It is a problem with which many entrepreneurs and independent businesses in food, drink and other consumer products will be all too familiar. You’re convinced that your product has what it takes to make it in overseas markets, but you haven’t got a clue how to get it into the shops in those countries.
Product discovery platform RangeMe reckons it has the answer. The platform has been helping suppliers break into the U.S. market since 2013 and is today launching in the U.K. for the first time. Similar launches across Europe are also in the works.
The idea is deceptively simple. Sellers list their products on the RangeMe site so that retailers looking to expand their ranges can choose from as wide a choice as possible via a one-stop-shop. Where a retailer likes what it sees, the platform connects it with the buyer and the two sides start talking.
The concept works, says Nicky Jackson, RangeMe’s CEO, because it solves a problem for both parties. Retailers want to offer a wide range of attractive products to customers with increasingly diverse tastes, but don’t know how to source effectively and efficiently when suppliers might be based anywhere in the world. As for suppliers, the market for their product may be global, but taking advantage of that in practice can be challenging, particularly for smaller producers and independents.
“Consumers are looking for a variety of products from all over the world and sourcing them online; the British public is no different, but high street retailers have struggled to offer these products in store or online principally because they don’t have sight of all that’s available in the market,” Jackson says. “We will pick up the heavy lifting for buyers and present the global product market opportunity in one screen.”
RangeMe’s track record suggests retailers and suppliers alike are embracing the concept. The platform has grown quickly in recent years to become the world’s largest product discovery and sourcing platform. It already lists more than 700,000 products from 200,000 suppliers and has 12,000 U.S. retailers on board.
In the U.K., the platform’s success will depend on its ability to pick up both blue-chip retailers and smaller independents. RangeMe has already announced its first major signing, with LloydsPharmacy agreeing a deal to source from the platform. The supermarket sector is a serious target, mirroring the experience of the U.S. where RangeMe counts the likes of Walmart and Albertsons as key partners.
The platform’s value proposition is partly based on the additional functionality it offers buyers, with streamlined submission processes and a range of product discovery teams. For example, it enables buyers to conduct targeted searches when looking for new products in a particular category or sector.
John Acland, Head of Category Management and eCommerce of McKesson UK, LloydsPharmacy’s parent company, says this was a key part of the attraction for the business. “RangeMe is already helping us to identify a wider spread of products for our customers, but equally importantly, we will quickly scale our buying operations through the platform and reduce the time to get more products on our shelves,” he says.
RangeMe’s aspiration is to become, effectively, a third-party manager of the sourcing process for retailers. The platform isn’t limited to cross-border sales—it will also connect U.K.-based suppliers with the British retailers on its platform. As with retailers, the platform offers a suite of tools to help suppliers manage their brand and target their products at buyers likely to be interested.
Jackson argues that the platform can help break down borders as the market for consumer products becomes ever more global. “The world has become a smaller place but it remains distant for forging strong cross border buyer and seller relationships,” she argues. “RangeMe will bridge this gap for buyers and sellers around the world and ensure extraordinary products hit store shelves, faster than ever before.”
In the U.K., demand for imported products is certainly booming. Food and drink imports, for example, have increased in each of the past six years, data from the Office for National Statistics shows. But exports are also increasing, offering a clear incentive to British producers to target overseas buyers, such as RangeMe’s U.S. base of retailers. The U.S. was the U.K.’s second largest market for exports of food and drink last year according to the Food & Drink Federation; only Ireland bought more British products.