Article | December 11, 2020
The Coronavirus pandemic brought an old realization back to businesses – The devil is in the detail. As stores shut and opened tentatively, Amazon’s delivery cycles stretched and returned, and brands reconfigured production-supply chain combinations several times in a span of months, one thing was clear – staying strong and emerging through the current chaos would require close attention to details on a real-time basis:
Where is the demand moving?
What’s my inventory?
What are my operating costs and profit margins on one channel vs. another?
What are my buyers’ other options right now?
How do I optimize digital assortments?
What are the new and emerging customer needs?
And amid the chaos, another thing became apparent to brands – they needed a robust digital strategy to not just drive through this crisis but to thrive in the emerging world. Driven by lockdown restrictions and the desire for safety, more consumers have moved online.
According to research by Adobe Analytics, the total U.S. online sales reached $73.2 billion in June 2020, year over year up 76.2% (from $41.5 billion the previous year).
Consumer research by various teams at Course5 Intelligence has shown that the pandemic has created a large population of first-timers on eCommerce, with a massive increase in online spending by those who were already shopping online earlier. Most research respondents said that their shopping would continue to be omnichannel in the future, with an increased share of online.
And yet that’s only part of the reason why brands need an effective digital strategy. Even before consumers buy their products, they are looking online for information on what they want, availability, meeting the safety standards, and aligning with their preferences and needs. Google and Amazon have become the first point of research when users when to buy something, so digital lies at the very start of their purchase journey. And this is also where digital has distinctive strength over offline channels – the space and scope for a brand to define their brand, highlight distinguishing characteristics from competitor products, share user reviews to gain credibility, and deliver highly customized price-product offers, optimizing gain for buyers and the business.
However, many CPG companies do not have their direct-to-consumer platforms; many are still focused on partnering with a variety of e-marketplaces that exist globally or regionally.
How do you optimize your brand parameters for eCommerce platforms?
Even though many brands have set up their own D2C sites (for instance, PepsiCo’s snacks.com and pantryshop.com), there is no comparison in reach with major eCommerce platforms such as Amazon, Walmart, Flipkart, Shopify, Tesco, Target, Alibaba, Costco among others; your brand needs to be here. Each of these platforms has different engagement parameters for brands. While Amazon has 1P (1st party – Amazon is the wholesale buyer and markets and sells to consumers) and 3P (3rd party – Brand sells direct to consumer via Amazon) options, with Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA) and FBM (Fulfilment by Merchant) options within 3P, others have a variety of other arrangements brands must choose. Making more significant decisions such as choosing the platform/s you want your brand on, the right selling/fulfillment strategy and base pricing to fine-tuning the advertising, product messaging, price, optimizing the supply value chain and product assortment on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis requires a combination of real-time contextual insight and the digital capabilities to be responsive.
Course5 Intelligence has been helping CPG, Retail, and Technology brands use AI-driven insight mechanisms and digital capabilities to define their eCommerce strategy and improve revenues in three broad ways —
WIN THE DIGITAL SHELF BATTLE
Price — How do I optimize my pricing strategy based on various trends?
Product portfolio — How do I optimize my product portfolio and packaging initiatives?
Catalog — Which categories do I overplay?
Market Share — How do I drive sales and gain market share faster than my competitors?
Brand Hygiene — How do I optimize search, product discovery, and reach for all my SKUs?
OPTIMIZE MARKETING SPEND
Ad-spend Attribution — What marketplaces are delivering the maximum ‘clicks to revenue’?
Purchase Signals — Are my ads targeted on purchase signals or on guesstimates?
DEMYSTIFY DATA COMPLEXITIES
Enable Quick Decisions — Do I have visibility on all dimensions and objectives?
Expedite Data Semantics — How quickly can I glean insights from new data sources?
Solve the ‘Alt-Tab’ Environment — Does my analysis exist in an ‘alt-tab’ environment? Or within a single product?
These are just a few data points that drive action within an effective and profitable eCommerce strategy. CPG brands that would like to make lasting inroads to consumers’ online shopping habits will need to deliver compelling value to buyers continuously. To do this, they will need to expertly navigate a complex and dynamic set of parameters to shine through at every level of the buyer’s journey – from the first appearance on the buyer’s horizon to becoming their first and last choice, always ensuring that the numbers match across buying price to experienced value.
Optimizing your digital marketplace strategy for the end-to-end buyer journey in an amorphous market landscape is the only way to stay ahead of the competition, establish category leadership, and increase revenue on a sustained basis.
Article | December 11, 2020
What can you learn from ~25 million bylined articles? A lot. We’re connecting the dots between two massive data studies so you can apply word count trends in your industry to adjust your content strategy accordingly.
