Guide to Retail Partnerships

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For any business to grow, they need reliable partnerships. Whether it’s with service providers, suppliers, or even other brands – partnerships are essential for the long-term survival of an ecommerce business.

That’s where retail partnerships come in. These partnerships allow you to tap into a wider audience base and exponentially grow your business.

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at how retail partnerships work, why you should consider utilizing them, and how to establish one that’s mutually beneficial.

What is a retail partnership?

A retail partnership is when two businesses collaborate to tap into each other’s audience base and resources. This type of partnership is formed between two brands with non-competing but complementary audience bases.

So, while there’s an overlap between each of their audiences, the two brands aren’t direct competitors, enabling them to give each other a boost in sales and brand awareness.

Why (and when to) consider a retail partnership?

When you partner with another retail brand, you can immediately tap into their audience base. Retail partnerships allow you to get your brand in front of a new audience and grow brand awareness. This can ultimately lead to an increase in sales as more people learn about your products.

As a result, retail partnerships are often a good idea when you’re launching a new product or you’re expanding into new territory. Alternatively, some retail businesses may also want to form strategic partnerships to ramp up their performance. Take, for example, Ulta’s partnership with in-demand brands like Fenty Beauty to boost their performance in the flagship segment.

The opportunity to share resources is another major reason to consider partnering with another retail business. Retail partnerships allow you to leverage the workforce or marketing resources of another retail brand, making it an excellent solution for startup brands that often have to work with limited resources.

Example of how a retail partnership works

Retail partnerships is born out of two brands deciding to collaborate on a new campaign or venture together. Both brands market the collaboration, allowing them to tap into each other’s audiences so they can grow their sales and brand awareness.

For example, say a new makeup brand is making waves in the market but still has very limited reach compared to larger brands dominating the market. Meanwhile, a large retail brand that deals in a wide variety of products, including makeup, wants to revamp its offering. The two brands could form a strategic partnership to help each other achieve their goals. 

The large retailer could use the new brand’s makeup products to expand its product offering. Simultaneously, the new brand can instantly tap into the large retailer’s existing audience base to expand its reach.

Retail partnership challenges

While strategic retail partnerships can add value to your business, they’re not always easy to form. You may experience a lot of setbacks along the way as you consider or form a retail partnership.

Poor retailer relationship

When forming a business relationship, mutual trust, aligned goals, and seamless communication is crucial for long-term success. However, this cannot exist when you have a poor relationship with your retail partner. 

Perhaps you’re having difficulties communicating with them or you’re dealing with creative differences. Or in some cases, the retailer may simply be unreliable. Either way, a poor retailer relationship could hinder potentially lucrative retail partnerships.

Not meeting each other’s needs

For a retail partnership to work, it has to be mutually beneficial. In other words, both brands need to reap the rewards of the relationship. If the partnership is only benefitting one party, the other is likely to back out. 

Poor data collection and understanding of customers

A retail partnership means little if you don’t have a proper understanding of what your audience needs and wants. Unless you know what your customers expect from you, you can’t form a partnership that will deliver on those expectations. Collecting and analyzing consumer data will give you a better understanding of your customers.


The whole point of retail partnerships is to fuel innovation – to create something unique that your audience would love. If you’re not thinking outside the box, there’s a good chance your partnership might fail. After all, what’s the point of the partnership if you’re simply offering something they can get everywhere else?

Types of retail partnerships

The rise of multichannel retailing is opening new avenues for creative retail partnerships. Brands can now form omnichannel retail partnerships to exponentially grow their reach and increase their ROI.

Here are some different types of retail partnerships for you to consider.

Brand to retail partnerships

This type of relationship involves a brand partnering with a retail store. For example, you can find dedicated spaces for brands like Disney and Apple within Target.

Retail to retail partnerships

This partnership involves a collaboration between two retail businesses. For example, Ulta and Target have come together to provide dedicated beauty Ulta-branded spaces within Target stores.

Digital and ecommerce partnerships

This partnership takes place when a brand partners with a leading ecommerce player to sell their products digitally. For example, some brands (like pet treat brand Bocce Bakery) have a microsite on Amazon so they can tap into the Amazon’s customer base.

Sales and distribution partnerships

This type of relationship involves a brand partnering with another brand to sell their products to a wider audience. For example, ASOS partnered with Nordstrom to drive an increased awareness of the Topshop brands.

Product collaboration partnerships

Product collaboration partnerships are when two brands or businesses work together to create a new co-branded product. For example, Colourpop frequently partners with brands or franchises to created co-branded makeup collections.

Marketing partnerships

Marketing partnerships consist of brands co-developing marketing campaigns to target the same consumer demographic and save on acquisition costs. For example, Dick’s Sporting Goods launched a holiday ad campaign highlighting deals from The North Face and Under Armour.

