2015 was an exciting year for CPG brands and e-commerce. Driven primarily by Amazon, CPG e-commerce sales soared 42%. While e-commerce is often less than 10% of CPG sales and less than 5% for major CPG brands such as P&G, J&J and Unilever, this exceptional sales growth is a signal to marketers. The channel’s growth potential presents a considerable market opportunity that requires a different strategy from brick-and-mortar purchases. Differentiation, growth and market share are challenging for established CPG brands, but being a dedicated adopter of digital channels may be one of the most effective strategies to keep an advantage over the competition.
E-commerce not only provides convenience to consumers, it also allows consumers to make smarter decisions. This channel is a two-way dialogue where consumer reviews are even more powerful than the brand's ads. Online reviews were once reserved for restaurants, travel destinations or large ticket purchases such as electronics. How about a toothpaste brand? A few years ago, online reviews were an afterthought for CPG marketers. Today, almost every meeting I attend involves a discussion about online reviews both on brand properties and retail websites.
A common challenge many CPG marketers face is how to keep product reviews current and positive. While there is no silver bullet to achieving a healthy stream of positive product reviews, a dedicated, long-term strategy of building one-to-one relationships at scale is the way.
1. Drive reviews through authentic relationships with highly qualified people.
Many CPG brands struggle with how to increase positive reviews. Not all products suit all consumers. Identifying the right consumer will lead to a higher propensity for a positive experience. Best bet? Consumers in your target who like to write reviews. This isn’t as hard as it sounds: the brand must be able to develop a two-way relationship. By creating a strategy for consumers to engage directly with a brand, marketers will learn who are their best reviewers and how to leverage them.
2. Promote powerful storytelling through engagement and education.
Consumers share the most impactful reviews when they feel appreciated by a brand and when they feel they can provide helpful information to others. The best reviews are when consumers share a personal story about their experience with the brand. CPG marketers can nudge their fans along by prompting them to share how the product influenced a moment in their lives. Maybe it’s the deodorant that came to the rescue while giving a nerve-wracking presentation, or a dishwasher detergent that alleviated the stress of cleanup after a big family dinner. Ask consumers questions, and they’ll tell their stories.
3. Incorporate user-generated content into the brand’s presence
Maintaining the product page on a retailer or manufacturer website is fundamental to managing reviews. While many marketers stick to advertising talking points, this is a great opportunity to weave real consumer content in your brand story. Leverage and integrate testimonials, consumer photos and key highlights to showcase use by real people.
Preserving and building a healthy feed of product reviews is a challenge for many marketers. Often times, brands get caught up in the idea “build it and they will come.” While building is important, brands can no longer sit on the sidelines waiting for reviews. Instead, take proactive steps to develop a trusted dialogue with real consumers. Authentic relationships are the foundation of competitive advantage.