The platform, which has taken the Australian market by storm since its launch there in March 2014 (New Zealand quickly followed), offers retail buyers – who are currently inundated with approaches from suppliers via online forms, email, social media, phone calls, and face-to-face contacts at trade shows and other events - a more efficient way to manage inbound approaches and compare what suppliers have to offer.
The information is presented in a consistent format and allows buyers to rapidly find and compare new products, says RangeMe CEO and founder Nicky Jackson, who says 30,000 suppliers with 100,000 products have populated the RangeMe database since it launched in the US in September 2015, while the platform has generated more than 65,000 product reviews by retail buyers.
Nicky Jackson: 'RangeMe will be the central place where buyers and suppliers connect online'
Suppliers, meanwhile, are more likely to get their products in front of the right people, with several telling Jackson that they had repeatedly tried other methods of contacting certain retailers, but only got a response when they joined RangeMe, she told FoodNavigator-USA.
“Brokers, suppliers and agents still do all the follow-up work, getting suppliers retail-ready, promotional planning and all the rest of it, so we’re not replacing brokers, we’re just providing a more efficient way for buyers to sort through all their inbound approaches.”
RangeMe also levels the playing field for smaller suppliers that don’t have brokers by getting them in front of buyers that may not have noticed them at trade show or responded to emails, she said.
“Because of the efficiencies we are creating and the traction we’ve generated in such a short space of time, I think we’ll be the central place where buyers and suppliers connect online to streamline the product discovery process and ensure consumers get access to better products in stores.”
RangeMe, which raised capital in 2015 from Australian angel and seed investors including former Metcash chief executive Andrew Reitzer, recently raised $4m in a funding round led by Simon Equity Partners and Freestyle Venture Capital (click HERE).
Retailers using RangeMe in the US include Whole Foods Market, Petco, Sprouts, SpartNash, Sam’s Club Regional, Jet.Com, Lucky Vitamin, Winn Dixie, Gelson’s Market, Winn Dixie, Bi Lo, and Target, which now asks all prospective suppliers to make their approach via the platform.
Brokers, suppliers and agents still do all the follow-up work
The algorithms underpinning RangeMe are complex, but the user experience is simple, according to Jackson.
"Suppliers just submit a product image, description and key metrics, such as gross margin, MSRP, full year sales, current retail customers, and certifications (eg. USDA organic, Non-GMO Project Verified).
"Buyers then log in to the platform, select the categories they manage so that only relevant products show up on their buyer dashboard, and then move through the dashboard and click ‘Interested’, ‘Not Interested’ or ‘Shortlist’."
An email notification is then sent to suppliers in whom buyers are interested (if buyers selected ‘not interested’ or ‘shortlist’, suppliers only see that someone from the retailer in question has viewed their products), added Jackson, who has a background in CPG sales, marketing and brand management with chip brands including PepsiCo and Kellogg.
“From there, buyers can request samples, and start a conversation. But we’re not replacing brokers or face to face events, we’re just streamlining the product discovery process so suppliers can get their products in front of the right people, and buyers can minimize the time consuming process of receiving ongoing calls and emails with incomplete product proposals.
"It’s solving a real pain point in the industry."
How much does it cost?
So how does RangeMe – which has offices in Sydney and San Francisco - make money?
Right now, it’s free to use for retailers and suppliers, as the platform build critical mass, although RangeMe does offer paid-for options enabling suppliers to stand out in the crowd (click HERE).