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Experts tell all: How to sell to retail and e-commerce in 2022

The thought that 2022 was going to be a reprieve from the last two years is long behind us. Record inflation, continued supply chain woes, and changing consumer preferences have made a tough landscape for retailers, DTC brands – and the tech companies trying to sell to them. 

How can retail tech startups cut through the noise? 

We recently sat down with three retail and marketing leaders – Kim Gallagher (Nuuly, Anthropologie), Erin Steinberger (Pandora, Tiffany & Co.), and Estee Woods (Retina AI, WiseTail) – to get their perspective

Here’s what we learned.


Fish with spears, not nets

According to Estee, the days of “spray and pray” demand gen are over. Retail tech startups can no longer blast every brand under the sun with the same email. Retailers expect startups to speak their language and to truly understand their (and their customers’) pain points.

Put it into Practice
Estee recommended to “research and segment your target audiences thoroughly. Spend the time to really know the personas and the people you are selling to. Start putting names on those people.”

Kim reminded us not to solely focus on how your solution will benefit her business, but how it is going to benefit her customer. “Always trying to frame it from a customer point of view is when I’m happy to be more of a champion for the partnership – if I believe the customer is going to find great value in [your product],” Kim emphasized. 

When it comes to initial, cold outreach, be helpful: send the retailer relevant articles that would interest them and remember that humans want to talk to humans. Impersonal, automated emails (or worse, pushy ones) have no place in our playbooks. Check out our blog for advice on making account-based marketing work for you.


Retailers have a lot of reasons to say no. Don’t give them one more

Retailers are notoriously siloed…which can contribute to a tangled web of stakeholders. A solution may require buy-in from from multiple regions, other brands in a portfolio and additional stakeholders- like Finance and IT- all with their own motivations and needs. In addition, organizations can be technologically complex. For example, the same retailer may use multiple POS systems depending on the region, or may still be using manual, offline tools for reporting.

Put it into Practice
Leverage your champion to understand the company and technology structure, and the stakeholders. For example, your champion may not be the ultimate check signer or there may be other areas who would benefit from your solution. “Anything that has cross-brand support is going to move to the top,” said Kim.

Your solution has to be a no-brainer. Arm your champion(s) with a clear business case and ROI, research, and case studies.

However, even the best-laid plans can hit a roadblock. Erin shared that “there is also a timing component. If you miss that budget cycle you could have to wait. Especially with the IT department… If you don’t fall into the right slot in their planning process, you’re out of luck.” For example, most companies enter a code freeze in November, blocking any initiatives until the following year.


Success at trade shows and on social media takes more thought than budget

The demand for in-person interactions is at an all time high. There are more trade shows than ever, and costs have skyrocketed. In addition, companies are scrambling to be relevant across all social media platforms in hopes of launching the viral post that puts them on the map.

Put it into Practice
Estee’s top trade show tip was to start early. Crafting your strategy, securing sponsorship opportunities that make sense for your brand, and drumming up excitement around hosted events takes time. But it doesn’t have to break the bank. Estee shared that “even in NY [for NRF] you can find little niche places, get people together so they can network and have meaningful conversations. Create meaningful interactions where they can interact with each other- not just with you.” Try getting off the beaten path – explore creative ways to create community and connection off the conference floor (e.g., sideshow events, dinners, meet-ups, yoga classes)

As for social media, resist “shiny object syndrome” and experiment thoughtfully. For example, creating communities through Facebook groups can help foster evangelists in an authentic way. The panelists were also bullish on TikTok for B2B, especially when targeting younger stakeholders. However, make sure there is a channel expert able to run experiments for each platform.


Watch the full webinar here:

Lauren heads the retail practice at Blue Seedling. In her off time you can find her nerding out on anime, Kabbalah, and Cabernets.

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