Don’t let them kid you! Old-fashioned bricks and mortar stores are still the best place for buyers to discover your new consumer package goods (CPG) product. Why? Simply because they’ll see it, trip on it, or have to negotiate their cart around it. If you’re fortunate enough to get a display, you can locate stacks of your product outside of your category, at the end of an aisle, or right smack in the middle of an aisle.

There is nothing online that quite attracts customers like the real thing. Try as online retailers may with windows that say, “customers also bought,” nothing gets the customer’s attention like a big stack of your products, specially priced, covered with colorful signage, and stacked on the floor of their favorite retail store. They don’t have to “click here to find out more.” They just physically add it to their real shopping cart right then and there! In-store displays can shortcut the buyer’s journey.

This is not to say that online marketing doesn’t work. It’s a great way for prospects to learn about your brand. It’s also a great place to find out how and where to buy it. The obvious problem here is how do they find out about your name, your site, and your product in the first place?

This kind of marketing is greatly dependent upon excellent targeting. It also requires long, tedious, and expensive email campaigns that, thanks to saturation, are becoming less and less effective. Funnels are no fun anymore for new CPG product brand builders. This campaign approach greatly extends the buyer’s journey from discovery to purchase.

Maybe you got talked into buying a bunch of online ads in the hopes that your customers will see your product in a pop-up or a sidebar. Like email marketing campaigns, this approach requires excellent targeting and expensive repetition. This only works if you already have physical distribution. Nothing frustrates buyers more than seeing an ad online but not being able to find your product at the store where they regularly shop.

Social marketing is an excellent way to amplify the power of word-of-mouth referrals. It comes in chat form from someone they already know on their social network or messaging platform. Prospects tend to put great credibility into the recommendation of a friend or acquaintance who is in effect putting their reputation on the line. This can significantly shorten the buyer’s journey, but again, only if they can find your product.

When we built the Barefoot Wine brand, we employed a two-pronged strategy to reduce the time involved in the buyer’s journey. We knew, for instance, that from the buyer’s perspective, step one in the buyer’s journey is to become aware that there is a branded product available to them that satisfies a specific need. Because we were underfinanced, we were forced to choose the most efficient way to access our prospects.

We realized that a bricks and mortar store was the best place to showcase our product. But we also realized that if we didn’t get immediate purchases in that store we would be discontinued forever. We couldn’t afford advertising. How were we going to get customers started on the buyer’s journey that would ultimately result in the purchase of our product from that store?

One day we got a call from a neighborhood group who wanted to raise funds for a kids’ after-school park. We were new and underfinanced. We had no money to give them. So we gave them our product instead and suggested they use it at their fundraiser and perhaps auction it off for some slides, swings, and sandboxes. Sales of our product in the stores in that neighborhood took off! We wondered if it would work in other neighborhoods. It did! We got better at this process and even gave it a name, “Worthy Cause Marketing.”

Why did it work? If the buyer’s journey starts with first becoming aware of a product that satisfies their need, we did that through the fundraiser and silent auction. The potential buyers in the nonprofit organization were already qualified since they had at least enough expendable income to donate to their cause. They also had an opportunity to actually try out our product without purchasing it. So they knew about its quality. And lastly, because they spent two hours at the fundraiser seeing our products, with our logos and our labels, they became familiar with our brand.

Because our brand was placed in the physical bricks and mortar retail store where they shopped, they were more likely to recognize it there when they saw it on their regular weekly visits. We actually improved our approach to Worthy Cause Marketing because of this fact. We asked future fundraisers to allow us to put a list of where our products could be purchased in front of each attendee. This considerably shortened the buyer’s journey.

Now, for the most important part. We negotiated for and built displays in those stores so those prospects already familiar with our brand could, yes, run into it on the floor! How much would all this have cost us to make the same amount of sales with commercial display or online advertising? This process to help our prospect through the various steps of the buyer’s journey was so efficient that we used it in metro after metro, region after region, and state after state, until we became a national brand. We never did use commercial advertising.

Talk about targeting! We were micro-marketing, neighborhood by neighborhood. We were working with groups that were already organized, already in communication with each other, and already focused on a single cause. By supporting their cause we gave the members of those nonprofit organizations a social reason to buy our product which was already in their neighborhood at their local store!

We like to say, “The only place where your product, your buyer, their money, and their decision all come together is at the point of sale.” The question is, “How do you get all four of those elements in the same place?” And more importantly, “What is the most efficient way to do so?” If the buyer’s journey takes too long, they can lose their enthusiasm to make the purchase.

