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How to prepare for a product line review

Pictures of various stacks of boxes in the shape of a graph

This piece was originally published on August 2, 2019. It has been updated based on feedback we received from clients who routinely utilize TraQline to prepare for their own line reviews.

What is a Product Line Review?

A product line review (PLR) works as a validation process for retailers to confirm their merchandising plan is in line the overall goals of the organization (e.g. drive traffic, increase sales, create brand loyalty). The primary objective for most retailers is to have the optimal assortment in a product category to meet the needs of the customers they seek to serve. Retailers want to ensure that the products, promotions, pricing, merchandising, and services they offer to customers are the best available – and that they are what their target customers want. During a PLR, it is your responsibility as the manufacturer and product expert to educate retailers on why your products reflect what the current market wants and why those products are the best offerings for the retailer’s clients. One longtime TraQline client cited data as the primary component for their PLR decisions; “The foundation to every single one of our line reviews was data and how we apply the findings to our product design, pricing, positioning, and market plan while keeping the retailer and its needs at the forefront.”

While retailers may be concerned about a product category at a product’s performance. For example, a retailer may want to understand the market share of Retailer X for a product category such as grills. As a manufacturer, you can provide detailed and nuanced specifics around Manufacturer Y’s share of charcoal grills, percent of grills sold for over $150 at Retailer X, and whether or not buyers favor BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick Up In-Store).

How do I prepare for a Product Line Review?

While PLRs vary from retailer to retailer, many merchants or buyers will provide you with a template to populate with critical category insights. In fact, depending on the retailer, you may go through multiple steps to submit specific pieces of information before a face-to-face meeting. The meeting would then focus on the data you have provided which explains why you are best positioned to work with the retailer. Your actual product line review, which will typically run anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes, will allow you to present the following 4 key elements:

  1. Your Company Profile
  2. How your products fit into the market
  3. What benefits your products will bring to the retailer
  4. Your marketing plan for the product

These meetings often have a hard stop, so you need to ensure you have the following topics prepared to discuss during your review:

1) Your Company profile:

Introduce yourself and your team. Explain who your company is and what you do. If you have never worked with this retailer before, you will also need to highlight what products your brand offers, how you’re positioned in the market, and highlight your unique strengths. If you can demonstrate the value of your category knowledge or your supply chain and manufacturing capabilities or expertise in eCommerce, these are important factors for retailers to weigh when selecting manufacturer partners.

2) An overview of the market

While retailers tend to have a good overview of the basics, it is best to come prepared. You should be able to share key elements such as:

  • Market size
  • Your share of the market
  • Your competitors’ shares
  • Their competitors’ shares
  • Their competitor’s weak spots

Additionally, in presenting competitor shares and weaknesses, be sure to tactfully address how all major retailers are performing in the market (where both their strengths and weaknesses lie).  Have their current and historical share sizes on hand. It is also a good idea to have any other key notes about the market as it pertains to your specific product category.

If you are already a TraQline subscriber, you will be able to pull much of this data from our quarterly reports. Furthermore, the interactive analysis gives you many options on how to view the available data. Here are some useful reports that may assist you:

  • Draw/close (for retailers) or consideration/close (for brands)
    • Include walk rates
  • Your brand’s market share
  • Retailer’s market share + competition
  • Product Feature Trends
  • Online vs Brick and Mortar
  • Brand Penetration for competition
  • Dynamic Price Quintile
  • Head to head analysis
    • Provide gaps in price range, demographics, and features and where you product may serve to fill those gaps

3) Your product information:

How is your product different from other products on the market? You need to explain why your product deserves a place on the retailer’s shelves—both in brick and mortar stores and online. You should clearly define how the retailer will benefit from merchandising your products at their stores. This could include one or more of the following reasons:

  • Your product fills a gap in their offerings that consumers are seeking
  • Your product is positioned directly to compete with a winner at another retailer (via price point, buyer demographics, feature set, etc.)
  • Your product is a premium brand with strong consumer loyalty
  • Your product is new and innovative and will drive store traffic and grow the category
  • Your product’s features improve on what currently exists in the market

Look for the “white space” – your analysis of TraQline’s data may reveal that your product fits nicely into a price point not represented by the retailer’s current product offerings. Additionally, your products may command respect due to your brand name, and the retailer can leverage that to attract a larger pool of consumers. These are just a few examples of how you can partner with the retailer to drive their sales overall.

If you have any analyses of POS data, or additional research you’ve conducted yourself or with a research partner, this is the time to highlight it! This may include such topics as why consumers prefer your brand or forward-looking research describing where the market is headed and how your product fills that need. Do not assume that the retailer will already know this information. They may have limitations on what data is available to them

4) A Marketing Plan

Explain how your product will bring new customers to the business and keep repeat customers coming back. This is also a good time to indicate whether you will train sales associates on the new products, and what those training sessions might look like. You may also want to provide examples of possible displays or signage options to catch shoppers’ attention.

Be prepared to discuss whether your model (or further, your brand) will be exclusive to that retailer and for how long. Some merchants prefer exclusivity due to the lure of specific brand names or product features your brand offers.

Make sure your plan includes specifics on how you will help the retailer achieve its sales goals with your brand’s offerings. Don’t be afraid to be creative with coop dollars, product development, longer terms, etc.

What happens after the line review?

After you have completed your presentation, you will work with the retailer to review their options and start designing and implementing the strategy outlined in your product line review and marketing plan. The retailer will provide feedback so you can both decide on the final assortment of products they will sell, along with the retail price of those products. You may also need to decide which SKUs in your current set will need to be removed to accommodate your new products. While the logistics are getting ironed out, you and your retail partner can also review the marketing plan to finalize details such as signage, advertising, or training for sales associates.

Product Line Review and Research Support | TraQline

A product line review does not need to be an overwhelming process – preparation and quality data are key. You can access your TraQline subscription to help build and support your line review, which will enable you to provide actionable insights that benefit both your business and your retail partner’s bottom line. By coming prepared with actionable data, such as the data you can access with a TraQline subscription, you are well on your way to establishing the value you and your products can provide to your retail partners. Do you have more questions about the best reports to bring to your next line review? Contact one of our Account Executives today to learn more about how TraQline’s reporting will make your review stress-free.

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TraQline's Dave Stevenson, PH.D President & CEO
Dave Stevenson, PH.D
President & CEO

Before launching The Stevenson Company in 1995, President and CEO Dave Stevenson managed worldwide research for product development, distribution, advertising, and customer satisfaction. His roles, first as head of the marketing section of General Motors’ worldwide product planning group, and later as director of GE Appliances’ global economics and market research team, give him extensive experience in consumer as well as business to business marketing solutions. Mr. Stevenson holds a Ph.D. in statistics from Southern Methodist University.