30 June 2021

DO THE LEGWORK FOR CUSTOMERS ONLINE… OR RISK THEM GETTING ITCHY FEET

Covid has sent customers exploring new brands and services.

Last year as many as a quarter of US consumers dipped their toe in a new private-label brand. Promisingly, a whopping 73 percent of those who’d adopted new shopping habits intended to continue with them. As a result, a great migration to private brand is underway which, activated by lifestyle changes under the pandemic, has put US private brand retail in perhaps its strongest ever position.

But will the trend continue? Can private brands bank on new consumers’ loyalty? Well, that depends.

In the post-pandemic landscape, convenience and availability of goods will be major motivators determining whether customers will stick with the brands they’ve switched to, fall back to their old standbys, or seek yet further brands to fill their needs.

But brands aren’t powerless in moving the needle. A bid to retain customer loyalty in 2021 should include strategically enhancing the brand experience, and nowhere is this more vital than online.

In the past year, there’s been a strong emphasis on being there for customers. In difficult circumstances, the private brand has been the place to get those much-needed staples, that break from monotony, and that value driver helping them to keep more cash in pocket.

It’s difficult, but by no means impossible, to be there for customers in an online sense. Doing so demands brands build a convenient and enjoyable online experience, wherein the customer navigates, orders and checks out via a streamlined, hassle-free process – but this is just the beginning.

Convenience and enjoyment, which are often divided into separate metrics by brand health analysts, are mutually dependent. It may seem a no-brainer that enjoyment of a brand is dependent upon the convenience and fluidity of the experience, however, some brands gradually lose sight of how one impacts the other.

A brand experience that is perceived by the customer to be unwieldy and clunky will likely hamper marketing efforts to build the brand’s fresh, fun and breezy profile. It could also be argued that even the most convenient customer journey will not reach its full potential if customers become bored and click away early.

Careful crafting of the online experience helps to ensure customers stay on your site longer, and convert more often. Where many private brands fall down is that they leave the customer to drive their own experience, for example by failing to offer product pairing suggestions or algorithmically “personalised” product suggestions, leaving the customer to negotiate a disjointed path from one product to the next.

The other foible that’s by far the more common, is presenting inconsistent, watered-down messaging and/or brand architecture. Giving no strong sense of the private brand’s own tone of voice or values is a massive missed opportunity. Having no “sense of self” leaves other more robust national brand voices to fill the void.

 

Breaking down the Consumer Experience

The challenge for private brand retailers is to construct their online experience so that every page, every click and every link puts the brand’s best foot forward. From start to finish, the interaction should relate and amplify the brand’s story while highlighting its strengths and uniqueness.

When we’re well looked after in a hospitality environment – a five-star hotel or elite dining experience – we wouldn’t expect to find our own way to our table or pick the perfect wine to accompany our menu selection without a recommendation. So why should we expect customers to do this online?

The end-to-end online private brand experience should be complex but easy to consume – like a fine wine. Consistently providing this alchemy to the customer doesn’t just elevate the brand, it creates more sales opportunities.

This is where private brand truly shines, in its ability to lead consumers to variety, value and the very latest products. The online brand experience should guide individual customers down their own journeys, where diverging paths arrive at the choices they are most likely to find appealing, such as: premium or value tiers; seasonal fads or everyday essentials; decadent splurges or healthy options; new product launches or flash sales.

This is supported through supplemental marketing content, which waits just a click away. The buffet of content is truly endless… from select news articles, high quality blogs and branded communications to social media feeds for specific locations or communities to live social media events to interactive shopping experiences and in-person events.

Unifying all of this variety is perhaps the most important piece of the puzzle: the brand architecture. This should embody the private brand’s character and heritage, and reflect the customer base that shops there.

Tying together the various elements of the website with a unique and well-considered brand architecture – along with the strong functionality discussed above – will help give consumers who have been moving from brand to brand a good reason to stop wandering. In 2021, private brands will have an opportunity to more consumers’ loyalty, and it’s the connections customers make with the brand, its voice and the online experience which will do the heavy lifting.

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