Manufacturers Selling Directly to Consumers May be the Next New Thing in Ecommerce
Technology and changing consumer behavior, including the rise in online shopping for nearly everything sold in the U.S. has blurred lines in many industries. Given that ecommerce capabilities give distributors and manufacturers the ability to sell directly to consumers, bypassing traditional retail brick and mortar and even retail e-commerce stores, it’s only a matter of time before we see a significant number of manufacturers selling directly to consumers in addition to third party distribution and sales models.
A Wall Street Journal article notes that consumers are shopping from home from nearby Amazon warehouses, for goods that are then picked by robots and humans and delivered directly to their homes, sometimes in just one to two hours of ordering. As predictive data gives online ecommerce retailers the ability to intuitively stock warehouses with items local consumers are likely to buy, the likelihood of more distributors and manufacturers selling directly to consumers increases. The efficiency of having few or no third parties in the supply chain process can also create economies that increase profits for manufacturers and keep the cost of goods low for consumers as well.
Key for supply chain companies who want to succeed in a direct-to-consumer ecommerce model is a marketing plan that helps them connect with consumers before and during what Google terms as “I want to buy it” moments on digital channels (mobile, tablet and PC). This is especially true for manufacturers of commodity goods (items which are generally equivalent in quality, features, benefits and pricing across brands). Here are five marketing musts for manufacturers selling directly to consumers.
5 Ecommerce Marketing Musts for Distributors and Manufacturers Selling Directly to Consumers
Coming Out on Top in I Want to Find It Moments
I want to find it moments are those in which consumers go online to find out all of the options available to them for a given product or solution. This is a wide net thrown out into the universe (often on Google search, but sometimes also starting on Amazon or other retail sites) in which the consumer wants to find and identify several brands or models, which they will then narrow down into just a few top choices to compare. As opposed to the traditional third party sales model, which relied heavily on sales professionals working outbound marketing tactics, to show up in the consumer’s I-want-to-find-it-moments requires supply chain mastery of inbound marketing:
- Content marketing – high quality, engaging, search-optimized web and blog content
- Social media marketing that engages and intrigues
- Email marketing that drives web traffic
Distributors and manufacturers selling directly to consumers may also want to master publicity stunts and events that gain word of mouth and brand recognition (so that consumers remember a brand name, if not a product, when an I-want-to-find-it moment arises).
Coming Out on Top in I Want to Compare It Moments
Having made the consumer’s short list of possible options, supply chain distributors and manufacturers selling directly to consumers need their products to come out on top in consumer’s comparisons. Once again, inbound marketing and predictive analytics can help:
- Web or blog pages with table-style comparisons of roughly equivalent brands or models
- Influencer marketing on social media
- Case studies
- Product pages with
- thorough descriptions
- persuasive, peace-of-mind guaranty and warranty information
- answers to frequently asked questions (FAQ)
- Testimonials, customer reviews and ratings
- Independent reviews
- YouTube videos that compare or even simply demonstrate products in action
Consumers have come to trust stars and customer ratings just as much as they trust recommendations from people they know. For supply chain companies that want consumers to trust and buy their products sight-unseen, YouTube videos, customer reviews and independent reviews could be highly impactful in helping to gain market share.
Coming Out on Top in I Want to Buy It Moments
To come out on top with consumers in I-want-to-buy-it moments, manufacturers selling directly to consumers must have an easy-to-navigate direct selling channel in place that looks and works just the same as any other retail ecommerce site:
- Sophisticated and streamlined, with as few steps as possible
- Multiple payment options, including credit card, PayPal and other e-payment options
- Offering “save my information” and “continue as a guest” paths
- Easy-to-understand information about returns and exchanges
- Who to contact (for anyone who still has doubts)
- if the shipment does arrive on time
- if the shipment arrives damaged
- if the item doesn’t work, fit, etc.
- for questions about assembly, use, etc.
Coming Out on Top in Buying Moments
Just because a consumer has found, compared and decided which product to buy doesn’t mean it’s a zero sum game. Like their retail counterparts, distributors and manufacturers selling directly to consumers can increase profits right at the point of sale with POS (point-of-sale) marketing strategies:
- “Customers also bought” lists
- “You might also like” suggestions
- Warranties or extended warranties
- Suggested accessories
- Last chance opportunities
Coming Out on Top in After the Sale Moments
Post-sale marketing has the ability to shorten the time between customer’s repeat visits and facilitate word of mouth. Minus a strategy for marketing to customers after the sale, each and every sale could be an expensive one and done process. Supply chain companies selling directly to consumer need to think like retailers:
- Know the customer’s lifetime value
- Use customer data to build strong buyer profiles
- Refine marketing strategies to reach and convert ideal buyer types
- Generate word of mouth
- Actively solicit reviews and ratings
- Capitalize on positive customer feedback
Post-sale marketing for supply chain companies can be accomplished using right-after-sale emails and redirects (such as redirecting someone to a thank you page with a link for rating the buying experience or taking some other kind of survey) and they should also be continued over time with on-going direct and email marketing campaigns.
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