There's a battle afoot on the shelves of our grocery stores. The rise of low-cost grocers has forced retailers like Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda and Morrisons to go on the offensive, leading to the unsettling trend of streamlining product ranges to cut costs.

The threat of 'delisting' is real and it's rising up through the ranks. In early 2015, Kingsmill hit the headlines for losing their shelf space in Tesco. As a household name this sent a clear message that not even the most established brands are safe. But brands can take action to reduce the likelihood of being delisted, starting with acknowledging that the richest resource in their armoury is the power of their consumers.

Focus on the people

Supermarket giants aren't there to service the needs of brands – they simply want to offer the best products at competitive prices, thereby boosting their own overall sales figures. It's down to the individual brands to research, engage with and understand their market.

The retail industry is interested in segments, audiences, customers and consumers. But ultimately it's about people. Selling isn't merely about getting products off the shelves; it's about making sure customers come back for more. While brands focus on creating new ways to generate profit quickly, they may forget to consider what people actually want. As Armando Azarloza, President of The Axis Agency, says:

"This is bound to fail because it doesn't support lasting and meaningful engagement. It's "moment marketing" – and it will not allow you to become part of your consumers' reality and experiences. Moment marketing does little to develop a brand or give consumers permission to interact with them."

To help, we've listed four ways brands can move away from moment marketing and use the power of their consumers to avoid being delisted. It's time to call in the cavalry.

1. Create a meaningful connection

Brands need passionate and invested consumers who march into shops already knowing which brand they'll purchase. Hence they need to engage the people that buy their products well before they head to the supermarket by developing a genuine two-way relationship – the kind social media once promised, but never quite delivered on.

A proven way to achieve such meaningful engagement is through online communities that are built specifically for the purpose; an environment in which customers can speak to, make suggestions to, be listened to and feel valued by brands - reinforcing shopper loyalty.

2. Word of mouth

Even small brands, seemingly less able to out manoeuvre the opposition can avoid disappearing from the shelves if they strategically harness the power of their loyal consumers – a call to arms if you will.

Empowering your customers to spread the word about your brand can greatly impact awareness, trial and sales. 92 per cent of people trust recommendations from friends and family over all other forms of advertising (Nielsen), making them the most credible form of advertising.

And the effect is exponential: a study by Lithium found that talking to 1,000 consumers can spawn 500,000 quality branded messages, experiences and conversations about a brand. All this can be achieved with near zero wastage, because customers only recommend products to those they know are interested.

A genuinely engaged and loyal consumer will become your foot soldier on the ground; they'll recommend the brand to friends and family, and, with personal recommendation being the most trusted form of advertising, create an even bigger customer base and an even stronger buying force.

3. Demonstrate demand

With a little guidance, your consumers can drive footfall into selected stores and spur remarkable sales increases; a collaborative marketing campaign we ran for ready-meal brand, Brillante à la Sartén, generated incremental sales of 28% after engaged consumers drove trials amongst their friends and family.

A customer base nurtured in a meaningful brand-consumer relationship can show supermarkets that there is a real, vocal and engaged buying power behind a brand and that, if the product was delisted tomorrow, they would show no mercy in switching to a competitor retailer that still stocked their favourite brand.

4. Know your enemy

Defending your territory on the supermarket shelves requires continuous intelligence. Reinforce your position by staying engaged with your consumer communities and listen to what they're saying. Marketing challenges are problems your consumers have with your brand, but they are not your enemy. In fact your consumers are your biggest asset. Work with them at the source to solve challenges rather than trying to second guess what they're thinking will ensure your brand stays safely out of the firing line.


By Rebekah Mackay Miller, UK MD of trnd, a collaborative marketing agency

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