Retail Matchmaker

This article was published in the November 2016 issue of STORES Magazine.

Susan Reda, VP of Education Strategy and STORES

Years back, I read how the founders of Bear Naked granola first got their product on supermarket shelves. After years of guerilla marketing — passing out samples at health food shops and triathlons and countless hours spent calling buyers — they got a lucky break.

Hoping to capture the attention of a buyer at Stew Leonard they had pursued for months, the pair awoke early one morning, dressed in Bear Naked T-shirts and assembled a breakfast tray with fresh fruit, granola and Stew Leonard’s yogurt, served on fine china. As the story goes, they learned upon arrival that the buyer was on vacation. Their luck changed as they were leaving, though, when they recognized Stew Leonard Jr. They called out, “We brought you breakfast!” and it was the foot in the door they needed.

Stories like this are common among scrappy startups short on experience but unmatched on enthusiasm. Today a platform called RangeMe is reinventing the product discovery process and gaining traction on both sides of the aisle — winning over retailers with a manageable and efficient way to be exposed to new products, and attracting suppliers with a medium to showcase their products.

Nicky Jackson, founder and CEO of RangeMe, cut her teeth at Kellogg’s and Pepsi. She had plenty of experience bringing big brands to market, but it wasn’t until she tried applying her know-how to an organic skin care line that she discovered how difficult it was to get retailers’ attention. “When you’re launching an emerging product that doesn’t have the backing of a big brand, it’s virtually impossible to get a foot in the door,” she says.

Initially launched in Australia, RangeMe migrated to the United States a little over a year ago and has built a marketplace of more than 30,000 suppliers showcasing 150,000 products. Target was the first retailer partner, and several others are now on board.

The platform is designed to provide retailers with key information that aids decision-making — product images and descriptions, packaging, accounting. Suppliers’ product entries are sorted by category; they’re also coached on how to put their best foot forward using technology and, if they’re fortunate enough to receive some outreach, presenting it in person.

Jackson believes the success of RangeMe is linked, in part, to a shifting marketplace “that embraces an entrepreneurial spirit and looks to smaller resources that innovate and react to trends quickly.”

Having raised $4 million in investments earlier this year and claiming the $20,000 top prize in the Startup of the Year competition at the Retail’s Digital Summit, RangeMe seems poised for success. The true measure of a technology’s staying power is pragmatism and practicality, and RangeMe has that in spades.