This is why we like notion buys. The buyer’s journey is compressed. They see your physical product. They are compelled by your catchphrase that satisfies a pre-existing need. They have the money. And they make the decision. They weren’t necessarily shopping for your product or even a product like yours, but because they were already there, and because your product was already there, they made the buy on an impulse!

A part of the buyer’s journey is information gathering. They are aware of your product, they are considering a purchase, but now they want to shop to get the best deal on your product and they want to compare it to other products in your category.

This is another place where bricks and mortar retail provides efficiency to accelerate the decision-making process. Thanks to category management, your product is grouped with similar products in your category. This makes it easy for your buyer to compare packaging, pricing, and quality cues. The buyer can hold your product and make a tactile comparison with another product.

The buyer can easily discover the prices of your competitors. Ironically, there may be more competitors available, but they may not be in that store or they may be only available online direct to consumer. Because your buyer is a customer of that particular store, that buyer sees the competing products in your category as the only competitors available.

When they shop online, they can search the web for better pricing from your competitors, and even find the best price on your product. But now they don’t have the convenience of putting all their items in one bag and taking them home to use immediately. Now they have to have each item delivered separately, and in many cases, are disappointed and have to return them. The online buying process is actually a race to the bottom price-wise where true quality is hard to assess.

So now we’re back to the physical bricks and mortar retail store as the best place for a new, CPG brand builder to shortcut the buying process. Yes, it’s tougher to get in. And yes, you’ll have to work through middlemen. But because of your exposure to so many customers already in the store, you’ll be time and money ahead in the long run.

buyer's journeyEach store is mapped out to take customers on a path that is deliberately designed to maximize profitability. Categories are carefully located so that as the customers proceed through the store in their mini buying journey, they are exposed to the majority of optional items on their way to purchase the necessities they actually came for.

There are places where shopping carts speed along and other places where they must slow down to a crawl to make turns or wait for specific services including checkout. Those slow spots are in high demand because they maximize customer view of the products the store wants to promote.

Probably the best location in any store is at the end of an aisle facing the cash register. It is there shoppers will linger the longest and perhaps discover something new they weren’t really shopping for. Consumer brand builders compete for those spaces because they are the best places in the store to turn prospects into customers. Big in-store displays significantly accelerate the decision-making process. Discovery, familiarity, interest, comparison, and decision can all happen while the shopper is waiting to check out!

We found that stacks outside of our category were the most effective. It may be because it is away from like products and therefore cannot be compared to others in our category. They were stacked, all by themselves with no competing brands anywhere near them. This seems counterintuitive considering that comparison is a major part of the buying journey. However, if your product goes well with another product in another category, why not provide the suggestion that your product is a perfect match for products in that category? As much as they want to compare, they may choose your product simply because it’s convenient, and you’ve given them another reason to pick it up. It goes with what else they’re buying.

So you’ve made your sale. You figured out a strategy that helps move your customers along their journey to make the decision to buy your product. Now comes the post-decision analysis. This is the most important part of the journey because it is the place where your first-time customer decides to be a regular customer – or not!

This is where all the smoke and mirrors, claims and accolades, catchphrases and even special pricing are history. This is where your customer’s experience with your product has to meet or exceed their expectations. This is where your customer can become an advocate or a detractor. After all, they now know the truth about your product. They now know if it truly makes good on its promises. This is why quality control must be high-caliber. After all the hype, your product must actually deliver.

This is also why distribution management is so important to the buyer’s journey. At the end of their journey, if they decide that your brand will be their brand going forward, it must be in stock when they go back to find it. Most marketing companies take this for granted. They will sell you on advertising and promotional strategies that take the buyer all the way through the process except for the most important part. Will it be there for them when they return? If it’s not, they will say your brand is “undependable” and look for another.

Don’t assume that the retailer or the distributor will keep your product in stock. Hire your own people to make sure it really is in stock, priced right, and well displayed, or you will have taken them on a journey and dropped them off in the weeds! You not only want them to say, “Look what I discovered!” but also, “I can depend on it!”









Who We Are

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey Barefoot Wine Founders

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse to the board room of E&J Gallo, who ultimately acquired their brand and engaged them as brand consultants. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.

Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They built an internationally bestselling brand and received their industry’s “Hot Brand” award for several consecutive years.

They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) & Shelf Smarts courses to help consumer product brand builders achieve success. Their book, The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways To Engage and Empower Your People, helps corporations maximize the value of their human resources.

Currently they travel the world leading workshops, trainings, & keynoting at business schools, corporations, conferences. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals. They are C-Suite Network Advisors & Contributing Editors. Visit their popular business site at

To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact