Avoid These Common Test Order Mistakes
You’ve made it past the pitch phase and have been invited to submit a test order to a big-box retailer or warehouse club.
Congratulations! A retailer recognizes the value of your product and is willing to take a chance on your campaign. That's a big step, but you're still a long way from the finish line.
Moving the needle past a test run and on to a longer-term commitment presents a fresh set of challenges, and potential missteps that can kill the deal.
At TPH Global®, we have decades of experience helping brand managers get their products through the gauntlet of processes that lead to retail success, from the rigors of supply chain management to the painstaking demands of big-box retailers, and we have a very clear picture of how the best laid plans can come apart. Often it's the result of straying from best practices or retailer guidelines in a seemingly small way. Attention to detail is the difference between campaigns that succeed and campaigns that flop.
It's Called a "Test" Order for a Reason
Big-box retailers and warehouse clubs may call them "guidelines" but don't be fooled into thinking of these as suggestions. Knowing retailer specifications down to the smallest detail and project managing around them is a big part of the reason we have helped launch so many successful campaigns over the years. A test order is not just a test of how your product will do. It's a test of how reliably you can meet retailer deadlines and requirements at every stage.
The good news is that the most common errors can be avoided with good processes and attention to detail. Here are a few of the most common ways a test order can fail:
1. Factories used to produce product or display were not approved by retailer
Not only must your product, packaging, labels and displays be approved, but the factories used to produce and pack the products must meet retailers’ standards too. Using an unapproved factory can mean the end of your campaign.
2. The product package does not meet retailer requirements
Packaging accuracy is also critical, down to the smallest detail. Errors here are often the result of having skipped or rushed through the process of testing and validating samples at an earlier stage in the process.
3. Pallet display does not match retailer specifications
Retailer display guidelines are deal breakers and your processes should be designed to ensure that you adhere to them exactly. Warehouse retailers will not tolerate pallet displays that don't meet their requirements, even in a test order. And if you don't get it right here, they are unlikely to trust you enough to take a chance on moving forward with your campaign.
Do your homework for each retailer. Walmart display guidelines are not the same as Costco display guidelines. Once you've got approvals from the retailer, make sure your processes include plenty of validation at each step to ensure that everything is aligned to their specifications.
4. Product content labeling does not match third-party material testing
If you use a third-party for material testing, you must ensure that what is being tested is an exact match to the product provided to the retailer, which will do its own third-party testing for label content and packaging. Even small discrepancies in content labeling can lead to rejection.
5. Product or display graphics do not match what was approved by retailer
Graphics are another seemingly small detail that can lead to rejection, either by the retailer or the brand. This is another step in the process where testing and validation can save you a lot of trouble.
6. Product or display arrived at store with damage
We've seen far too many campaigns stalled or forced into costly rework because of damage to product or displays. While this may seem like a nasty surprise, it's rarely unforeseeable. If you rush through or skip steps like ensuring that packaging and displays are a perfect fit, or testing to ensure that pre-packed displays can withstand the rigors of transportation, you're asking for trouble. A tiny gap or deviation in material specs can cause load shifting and result in damage.
7. Items shipped do not match the retailer-provided planagram
The product and display must match the retailer's planagram exactly.
Choose Your Partners as If Your Campaign Depended On It
At TPH Global, we built our reputation by not leaving anything to chance. We have over 50 years' experience managing big-box retail campaigns from pitch support through fulfillment. We steer our clients through the process with deeply honed expertise at every stage of the process, including supply chain management. Call us or click on the link below to learn more about how we can take the worry out of your next campaign.