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Evolving from 'vendor' to trusted 'expert'

Evolving from 'vendor' to trusted 'expert'

During the Retailer Workshop at Natural Products Expo East in September, Council for Responsible Nutrition President and CEO Steve Mister shared a statistic that caught everyone's attention in the room—but that which wasn't really all that surprising. He cited research which found that one out of every three shoppers who go into the supplement aisle within a chain drug store leave without making a purchase.

As a natural products retailer, you likely know why. Supplements are confusing. The supplement aisle is the most product-dense section within a store, and the label claims on many of the section's offerings often don't help with the decision-making process. Choosing a simple multivitamin or omega-3 supplement can be mind boggling, so good luck if you're looking for something more complicated such as a blood sugar management or heart health product.

This, of course, is where good natural product retailers make all of the difference in the world. You have the trained people in the aisles who can help decipher what shoppers are looking for and then guide them to products that could really provide benefit. By becoming a credible arbitrator for your customers, you provide them with more reason to shop with you and refer your store others.

As Rafael Mael, a natural products retailing expert and marketing strategist at Brand Launcher, told attendees at the Expo East Retailer Workshop, to survive in today's competitive grocery environment, natural products retailers must evolve from being simple "vendors" to trusted "experts." And what better place to foment this transformation than in the supplements aisle?

You can do this through regular customer education sessions focused on specific topics (Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy does this with great success) and by providing frequent training to your staff on the science behind the brands you carry (Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage is one supplement retailer who invests in this kind of training—and it pays off).

Within supplements, the digestive health category is one that provides particularly good opportunity for quelling consumer confusion and driving new product sales, as we explore in this issue.

What programs or training initiatives do you have in place to meet the needs of your supplement shoppers, and how are these efforts paying off for your store? Share your stories by sending me an e-mail.

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