“Differentiation is more important than ever” – David Burns

Differentiating is more relevant than ever before – service levels and promotional availability will only provide entry to the starting line this year. To help you get ahead, here are some key points for you to consider to ensure that your business stands out in 2018.

Collaborate to differentiate

A great way to improve and challenge your organisation is by collaborating with others. Getting individuals from various departments from key strategic suppliers together in a room with people in matching roles from wholesale can be extremely useful and insightful.

Picture it – a room with two whiteboards, a packet of whiteboard pens, and the relevant staff from your business and theirs, perhaps a retailer or café owner or two, as well. Gaps would be identified and new products and strategies would emerge, to the benefit of everyone in the chain.

As a wholesaler, you need to continually ask yourself how you can exceed retailers’ and consumers’ needs, and truly be of service. You cannot find the answers to problems on your own.

More than a fad

Ask yourself how you can add your own twist to new, emerging trends – most notably, within the health foods segment – and how you can innovate within that category.

Veganism is not a fad and the reasons to become vegan appear to be much broader than 20 years ago. Whether it be reasons of animal cruelty, environmental or better health, veganism is here to stay. It is crucial that you build vegan options into your portfolio and that retailers make locating vegan products easier for consumers. As per the previous point, to succeed here, collaboration is key.

Functional and low-sugar beverages will grow in prominence this year, in line with the incoming Soft Drinks Industry Levy in April. Healthier options to popular hot beverage products – such as kombucha and turmeric latte – will also continue to increase in popularity, and I truly believe such products are more than mere fads and are here to stay.

Overriding all the above points and without stating the obvious, convenience is king and will continue to grow in importance when it comes to retailers’ and consumers’ choices.

Be a green giant

Considering your company’s environmental and sustainability strategy, and raising awareness and funds for your local community will also be important considerations for your business in the year ahead.

Retailers and suppliers need to realise that these considerations are becoming more important to younger consumers and retailers when they decide which brands they will buy.

In 2018, your business needs to be so much more than just your product or service. As extreme as this may sound, to differentiate yourself this year, you need to unlearn what you know, so that you can learn, innovate, challenge and think again.

David Burns is the founding partner of consultancy DJB Consulting Group

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