When Amazon exploded onto the retail scene in 1995, it shook the very foundation of how customers went about tracking down and purchasing everything from books to baseball bats. It ushered in the era of e-commerce, granting buyers instant access to products previously limited to whatever their local brick-and-mortar stores happened to have in stock. Now, twenty years later, the reverse is happening and rising star brands that start out online must reach out to big box stores in order to fully reach their audiences.
With 17 years of experience in helping to connect brands and buyers, our company, bDirect Companies, has seen just how vital marketing and brand management is to the success of any product. With more and more products getting their start on the web, we’ve identified several trends in the brand-to-buyer marketing process of which all brand oriented business owners should be aware.
Bridging the Divide
The first thing to be aware of is the amount of consolidation happening in the retail landscape. Thousands of brands all must compete for the attention of fewer and fewer retailers. This rift can make or break a new brand, so sales and marketing agencies like ours, which work to pair brands with retailers, are a vital step in the process. For this to succeed, however, marketing agencies must already have deep, established relationships with the biggest retailer players so that the retailer trusts that the brand being recommended is worth the investment. As this trend is likely to continue, working with partners that have good track records is paramount.
“Customers can go directly to a brand’s e-commerce enabled website directly. We’ve already seen successful models of this for brands like Warby Parker and Dollar Shave Club. This model won’t replace Amazon or big box stores because brands still need a physical retail presence in order to reach the majority of consumers.”
Trending Is Trending
No matter how good a marketing agency is, though, at the end of the day only the buyer for big retailers like Walmart or Target can decide what to stock. The best way to get a product onto their shelves is to have it be part of something that is currently trending – basically what’s already selling and working in the marketplace. Knowledge of the wider industry is key, particularly which companies are established trendsetters, like Apple for personal tech, or Amazon for customer interaction: things like free and next day shipping.
Beyond that, though, which trends to follow depends on which trends you follow. Authenticity is key as the core consumer becomes more Millennial. If you’re not authentic, you’re done. It helps to have a personal connection to your brands. For example, if you played baseball in college and sports nutrition was something that personally interested you, that passion could translate into representing diet brands and energy drinks – it’s easy to champion something you’re already passionate about.
Social Media Monster
The business fundamentals haven’t changed much in the last twenty years, as far as how to bring in data and interpret it. What has changed is the fact that success is now increasingly directly related to how well you can interpret social media analytics: for example, extrapolating what happens within Facebook marketing to determine the size of the prize once you expand that into larger distribution big box retail. If an item is hot, it’ll translate to the masses, but before you do that, often times it is wise to first position a brand within a bellwether retailer or class of trade to test the waters. As the saying goes, ‘fail cheaply; win big.’
Looking to the Future
Dovetailing off this, the final trend to be aware of is the increasing speed at which a brand’s reputation – both positive and negative – spreads. Social media’s influence doesn’t stop with metrics. Social media users and Millennials in particular are closely keyed into hot social and cultural issues, and they share their reactions regularly and instantly. Today’s consumers like to understand where their products come from, how they are made, and whether their purchase represents something they support from a social or political perspective.
But they also expect that the brand will ship in two days or less. Interactive agencies like Conversion Systems – a turnkey platform with digital marketing to help brands sell direct to consumer via the Internet – can now assist in providing service and technology suites to brands to make that possible. In addition to pure play or retailer sales, customers can go directly to a brand’s e-commerce enabled website directly. We’ve already seen successful models of this for brands like Warby Parker and Dollar Shave Club. This model won’t replace Amazon or big box stores because brands still need a physical retail presence in order to reach the majority of consumers. But as far as looking to the future, it’s all going to be a part of the new norm, and the shift is happening right now.