Retail partnerships are collaborations between two companies. Each relies on the other’s resources and customer base to generate sales of its own products.
When retail changes as quickly as it does in today’s market, it’s more important than ever to constantly innovate and look for the next opportunity. One way to do that is through brand partnerships.
While collaborating with other retailers can certainly expand your reach and build buzz, it can also expose you to new ideas and tactics. You can test these new concepts before doing a full-blown integration into your business. When it works, early adopters are seen as innovators—a label many retailers strive to attach to their brand.
This guide shares the types of retail partnerships your store can do, the benefits of collaborating, plus seven innovative examples to find inspiration for your next collaboration.
The benefits of retail partnerships
Exposure to new audience
It’s hard to get your products out there, especially when online marketing has become oversaturated. Driving foot traffic to your retail store is no small feat. However, partnering with other retailers gives you the opportunity to reach their existing, loyal customer base.
Take it from underwear brand Thinx. It recognized how loungewear became the new uniform as pandemic-related lockdowns forced everyone to stay home. Its VP of Partnerships, Lyndsey Arnold, says, “We sought out ways to offer our underwear to retailers that were looking to expand their offerings, as well as known go-to stores for comfort wear.
“With that, we quickly increased our Amazon offerings, which previously only included Speax by Thinx and Thinx (BTWN), to include our core Thinx line,” Lyndsey says. “We also sought out new partnerships with stores like Urban Outfitters and Free People, knowing that they would be looking to increase their comfort offerings.”
Get your partnership right and you’ll experience customer growth that come with exposure. Almost half of retailers have seen a boost in revenue as a direct result of their partnership programs.
“I don’t have time to get everything done!” could be the motto of every retailer. You want to give your all to marketing, product development, and excellent customer service. But you’re working with limited resources—both in terms of cash and time.
A huge benefit of retail partnerships is that you can share resources. You can lean on another retailer’s staff roster and team up on their existing marketing campaigns.
It’s a win-win situation. You both get more time to focus on what you do best, with less resource restriction.
Category or product expansion
When it comes to exposure, many retailers want to launch new products with a bang, especially if they’re entering a new category. The more eyeballs on your product, the better chance you have at standing out against legacy brands in the retail industry.
Retail partnerships help you tap into existing audiences of other brands in the space you’re entering. If you’re a skincare brand launching a new makeup line, for example, collaborations with big department stores like Macy’s or Kohls drive the attention your new line needs to make a splash.
Build customer loyalty
Loyal customers power strong brands. The more a customer returns to purchase products from you, whether they started out as your customer or your partner’s, the more profit you make. There’s no need to splash out on ever-increasing customer acquisition costs if you can retain an existing one.
There’s also a greater chance at reaching new customers as loyal fans recommend you to their family and friends. This type of word-of-mouth marketing strategy drives $6 trillion in annual revenue for physical retailers.
Retail partnerships are a huge helping hand in driving customer loyalty. If your products are easily accessible and top-of-mind, existing customers are reminded to purchase again—especially if they enjoyed the last item they purchased.
It’s no surprise that 72% of retailers’ partnership programs increase customer retention. The same percentage also think their brand delivers better customer experiences as a byproduct of its partnerships.
Types of retail partnerships
Earlier, we mentioned that retailers have limited resources; among the most limited are marketing and advertising budgets. These activities have the potential to drive new customers for any retailer, but they cost a fair amount of money.
As a lower-cost alternative, partner with another retailer—one whose customer demographic overlaps with yours—to run a co-marketing campaign. You’ll both reach new potential customer bases with an endorsement from a brand they already know, like, and trust.
The role of the store is changing. Modern customers don’t want to walk in and be overwhelmed with never-ending product shelves. By 2025, some 60% of shoppers will expect brands to dedicate more floor space to experiences than products.
One way to get on this experiential retail trend is by partnering with other stores is to host co-sponsored events. This could be anything from an in-store workshop to a shared pop-up shop—both of which introduce your customers to a partner.
