With the COVID-19 pandemic further shifting consumer retail buying habits online, it's more important than ever for companies to utilize tools that help them thrive in an increasingly competitive landscape.
According to a recent McKinsey & Company report, “the shift to online retail is real, and much of it will stick.” However, only 60 percent of consumer goods companies surveyed are “even moderately prepared to capture e-commerce growth opportunities.”
Below are four key areas for companies to focus on in a digital, post-coronavirus world:
There are approximately 2.1 million online retailers in the United States, and 7.9 million worldwide, according to data from Etailinsights. While those numbers may seem daunting, there are a multitude of tools that companies can use to stand out and build brand awareness.
One is search engine optimization (SEO), which helps a website rank higher on Google and other search engines. In other words, when someone searches for a product such as women’s shaving cream, a brand wants its products to appear before its competitors, and ideally at the top of page one. Costs for SEO can vary widely, but the return on investment is potentially huge if executed strategically.
“Earned media” is another cost-effective way to build brand awareness. As opposed to advertising, an effective public relations campaign involves pitching articles on a brand to influential media outlets. While there's no guarantee of placement, a story on a high-ranking news website can pay huge dividends.
A big part of the online retail battle may be building awareness, but without customer loyalty a brand could soon be back where it started. In addition to having a quality product that fills a need in the marketplace, it's important to form a bond with shoppers. Otherwise, it may be difficult to keep them from going to Amazon.com or another larger competitor. However, there are many people who prefer buying directly from niche websites and will pay a premium to do so, as long as they identify with that brand.
A company’s website is a great way to tell its story, whether as a letter from the founder, an anecdote about how the company got started, or a focus on what's important to its customers. For example, TOMS has grown and maintained significant customer loyalty in part by making a commitment to investing one-third of its profits in “grassroots efforts, like organizations creating change at the local level.”
Brand awareness and customer loyalty should never be taken for granted, however, as many online shoppers are constantly looking for something new and different in the marketplace. As a result, it's important not only for brands to keep things fresh, but also to let customers know they're doing something unique and exciting.
Email marketing may not seem very cutting edge, but it's very often an effective way to get the word out about a new product, special offers and other promotions, especially when combined with advertorials, digital advertising and other popular marketing tools.
For many younger shoppers, social media is the preferred way to interact with a brand online. However, it can be a mistake to rely on just one or two platforms, as different age groups and consumers may favor one over another. Popular sites for online shoppers include Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, with the latter providing perhaps the greatest potential for audience growth.
While there are numerous strategies that go into building a successful online brand in today’s world, those listed here will go a long way towards helping companies achieve their goals.
Jeffrey Canouse is CEO of Madison, a brand development and business accelerator company.
Related story: Keeping the Customer Satisfied
Jeffrey Canouse is CEO of Madison (MDEX: US), a consumer brand development company with extensive celebrity partnership experience. The publicly traded company works with such leading icons as Catherine Zeta-Jones, identifying select consumer goods segments that are underserved and offer significant growth opportunities. Mr. Canouse brings more than 25 years of senior financial management and investment banking experience to Madison, having served as CEO of multiple publicly traded companies in the restaurant, lending, fintech, and beverage industries.