time! Logistics also include your store layout and shelf space. Walk into any national retail chain and what you will see is conformity from the merchandise to the colors to the lighting. Those decisions weren’t made willy-nilly, but rather after much time and study of how they affect sales. Uniformity in your merchandising, and displays, is a lot easier when you’re dealing with products from the same manufacturer, and not trying to accommodate Product Creep, and all the corresponding colors of the rainbow.
Philosophy: What do you believe, and does it come across in your product selection? If you’re preaching low maintenance water features, and you have five different types of bacterial products what message does that send to a consumer? Have you visited the websites of the company’s product lines you carry, and if so, is what you read in accordance with what you believe? Do the various manufacturers sing the same tune on their sites that you do in your store? What’s the cost to you, and your reputation, if the products you sell don’t line up with your philosophies?
One final thought, and analogy, on Product Creep: Ultimately you need to choose whatever products and brands you feel gives your store the best chances for long term success. However faced with the extreme of being one thing, or all things, I’d choose the one thing every time! To this day our most successful pond customer in annual sales installed only one size pond, 11×16. In his retail store he had two display ponds, one in the front window (his day pond) and one in the back beneath black underlayment (his night pond). When you bought a pond from this innovative entrepreneur he told you, you got two ponds for the price of one, a day pond a and nighttime pond! And further simplifying (K.I.S.S.) he sold all his ponds, installed for the same price. 99.9% of retailers, or contractors, hearing this would assume it would limit their sales and never try it. And 100% of them didn’t sell as much as he did doing it every other way under the sun! Where they saw sales being lost by limiting choices, he saw sales being gained by eliminating ambiguity (and Product Creep with it!)
He sold more ponds than anyone else. McDonalds buys more fish than Red Lobster or any other restaurant or even grocery chain in the world and they sell only one sandwich not two let alone ten!
Keep It Simple Stupid; understand the back-end cost of multiple brands and multiple suppliers and work with a company or even companies you philosophically align with. Deploying those three simple criteria will help you avoid product creep, decrease your hassles and most of all increase your sales and profits.
When you Keep It Simple, avoid confusion in your message, and believe in what your selling you not only will avoid product creep but sell more as well. Trying to be all things to all people is a recipe for disaster.