Not only will you reach new audiences, you won’t have to foot the entire bill for the event.
This type of partnership is more complex than the others we’ve discussed. However, when retailers come together to create new product lines, the incentive for each brand’s customer base to shop with a partner becomes even stronger.
If you’re taking this route, be clear about how the retail partnership works. Clarify how much each retailer will pay to produce the products, the profit they’ll get from each sale, and their commitments to marketing.
The last thing you want is to invest time in new product development only to get paid a minute percentage of sales your retail partners make.
9 examples of retail partnerships
Need inspiration on how to partner with other brands? From Walmart and Target to J.Crew and Dolly, here are nine examples of retailers that have successfully collaborated.
1. Valentino and Alibaba
Chinese ecommerce monolith Alibaba and high-end fashion brand Valentino partnered to host a one-of-a-kind project: a 3D pop-up shop in Beijing.
The pop-up both promoted Valentino’s Garavani Candystud product line and drove awareness for Tmall’s Luxury Pavilion—a customer loyalty program focused on luxury products. The online Tmall Luxury Pavilion experience mirrored that of the in-person Candystud Factory pop-up, bridging the gap between the online and offline customer experience.
The personal luxury goods market has had hockey-stick growth over the past decade. In 2020, consumers spent €49 billion on luxury goods—a 98% increase from 2018, when this partnership came to life. It helped Alibaba get shoppers used to the idea of purchasing luxury products online.
By blending the virtual and the physical worlds with the pop-up, both brands have exposed consumers to a new way to shop. Plus, as the COVID-19 pandemic introduced a wave of new luxury brands to the retail market, this collaboration was one key way for Alibaba to keep up with the competition.
2. Walmart and BuzzFeed
Partnerships aren’t limited to two retailers. Your brick-and-mortar store can draw inspiration from Walmart’s collaboration with BuzzFeed’s Tasty, a publication for food and drink recipes and related content. Together, each brand produced shoppable Tasty recipe videos to drive traffic to Walmart’s ecommerce site.
One of the main benefits of brand collaborations is the ability to quickly expand your toolset and expertise. Rather than figuring out how to create these videos and gain traction on social media on their own, Walmart turned to the experts to leverage the work they’ve already done and expertise they’ve already gained.
This not only instills confidence that you’ll be happy with the finished product, but also saves the time and money you’d have had to invest on your own.
3. J.Crew and WeWork
J.Crew, WeWork, and LinkedIn partnered up on a panel/pop-up shop series aimed at entrepreneurs and non-traditional workers—a key segment of all three companies’ customer bases. The series, held in several cities across the U.S., had experts share their insights into what it means to be successful and how to get there.
The partnership made sense for J.Crew. In an attempt to reach the professional crowd, to whom their clothing appeals, they went for more of a B2B play rather than the usual B2C approach.
From J.Crew’s perspective, that means working with a brand that already understands effective collaboration and retail. And by tapping into LinkedIn’s 774 million users, J.Crew expanded its reach and established the brand as an authority in the professional space.
4. Home Depot and Pinterest
J.Crew isn’t the only retailer that’s leveraged social media collaborations to reach new audiences and build buzz. Home Depot and Pinterest is a great partnership example that takes a more traditional B2C route.
Home Depot created a series of Built-In Pins that show shoppers not only which products they need to complete home improvement projects, but how to use them as well. Featuring articles, pictures, video tutorials, and how-tos, Home Depot empowered customers to use their products to complete amazing projects themselves.
After that, the two brands worked together to enhance Pinterest’s Shop the Look feature. Home Depot uploaded 100,000 home decor products to the platform.
With stiff competition from Lowe’s, especially in the home decor realm, Home Depot needed to find a way to step up its game and appeal to more of a consumer base—less of a focus on contractors, and more of a focus on actual homeowners.
And as Lowe’s continued to seek the perfect balance between utility and creativity through its social media campaigns, Home Depot went straight to the source to leverage social media in their own way.
