MMW Op-Ed: What Direct Response Marketers Need to Know When Moving into Retail

MMW Op-Ed What Direct Response Marketers Need to Know When Moving into RetailThe following is a guest contributed post from Jill Draper, President of Marketsmith.

Direct response marketers looking to move into retail are faced with considerable challenges as they navigate the needs of retailers to promote their products to the largest possible audience. This transition isn’t a minor change in strategy. It’s a fundamental shift from a product-centric focus to a consumer-centric one, where the company becomes an actual “brand”  ̶  not just a manufacturer of product.

Direct response marketers should consider the following tips to help them be more brand-focused in their marketing plans:

1. Get the consumer insight. What does the product accomplish for the consumer? Understand the benefits and any possible pain points of the category from the consumer’s point of view. Look closely at what claims are on the packaging, the pricing strategy, and consider what the consumer expects, especially at your price point. The best way to do this is to conduct market research through focus groups, surveys, and other research techniques. It’s critical to gain a deep understanding of the consumer’s needs before you engage retailers and start promotions. Equally critical is the understanding of what your competition is doing at the shelf and their marketing campaigns used to drive point of sale, including how they speak to and interact with the consumer. Ultimately, this information will help direct-to-consumer marketers pivot from making a sale through direct channels to building brand recall and brand preference that will drive sales at the retail level.

2. Understand the retailer’s hot buttons. The retailer is a key stakeholder in the successful shift from direct response marketing to brand marketing. It’s critical that you demonstrate a commitment to providing ongoing marketing support for your brand if you want to keep your shelf-space or gain incremental merchandising. Obtaining retail support can be done by paying slotting allowances, but it can also be accomplished by partnering with the retailer, understanding their marketing needs, and creating exclusive co-marketing programs that will help them create a unique and differentiated consumer experience for their shoppers. In order to create the most relevant programs for a specific retailer, direct response marketers first need to find out what’s important to them. Perhaps the retailer needs help with increasing store traffic or attracting a specific market audience – you can help by increasing your media spend, or creating a product configuration that would attract that specific audience. Does the retailer promote a charitable organization? You can augment their efforts and create an in-store promotion that supports their charity.  Do you understand their signage requirements? The key here is to create a co-marketing program that meets the retailer’s needs while also building your brand at-shelf.

3. Leverage in-store mobile behavior.  A growing number of consumers are using their mobile devices in-store to compare prices, get more information, or to purchase items online at a discount. While some marketers may view this behavior as a threat that could undermine their retail efforts, other more modern marketers see the mobile “showrooming” as an opportunity and are meeting the consumer in the aisle through their mobile device. For example, Solstice, a specialty sunglass retailer, offers an app that allows consumers to see a larger selection online and make a purchase while they are in the store. Other marketers are re-designing their websites and implementing responsive design to ensure that the online consumer experience is as rewarding and powerful as an in-aisle point-of-sale.

4. Leverage data analytics.  It goes without saying that every direct response marketer should be closely monitoring sales data on a weekly basis, if not a daily basis, when they are in the retail channel. But, where many marketers fall short, is in looking at the right data in order to understand the key levers that should be tweaked on a real-time basis in order to maximize retail performance. For example, while you will most likely be looking at the impact that your short form campaign is having on retail at an aggregate level, you may need to look deeper and examine the impact of individual airings on retail sales by day and by daypart. Additionally, you will need to look at the impact of other media, such as store circulars, on your brand’s sales performance. The key is to be able to collect all of the relevant data (transactional, media performance, consumer demographic, and consumer engagement metrics) to be able to create a meaningful and insightful dashboard which will provide insight and enable you to optimize your marketing plan in real-time. It is to the marketer’s advantage to live in a world of accountable media and to demand that every single marketing dollar is not only as impactful as possible, but provides additional intelligence as well. Consumers are changing, devices are creating new revenue streams, and your audience touch points are becoming more diversified. One must be constantly learning from the data, not only to see actionable insight, but to ultimately evolve to the next level.

5. Optimize the in-store consumer experience. Before you jump into retail, you need to consider how you plan on obtaining visibility into what is going on at the point-of-sale. Many marketers don’t know when an item is out of stock, or if a competitor has an on-shelf promotion that is only available in-store and is not yet out on the internet. You also need to know when signage is poorly managed so that you can hold the retailer as accountable as you would hold your media buying agencies for their media placement effectiveness. If you do not have a robust sales force, you need to consider outsourcing to companies that offer secret shopper services and other data gathering tactics to give you sight to what is happening at the individual SKU/store level. All of these efforts require costs and effort, but they are critical for presenting the right brand image and converting as many sales as possible in the store aisle.

The company that is moving from direct response marketing to retail has to not only think about new strategies, but look at how they market their products and work with partners in a whole new way. Transitioning to retail doesn’t just mean a change in processes, but a new mindset to tackle the challenges and considerable opportunities.