Selling Push vs. Pull Products

One of our Tastefully Driven vendors recently contacted us to see if we were ready to re-order their products yet.  We’ve placed one other re-order since the launch of the site, but overall their products haven’t sold very well compared to other brands.  We don’t have a ton in stock, but they’re moving so slow that we’re certainly not inclined to re-order at this point.  So, we bluntly told them as much.

Their response?  Push the product more.  Give out samples, hold contests, give some away to bloggers in the industry.  Not bad ideas, but the premise is that WE need to push THEIR products.   Thing is, their product is very up-and-coming and does not have the name brand recognition that our other lines do. We rank multiple times in the top 10 in Google for all of their products.  Our main disappointment in sales isn’t because we haven’t pushed their product enough (hell, we’ve hardly pushed any of the products on TD), it’s that their isn’t more of an existing demand for their products.

Don’t get me wrong – it was our choice to carry the line and the responsibility lies with us to research the demand for a product before selling it. We’re just disappointed that the existing demand for it isn’t stronger.  Who knows, maybe it will pick up and we’ll capitalize on our solid rankings.

Which got me to thinking – there are really two types of products that we can pick up:  push products or pull productsPush products, like the one described above, are products that we have to push on to our customers through newsletters, mailings,  announcements in the blog, on-site cross-product upsells, or other promotions.  Customers have never heard of the product, so we’re relying on ourselves to sell them on it.  Pull products are products that have such an existing demand that by adding them to our shopping cart we automatically generate sales due to their auto-inclusion in our product feeds and on our extremely SEO-friendly site (a large portion of TD products already rank top 10 in Google without us really doing anything).  Any pushing we do is just an added bonus.

Why would anyone want to carry a push product?  IF you have a built in audience that listens to you, push products give you the power to push the products you want to sell.  Maybe it’s your own brand with a higher margin, or a brand new product that you have exclusive rights to.  A site like Detailed Image for example, has 3+ years of forum presence in the (relatively) small auto-detailing community.  Everyone knows “George and Greg from Detailed Image” and therefore they have the ability to push products.  If they tell people that a new polish or wax is better, people will listen…at least initially.  If there are two comparable products and they decide to support one over another for any number of reasons, customers will likely listen and buy the brand they recommend.

Tastefully Driven is only a few months old.  It’s not in a niche like auto detailing.  Maybe someday we’ll have that kind of loyal audience, maybe we won’t.  It’s two different types of businesses and that’s fine. One thing is clear:  for new sites or sites built to generate sales via search like TD, you had better do your research and pick up only pull products.  Taking advantage of existing demand is far easier than creating the demand.  Otherwise it’ll just remain sitting on your shelves collecting dust while you’re wishing you had that money available to pick up a more popular line of products.

1 comment on Selling Push vs. Pull Products

  1. nethy says:

    I’m glad you bring this up Adam. A great topic to tackle.

    I’m also glad you didn’t just take it as ‘why should I push?’ & leave it as that.

    Though, of course, push vs pull isn’t always black & white. One common accusation of e-tail is that it’s just an online cash register. Many traditional retailers are actually in the push business. As in, that is what they do. In fact, it’s a big part of the mom n’ pop thing.
    You go into a butcher: ‘I’m barbecuing for 20. What steaks should I get?’
    A restaurant: ‘How’s your fish?’
    A computer shop: ‘I mostly just play with photos.’
    Clothes & Food, the biggest retail sectors are pretty much reliant on people walking around a store and looking around.

    Most E commerce has always been the ideal for a puller customer. But the value of informing, endorsing, reassuring, etc. is definitely there. The pull market is actually pretty small by comparison.

    I think it’s changing though. Amazon for example, is a great place to research. Woot! is exclusively a push. And new gen e tailers like yourselves know the value of being more then a cash register.

    BTW What I think is interesting with you guys is that you’re taking & using what is traditionally the small business advantage: personalisation, and applying it to etail.

    ‘Everyone knows “George and Greg from Detailed Image” ‘ Wal-Mart just can’t match that.

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