5. Crate and Barrel and Dolly
Mobile app Dolly and home goods retailer Crate and Barrel is another innovative partnership example. Dolly is an app that people can use to find moving and furniture delivery services. The two brands partnered to offer furniture delivery services for customers of Crate and Barrel and its sister store, Land of Nod.
Crate and Barrel used the partnership to sell the whole solution to customers and not just the products. Some customers may not have the means to bring large purchases home; if the retailer can provide that service, it improves the overall customer experience. It also alleviates any buying hesitations related to how customers will take the products home.
Additionally, Crate and Barrel was able to reduce furniture delivery times by using a service that already has the infrastructure in place to accommodate customer demand—and look like an innovator in the space.
Our partners get the benefit of broadcasting to their customers that they’re innovating the delivery experience in an effort to provide delivery that’s more convenient, more affordable and easier to use.
6. Nordstrom and 11 Honoré
Department store Nordstrom is no stranger to retail partnerships. In the past it’s collaborated with direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands like Glossier, Casper, Boy Smells, and Everlane.
More recently, Nordstrom partnered with 11 Honoré to offer plus-size clothing to its shoppers. Patrick Herning, CEO of 11 Honoré, said, “Nordstrom's commitment to inclusivity aligns perfectly with our mission as the first size-inclusive retailer and we are so excited for the 11 Honoré collection to be reaching more women through the Nordstrom retail channels.”
Nordstrom’s partnership with 11 Honoré is just one move towards its goal of broadening product assortment. The department store plans to expand from 300,000 to 1.5 million items within the next five years.
7. Adidas and Peloton
Fitness equipment brand Peloton collaborated with Adidas to produce a new clothing line. The collection was designed to bring customers of both brands together—a timely campaign that launched in early 2021 when pandemic-related concerns meant people were doing at-home workout routines.
“The Peloton instructors themselves helped design the pieces and stated that the collection—with sizes up to 2XL and unisex pieces—was meant to foster inclusivity and community,” says Steven Light, co-owner of Nolah Mattress. “It was a genius move to promote connected fitness communities during a time when people are feeling disconnected from the world and each other.”
The timing of the campaign was excellent, and the two powerhouse brands were a perfect partnership in that they aren’t direct competitors, but live in the same fitness niche and add great value to each other’s image.
8. Off Road Tents and Guana Equipment
Co-marketing campaigns are excellent at driving new customers without having to invest heavily in paid marketing.
Take it from Gianluca Boncompagni, founder of Off Road Tents, which runs co-marketing campaigns every year. It recently partnered with Guana Equipment to host a rooftop tent giveaway. Entrants had to hand over their email address and phone number to have the chance of winning.
“We managed to collect 7,000+ emails and cell phone numbers in 30 days,” Gianluca says. “We considered it a success, since the collaboration gave us lots of high quality emails and SMS subscribers, which actually ended up buying other tents at a discount for having participated!”
9. Target and LEGO
Target is no stranger to retail partnership. The big-box retailer recently collaborated with kid’s toy brand LEGO to create an exclusive product line sold in its department stores. The 300 SKU collection includes LEGO-themed home decor, apparel, and holiday gifts.
Time was of the essence with the launch of this new line. While the partnership was announced in October 2021, items were available to purchase in-store just before Christmas. At that point, shoppers already visiting its department store were in the holiday gift-buying spirit.
Make retail partnerships work for your store
While these are some great retail partnership examples to inspire you, this isn’t a comprehensive list of successes. There are hundreds of previous and existing partnership examples out there between retailers both big and small.
Test the waters by partnering with local brick-and-mortar stores in your area. Run co-marketing campaigns, feature each others’ products in each store to increase sales, and host co-sponsored events to drive foot traffic. You can always build on those retail relationships with larger-scale initiatives.
This post was originally written by Alexandra Sheehan and has been updated by Elise Dopson.