A Checklist For Winning the Product Line Review

A product line review (or PLR) is like a final exam, job interview, public speaking engagement, and career-making-or-breaking presentation wrapped into one. The ability of retail buyers at big box stores to shape your business after a 60-to-90-minute presentation is an intimidating reality. But, a well-planned, well-researched and well-executed PLR plan can make the difference.

Fortunately, we have a strong track record around helping brands win PLRs.

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We can’t reveal all our secrets, but insights into depth and breadth of category, the consumer, and point-of-purchase command attention. We win by helping manufacturers and retailers find ways to win together. And the surest way for everyone to win is by delivering what the end-user needs (which isn’t always what the big box or the companies we work for think it is).

Below are some qualitative and quantitative checklists to keep in mind for your next PLR. Show a retailer you’ve done your homework and that you understand the category. Also, show them that you know your competition and how consumers shop. Then, offer them data-driven solutions that address their pain points. Doing so will place your brand ahead of the pack when it comes to winning your PLR.

PLR - Qualitative Checklist

Any manufacturer willing to invest time and pay attention can do qualitative research. Does a consumer in your category walk in, grab the nearest product, and check out? Or do they spend 20 minutes standing in the aisle, deciding? Show the retailer you’re invested in understanding their stores and how consumers shop the category.


The foundation of any PLR analysis is the store walk. Walk your product category and gather data on everything. Look for what’s new in the category and what types of accessories are being merchandised alongside the main item. Make note of promotions offered and understand how customers maneuver the store (directional signage, etc.). Store walks need to occur on a regular basis so you stay apprised of changes, trends, and new releases. All the leg work becomes relevant in an eventual PLR, where having an in-depth analysis works wonders.


Studying the competition involves reverse-engineering the sales process. Knowing why competitors have made certain products, packaging, and merchandising choices is key. What are the strengths and weaknesses of their choices? If you squint your eyes and look at shovels, for example, they all look pretty much the same. How does a product stand out to the consumer? What’s social media saying? What product is outselling others, in which channels, and why?


Even as shoppers wander the aisles, they’re using their smartphones to read reviews and search out testimonials. Omni-extension means in-store customers are now browsing an endless aisle of purchase opportunities. Understanding how the look and feel of a big box retailer extends from the in-store experience to online (and vice versa) is important. This, in turn, informs the best way to position your product within that retailer’s world when it comes to the PLR.


Who’s going above and beyond in your category—both in-store and online? Looking at best-of-class sites can help you understand how to extend the sale and how to educate the consumer. It’s not enough to offer great in-store merchandising in your PLR. To win, you have to show a deep understanding of the factors that lead to purchase. For example, research for large-scale purchases is now done well before the consumer ever sets foot in the store. What methods/tactics do you have to address this? Find brands that are doing it well and then, figure out how to do it better.

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PLR - Quantitative Checklist

Most manufacturers are already doing some level of qualitative research. But, they show up in a PLR with the same information as everyone else. Winning a PLR requires a deeper dive into the demographics, psychographics, buying behaviors, and gaps in market and hierarchy systems (by consumer segment and by product). Comprehensive quantitative research accomplishes all of this.


At SFW, we take qualitative findings to inform the development of a quantitative survey. The survey then goes to a representative sample of consumers who shop the product category. The result is a consumer segmentation that splices the market into consumer characteristics. These splices reveal segments we expected to target, segments not worth pursuing, and segments with weaknesses upon which we can improve and target. The depth of our segmentation means that we often end up with a better understanding of a consumer market than our clients and even the most informed big box retailer.


Creating shopability means understanding how consumers enter the buying funnel and what drives them to purchase. Research reveals not only consumer segments, but how each segment consumes and absorbs information. Once you know how your targeted segments shop, you can develop associated marketing support to show the retailer how you will meet the consumer in the decision journey and drive them into the store.


When SFW walks into a big box line review on behalf of a client, retail buyers know what’s coming. They’re about to see a plethora of information about their category and lines they didn’t even know existed. And we always—always—deliver that knowledge.

To shift the balance of power in a product line review, you have to tell the buyer things they don’t know. You always want to go into a PLR knowing more about a category than both the buyer and competition. But, what wins a PLR isn’t holding more knowledge about products. It’s holding knowledge about solutions. Anyone can speak about why the features of a new model are superior. The goal of a PLR moves beyond that. The retailer needs to see that you know how to help them sell more products and bring more bodies into the store. Period.

How will you win your next PLR? Change the context from you and your products to a discussion on consumer insights. Present how and why carrying your product and marketing simplifies the buying experience. Hit them with your knowledge of the store and consumer buying patterns. Finally, show the depth of your knowledge and you’ll win—time and time again.

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