For decades, consumer goods companies had a set path to their customers through physical stores. They recognized the importance of direct-to-consumer channels but did not perceive those channels as a necessity. The pandemic shifted this mindset. The accelerated speed of change in customer behavior happened virtually overnight. With no access to stores, and with concerns for health and safety, the natural path for consumers was to go online.
Some people will return to stores, but for the majority, buying online is now the new normal. This creates different challenges and opportunities for consumer goods companies to forge new routes to customers when creating a direct-to-consumer strategy.
Deploy Social as a Full Channel
When consumers went online, they shifted to social channels that enabled them to show brand and lifestyle preferences. This presents a huge new opportunity, but the channel should not be treated like any other advertisement medium. To connect with customers online, a successful social channel strategy should be very different and include the following:
Emotional marketing – Channels like Facebook and Instagram are more about personal interactions. Brands are required to connect with consumers by making intelligent use of user-generated content like customer testimonials, transformation stories, and reviews. These channels can bring products to life with bite-sized videos and can promote user comments and shares. Such multimedia is important, because pictures that show followers using a product are more effective than endless brand promotions.
Sell a lifestyle – It’s important to understand the consumer lifestyle and the impact of influencers. Many people follow celebrities and want to know the products they use. Online influencers and celebrity endorsements are a very powerful strategy to create brand pull. Brands should curate content for products and look for opportunities to share that content.
Capture impulse buying – Social media is typically “me” time for most users. It’s about their digital lifestyle, their aspirations, and their needs. Inside the most popular social channels – Instagram, Facebook, and WhatsApp – consumers can get excited about a product, connect with a brand, get information instantly, and complete a purchase right in the app! It’s important to capture those impulse moments and make it easy for consumers to buy products as seamlessly as possible.
Create Brand Sites as a Point of Experiences
Brand sites don’t have to be just another channel of selling. The intention should not be to compete with retail partners, but to work as an enabler that pushes consumers through their decision journey. Brands should position their sites as a go-to place for the product purpose and use. To create that brand differentiation, companies need to revamp their websites to address:
Being the go-to destination – Brand sites should have detailed product reviews and information on the product’s purpose, not just the product itself. Presenting engaging and insightful content is key. Aim to be the first stop for consumers looking for information in the category.
Adding the personal touch – All aspects of the customer experience are becoming personalized, and the same goes with products. People want custom products that stand out. Consider product personalization like engraving logos, printing pictures, adding special messages to standard products, and more. Typical marketplaces cannot provide personalization; they are designed to sell standard products following a uniform, scalable process. This is an opportunity for brand sites to engage with their customers and create a lasting experience.
Configuring to order – Offer variations and customizations that are only available on the brand site. While marketplaces will have the standard configurations, brand websites can provide special options. These could include everything from configuration of laptop processors to special colors only available on the brand site.
Offering intelligent product advisors – One thing consumers miss while shopping online is the friendly and knowledgeable store associate. This has always been a differentiation between brand-specific stores, specialty retailers, and regular department stores. Companies need to invest in AI-driven virtual product advisors across all segments to mimic the offline experience.
Getting the best from the products – Retailers and marketplaces focus only on selling products to consumers. But for customers, the journey with the products after the sale is very important. This is where brand sites need to offer tips and recommendations to get the most from the product.
Differentiate in Online Marketplaces and Retail Sites
Instead of going to retail stores and malls, online marketplaces and retail sites are where the majority of sales happen today. Brands need to stand out in the long list of products that display once a consumer searches a category online. To be successful in this crowded space, brands need to focus on everything surrounding a product to create a competitive advantage.
Creative images and product packaging – Creative images and product packaging play a very important role in decision making for consumer goods products. Packaging that gives the impression of a high-end brand is in demand. Also, conscious consumption is on the rise; show the product and packaging cares about the environment.
Innovative bundling – Innovative bundling of related products appeals to customers because it offers a complete solution. For example, one such bundle could include a yoga mat, exercise towel, and yoga blocks. Super-size packages are another good strategy. It brings down the cost per unit and nudges customers to buy more.
Delivery options: In the world of instant gratification, faster delivery options is a must. Brands need to offer next-day and same-day delivery options – anything longer is a big deterrent.
Value-added services: To drive repeat buying, it is important that consumers get the most out of products. Value-added services like content/tutorials/videos about product usage should be bundled along with order confirmations or with product delivery. Bundling value-added services builds consumer confidence and provides another opportunity for engagement, up-selling, or cross-selling.
Shopping has changed; it has moved primarily online. Brands need a creative online strategy to differentiate themselves from the competition – and it cannot simply be price or discounts. The consumer goods sector should include new routes to the customer and utilize online channels to create a lifestyle image for products and provide meaningful experiences that drive customer loyalty.