For most of 2020, brand marketing has been a critical way for companies to connect with their consumer and try to preserve their loyalty. But these direct communications mostly focus on existing customers or those familiar with the brand; shoppers must have already opted into email or SMS updates, or visited the brand’s site. In order to reach new customers, brands must explore shared locations like marketplaces or social media.
“Reaching shoppers on external platforms is critical because it’s your way to introduce them to your brand on their turf, rather than your turf,” said Kevin Dugan, VP of agency services at performance marketing agency DMi Partners. “As someone is browsing Facebook, Instagram, Amazon, they are actively engaged with the content and if you meet them with the correct messaging and tone, it’s a powerful way to bring your products into their world.”
Unlike other segments, retail has been given designated advertising spaces within these platforms – think the Instagram “shop now” function or Google Shopping – and this ensures fertile ground for marketing initiatives. But while these platforms aren’t new or unknown to brands, effective strategies for social media, Google and e-commerce marketplaces each require tailored approaches.
For one, competition on these platforms is tough and can come at a high price; smaller businesses that need the exposure may be the same ones that are unable to afford to market their product extensively. Moreover, the saturated space means that effective advertisements need to stand out and resonate with the right audience, in order to generate real benefit for the brand.
“The way that these platforms have evolved over the last couple of years, there’s a lot more levers to pull around targeting that didn’t exist before,” said Mike Farrell, senior director of integrated digital strategy at marketing platform Sidecar. “A thoughtful targeting strategy would allow retailers to take that limited budget that they might have and really focus it in on the highest value customers that they’re going after.”
Platforms like Sidecar are specifically focused on creating marketing for these external platforms due to their specific requirements and data-rich nature. These function as a double-edged sword: With the right support, a company can tailor its marketing to each audience and reap rewards; without the ability to leverage data and optimize strategy accordingly, brands are likely to find their messages lost amongst the competition.
Then there’s the diversity of campaigns needed within each platform. DMi Partners’ Dugan warns against brands just setting a few generic social ads live and expecting traffic to roll in. Instead, he argued the importance of identifying different consumer groups based on their experience-level with the brand.
“We are always advocating for subtle differences in messaging depending on the audience we’re reaching on these channels,” said Dugan. “We suggest at least having top of funnel social ads, for your behavioral and interest targeting; bottom of funnel ads, for your retargeting audiences; and winback ads, for your custom audience of past customers.”
From a content perspective, marketing should consider the platform it’s on. Social media sites are well-suited to discovery and brand storytelling, although Dugan highlights the opportunity of Facebook Shops for a more direct-conversion experience. Google Shopping and Amazon are the most purchase-driven; clear product imagery and information performs well for shoppers who are ready to buy.
Farrell recommends that brands use their marketing to spotlight their best performing styles but in colorways that perhaps aren’t as popular; this evokes familiarity and novelty simultaneously. As a result, brands might be able to reduce the common diminishing of sales that occurs once the preferred shades sell out and also optimize inventory, which is a challenging area for many companies right now.