Loyalty program partnerships

This type of partnership involves non-competing brands soft-sharing incentives through loyalty programs. For example, American Express partners with a number of brands such as Bose, Apple, GoPro, and Sony so members can use their reward points to buy products from these brands.

How to identify and start a mutually successful retail partnership

Since forming a retail partnership comes with a long list of challenges, it’s important to be strategic with your approach. Follow the steps below to identify a partnership opportunity and form a mutually beneficial partnership.

Finding the right partner

Forming the right relationship is the most obvious step, but is also the most critical. Not all retail partnerships work out and collaborating with the wrong partner could result in serious losses for your business. For starters, partnering with a direct competitor wouldn’t give you the results you’re looking for. Additionally, brands with a bad reputation would immediately put your brand reputation at risk too. However, partnering with the right business can help grow your business tenfold.

Ideally, you should look to partner with brands that offer complementary products. For instance, an athletic wear brand would do well collaborating with a nutrition brand. An example of this is Off Road Tents and Guana Equipment regularly running co-marketing campaigns.

Brands that have different offerings can also make a partnership work if they’re targeting the same audience. For example, Dolly is an app for finding furniture delivery and moving services. Dolly partnered with Crate and Barrel to offer furniture delivery services.

Making a proposal

Once you’ve narrowed down a potential retail partner, it’s time to draft a tempting proposal. This can be very challenging as it determines whether your idea becomes a reality. Make sure to clearly highlight how the partnership can be mutually beneficial. Consider the potential partner as your target customer in this scenario and help them understand what you’re offering and how it can benefit them. 

Be prepared with any additional information that the prospective partner may need. This could include your financial records, performance data, and customer demographics to help them assess your proposal. 

Learn from experience

You may not get it right on your first try. Even if you do, there will always be an opportunity to improve. It’s crucial to be informed by your past retail partnerships to form a partnership that delivers impressive results. Be ready to learn from your successes and failures to adapt your approach.

Future of retail partnerships

As we look to the future of retail partnerships, there’s a growing need to utilize customer data to gain a deeper understanding of what your audience wants. This will allow you to make strategic, data-led decisions for more lucrative partnership deals. 

Data is necessary to answer questions such as what your audience wants from you, where they shop, what appeals to them, and how to draw them in. So, businesses should find every opportunity possible to collect customer data that will inform future partnerships. 

Additionally, there should be a greater focus on integrated inventory that will bring visibility across the board. With the help of inventory technology from 3PLs, each retail partner can get real-time visibility into the status of their inventory across warehouses and sales channels. This will allow for improved collaboration, which can then facilitate a successful retail partnership. 

Increase your chances of a successful retail partnership with the right fulfillment solution

For any retail partnership to work, businesses need to create a retail fulfillment and distribution strategy that makes sense. They should be able to strategically distribute inventory across their retail warehouses and seamlessly process orders across all their sales channels.

That’s where a tech-enabled fulfillment provider could be of assistance. ShipBob’s services help to streamline your retail logistics. With services that span B2B distribution and ecommerce fulfillment, ShipBob plays a crucial role in your retail supply chain.

ShipBob handles the entire order fulfillment process – from order receiving to inventory storage and distribution to customer order fulfillment. Our proprietary software integrates with leading sales channels and marketplaces, which allows you to streamline omnichannel fulfillment. Your inventory data is automatically updated in real-time even as customers place orders across different sales channels.

Moreover, ShipBob’s retail distribution services and retail dropshipping solution make it easier to partner with big-box retailers nationwide. This can facilitate improved B2B ecommerce, allowing businesses to place wholesale orders for their retail stores. Alternatively, businesses can sell their products directly on the retailers’ websites. ShipBob’s B2B fulfillment service further connects your products by ensuring that your orders get seamlessly delivered to other B2B buyers or end consumers. 

Get started with ShipBob

If ShipBob sounds like the B2B partner you need, request a quote to connect with our team.

Retail partnerships FAQs

Here are answers to the most common questions about retail partnerships.

What are the benefits of a retail partnership?

Retail partnerships allow businesses to expand their reach, grow their sales, and save on marketing costs while exponentially boosting ROI.

How do I choose a retail partner?

You can choose a retail partner by identifying businesses that offer complementary products or target a similar audience. Look for a partner that you can trust to maintain transparency and seamless collaboration. 

How can ShipBob help me with retail partnerships?

ShipBob can help you with your retail partnerships by offering integrated inventory to boost visibility across the board. You can also leverage the B2B distribution and fulfillment services to send your inventory to leading big-box retailers. Additionally, the dropshipping solution allows you to sell your products directly on the retailer’s website while ShipBob fulfills the orders for you.

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Written By:

Meredith is a Content Marketing Specialist at ShipBob, where she writes articles, eGuides, and other resources to help growing ecommerce businesses master their logistics and fulfillment.

Read all posts written by Meredith Flora