Consumers sure do love their brands. Brands are reliable. Brands are authentic. Brands can be trusted to provide accurate information and excellent customer service.
It’s little wonder, then, that three out of five consumers turn directly to a brand’s website when researching products, or that more than half choose to purchase directly from a manufacturer when given the option.
And yet …
With the current state of the e-commerce consumer journey, buyers also have incredibly high expectations for their beloved brands. They’ll remain loyal as long as pricing, customer service and shipping stays spot on … but will start to court your competitors if just one element is “off.”
For the manufacturer ready to embrace direct-to-consumer selling, the opportunities are limitless. But the landscape that’s emerging looks much different than the one of years past, when manufacturers relied primarily on wholesale and retail partners to distribute products.
Want to get ahead? Here are three things all manufacturers should do.
1. Give Your Retailers Some Love and Attention
While the past decade has brought about new opportunities to sell direct to consumers and on e-commerce marketplaces in addition to authorized retailer sites, this ability doesn’t come without complications.
Whether you choose to enable e-commerce sales on your website or build a third-party presence on marketplaces, it’s critically important to prepare for potential channel disruption. No manufacturer wants a trusted retail partner to think it doesn’t care about the relationship or is trying to “go around” them.
To address this issue, some successful manufacturers are opting to create a messaging strategy that communicates intent to sell direct-to-consumers. You might also choose to use a Where to Buy solution to support your retail channels and give consumers different buying options to meet their needs.
At the same time, you should also monitor activity to be sure your retailers are abiding by your minimum advertised price (MAP) agreements. It’s important that consumers continue to see accurate information everywhere your products are sold.
2. Be Ready to Meet High Expectations
As if maintaining relationships with retailers wasn’t complicated enough, the process of getting closer to consumers comes with its own set of challenges. Thanks largely to Amazon and other e-commerce marketplaces, shoppers now have some remarkably high expectations for online shopping.
An astounding 96% base purchase decisions on the availability of free shipping, and more than half don’t consider a delivery to be “fast” unless it arrives within two days. Consumers want returns to be easy, too, and many will avoid buying from you if your return policy is too strict.
They also want to be able to move seamlessly from smartphones to laptops, and may spend as much as 17% more per order when their shopping experience is matched from one device to another.
Bottom line: While direct-to-consumer sales models can be extremely high-margin and profitable, they’re not for the faint of heart. You’ll need to be prepared to cover a wide range of marketing, selling and fulfilling activities to meet consumer expectations.
3. Optimize Content Everywhere You Sell
The #1 reason consumers will head straight to your website? For information. Some 85% of shoppers want rich, relevant product content from e-commerce websites, according to Forrester.
The more your product content is optimized, the better positioned you’ll be to win sales. That means using strong imagery, titles, descriptions, bullets, tech specs and pricing information to showcase everything from colors and sizes to materials and dimensions — not just on your own site but everywhere you sell.
Take time to ensure your product information is as thorough, accurate and error-free as possible. Having the right mix of keywords and product details can be the difference between landing sales or getting buried deep in search results.
What’s Next for Manufacturers in E-Commerce?
As the industry continues to grow at a rapid rate, brands can expect new challenges to arise as they learn what it takes to navigate successful e-commerce sales. It may be new territory for many manufacturers, but these three fundamentals can lay the groundwork for a highly profitable model.
We go into even greater detail on the above recommendations, as well as several more, in our white paper: What’s Next for Brands in E-Commerce? This free resource provides details on several tools brands can use to create meaningful connections with consumers, maximize marketplaces, maintain relationships with retailers and more.