5 Steps for Cooking Up Products That Sell Like Hotcakes

Lately I’ve been allowing my sweet tooth to make more and more of my eating decisions. Ice cream, macarons, brownies, you name it. Somehow I’m able to rationalize each tasty bite by thinking, “What could it hurt?” But the reality is, these calorie-packed goodies definitely aren’t helping anything. In fact, they offer not one health benefit, but this knowledge doesn’t curb my cravings.

Cupcakes in particular are a personal favorite. And clearly I’m not alone. The cupcake business continues to boom with new bakeshops popping up on every street corner. We certainly don’t need them to survive, so why are we consuming them at such a high rate? Obviously we’re addicted to the sugar rush, but there’s more to it. It seems the bakery industry has developed the perfect recipe for cooking up demand.

And it’s time for other industries — ours included — to take note. Because let’s face it, no one needs anything brands are selling. Even if your product category is a necessity — diapers, clothes, or shoes, for instance — there are a glut of options from other companies that could easily feed that consumer need. So it’s up to you to create a line that’s rich in just the right ingredients for sales success. Here are five to consider:

1. Provide Eye Candy

As the saying goes, we eat with our eyes. I’d expand that to read: we consume with our eyes. If you’ve ever been too stuffed from dinner to even consider dessert until you passed a shop window showcasing perfectly glazed confections, then you know presentation is everything. In shopping, creating a feast for the eyes is crucial. So take another look at the dresses or hairclips you consider the most drool-worthy, and ask yourself, can they lick the competition when served up among your competitors?

2. Serve Up Freshness

While a friend and I were shopping recently, she slipped on a boyfriend blazer that fit like a charm. She continued to wear it as we canvassed the store but opted not to get it when we hit the registers. We joked that she had soured on the purchase because after having worn it for 20 minutes, it already seemed old. While the fashion cycle doesn’t move quite that quickly, these days it really takes no time for looks to get stale.

And we have our steady diet of fashion mags, style blogs, magalogs and design-related television shows to thank for this. With all of these style resources, shoppers tend to overindulge on photo after photo of the latest looks. In the face of this binge on trends, it’s not long before exciting new styles — peplums, printed pants and lace! — lose their bite. So soon enough, consumers go looking for a palate cleanse in the form of new cuts and colors that look fresh, while answering the question, “What’s next?” When it comes to the flavor-of-the-month, is your line leading the pack, keeping up or falling behind?

3. Give Shoppers More for Their Dough

Customers are hungry for value so there’s nothing like sweetening the pot with a product that exceeds expectations in some way. Whether that’s clothes that last, shoes that grow or socks that stay on, shoppers want a little extra something baked in. For example, another friend of mine gorges on Oscar de la Renta’s kids’ clothes. Though she finds the styles yummy, that’s not the only reason she’s able to stomach the prices. The frosting on the cake for her is the quality. Because her de la Renta pieces have already been worn by three kids in her extended family, she can’t get enough. Maybe durability isn’t your sweet spot but when it comes to your collection, what is the cherry on top?

4. Make it a Treat

Why do kids love dessert? Yes, it’s delicious, but it’s also because sweets are often just out of reach, reserved for good behavior, clean plates and celebrations. This elusiveness makes it special. Products also need a generous helping of perceived value to make them more special. Designer goods become crave-worthy thanks to impossibly chic marketing images, hallowed-feeling flagships and A-lister endorsements. The auras these things create are the sprinkles on the sundae that transform a maybe into a must.

How can you up the appeal of your collection from great garments to clothes with cachet? Does your brand have meaning? Does it beckon shoppers to partake in an aspirational lifestyle?

5. Ensure it’s Easily Digestible

Easy, portable and relatively guilt-free. Thanks to their diminutive size, cupcakes make for a no-brainer sale. In an instant-gratification world, products that satisfy quickly and easily stand out among a crowded buffet of options. Think of the delightfully packaged grab-and-go gift. Customers eat it up because it’s fast and makes a great first impression.

Not all products can be as self-explanatory but that’s where hangtags come into play. But even there, the message has to be clear and succinct — a morsel of information for a quick buying decision, not a rambling description that takes forever to devour. Is there an obvious advantage to your brand versus others? Are the styles super soft, hand-embellished or reversible? Will the customer understand these benefits immediately?


About Caletha Crawford
Caletha Crawford is a children’s apparel consultant who has spent more than 10 years covering the industry, most recently as editor in chief of Earnshaw’s magazine. Caletha has a unique perspective on the concepts, designs and companies that resonate with retailers and consumers. Her services include marketing, branding and social media. In an effort to usher in the next generation of design talent, she also teaches at Parsons The New School for Design.

Read more about Caletha’s business, client updates, market insights and trade show standouts in the September 2012 edition of her newsletter and sign up to receive future issues. Visit www.calethacrawford.com