In December 2019, our colleagues at SEMrush published a study on “The Anatomy of Top Performing Articles.” And after they analyzed the engagement rates on 700,000+ articles on a series of factors, one set of their key takeaways centered on article length.
Article | December 11, 2020
Depending on what industry you’re in, you might suddenly find yourself with a little more time on your hands than usual. Time for some DIY marketing? Sure, why not?
I’ve been talking to a lot of companies who are focusing on marketing right now. Yes, really. When we get back to “real life” – or whatever the new “real life” is going to look like – they want to be ready to hit the ground running. Smart.
Not all marketing projects are suitable for DIY, though.
DIY marketing: 4 projects better left to the pros
Let’s make sure you don’t waste time or money (definitely not money!) on these four projects. Call a professional for help.
Search engine optimization (SEO)
There are two kinds of SEO – SEO lite and SEO for realz. I’ve written about SEO lite before, though I haven’t called it that. You can do very basic keyword research for your blog to understand what keywords people are searching for.
SEO for realz is much deeper than that. “Real” SEO optimizes your entire website for search based on the best keywords for your company. It is based on many factors, such as what your current ranking is; what keywords you are ranking well for; what keywords are competitive versus less competitive; etc.
Once all that research is done – using special tools that I couldn’t even name without Googling it – each page of your website is optimized. It’s a whole process. Depending on how big your website is, it can take a long time.
Needless to say, proper SEO that actually helps you rank for the keywords you want to be found for requires an expert. And not just someone who says they’re an expert, but someone who has a track record.
I have mentioned Google AdWords exactly once in all of my blog posts, and when I did mention it, this is what I said:
“This is not an area of expertise for us, so my advice is to work with a company that specializes in it (and has proven results).”
Google AdWords is nothing like social ads. It’s about as far from a DIY marketing project as you can get.
First, it is an auction. Instead of bidding on a painting or lamp, you bid on keywords. Cost and placement depend on the competitiveness of the keywords you're bidding for.
Here’s how bidding works (courtesy of Wordstream):
The actual position of your ad is determined by your ad rank (Maximum Bid times Quality Score). The highest ad rank gets the 1st ad position. Your actual CPC (cost per click) will be determined by the ad rank of the next highest ad below you divided by your Quality Score. The only exception of this rule is when you are the only bidder or the lowest bid in the Google Ads auction; then you pay your maximum bid per click! AdWords bidding heavily penalizes advertisers who bid with low quality scores. Conversely, those with high Quality Scores get higher ad ranks and lower CPC.
Are your eyes glazed over? Yeah, me too. As you read above, you also need to meet certain Quality Scores for this to work.
Second, you need keywords that are relevant to your company. If the best keywords are too expensive, you might be tempted to bid on less relevant keywords, which could be a waste of money.
Third, writing ad copy that converts is the hardest type of copywriting out there. Trust me.
Web design and development
SquareSpace, WIX and other web builders are DIY marketing dream tools for small businesses that just need a basic, no-nonsense website. These platforms are built specifically for non-web designers and developers, and therefore they are pretty easy to use.
A custom website that includes a lot of functionality is not a DIY project. What do I mean by “a lot” of functionality?
Think about a membership site or online learning site. Those require a member portal, dashboard, chat function, resource library that supports videos or audio, learning modules, module tracking/grading, etc.
Then there are companies who want a custom design, not necessarily custom functionality. These sites use unique fonts, scripts, graphics and art. They’re the ones that make you stop in your track (OK, maybe that only happens to me, but believe me – these are the sites you notice).
Anyway, my point is: a custom website is NOT a DIY marketing project.
Lead generation strategy
A lead generation strategy requires you to hunt down new opportunities in new places. How can you be expected to spot a lizard in the jungle when you’ve only ever looked for ants in a desert?
A great lead generation strategy requires an outside, objective perspective. Heck, I don’t even do my own lead generation strategy – I hire someone (Nicole at SocialLight) to do it for me.
When a pro does the strategy for you, he or she might uncover:
Completely new audiences – or new segments within existing audiences
Messages, offers, products or services that will better resonate with your target markets
Different communication channels to use
Topics that your target market cares about most
When to reach your target market (and how often to reach out)
You can’t be expected to uncover all of this, and you won’t be able to do it as quickly as an expert.
So remember: when in doubt, turn to an expert – especially for these four projects.
Article | December 11, 2020
When COVID-19 began spreading across the U.S., marketers scrambled to figure out how to respond. Sudden work-from-home mandates, cancelled business trips, postponed conferences and frozen budgets threw a wrench into usual expectations and plans. Users’ needs and online behaviors have changed in tandem, forcing marketers to meet them on their new terms. Search is more important than ever now because people are spending almost all of their time at home and online, consuming media, researching, browsing and shopping.