Food goes digital – How to win online with your food & beverage brand!
Food shopping is a very emotional experience. The whole industry relies on impulse purchases and in-store promotions, tastings, events, consumer & health trends. But what if “offline” might only be the present, but not the future of the food industry? And what if “online” becomes more and more important in a fully digitalized world – even in an industry that has been rejecting that fact for a really long time? Digital marketing & sales still seems to be unfamiliar terrain for a lot of food & beverage brands, but we would like to shed some light on some really easy and promising ways to win the online challenge.
1. Know your customer journey:
For each product in the market, the customer journey has its own stages, different touchpoints, a multitude of channels and it mostly does not start at exactly the same entry point for all consumers. Some might hear about a new product for the first time because they have some specific needs and search online for the most interesting brands in that sector. Others stroll around in the supermarket and come across a packaging that they really like and make an impulse-driven purchase. And some will make an online order because of a friend´s recommendation that they received on a really nice vineyard somewhere hidden in the winelands of Tuscany.
Whatever the entry point is, be aware that each customer needs a couple of encounters with your brand before trust can actually start growing, and the more diverse your touchpoints are, the more professional your brand will appear. Never rely on one channel only, but understand the whole customer journey and try to “meet” your potential customers as often as possible. That – of course – includes the online world just as much as it includes supermarkets and restaurants.
Make a plan, know the touchpoints, create relevant content and meet your customers 360°, to make sure that you always stay top of mind!
2. Give before you take:
Digital customer journeys make it a little bit harder to actually convince people of buying, which is why a lot of food & beverage brands still like to put a lot more focus on offline channels with a more obvious, direct sales opportunity. It simply takes more brand encounters to generate a purchase, because people have a different perception of online and offline communication. The attention span is only about half as long in digital channels compared to in-store (and even there, you only have abut 3 seconds to convince a new customer of buying your brand!). This means, that online marketing activities need to be planned over a longer period of time until they might actually turn into loyal purchase behavior. Some “giving” is necessary (content, targeting, media budget etc.), before a food brand can actually reap the rewards of its online marketing efforts.
On the other hand, online traffic is also often a lot cheaper per single contact, and the actual reach of individual customers is a lot higher compared to retail stores, events or trade shows. In addition, online marketing is of course not locally limited and can even go international with only one click. And it is much more flexible than any offline, direct marketing which is usually planned way ahead and is therefore unable to react quickly to necessary changes.
For those reasons, it is very important to reconsider digital marketing activities as a very helpful tool to attract new customers in different ways, even though in the very beginning, it might look like the efforts don´t pay off quickly enough.
3. Recognize the challenge, but focus on the gain!
Nobody said online marketing was easy, and constantly attracting prospects and loyal buyers along their customer journey can be very demanding. But is that a reason to not even start and leave the field open to all sorts of competitors? Definitely not! Since the industry only just started tapping into the full potential of the digital world, both for food marketing as well as food sales.
In order to connect online and offline, and still give your consumers the emotional, delightful experience they should connect to your food brand, there are several possibilities how to start a contact online, but then give consumers an actual taste of your products:
1. Google shopping & other online shops: This solution is very clear, yet some brands tend to forget that actual online shopping is already a thing, also for food products. Don´t leave the field for one of your competitors, but make sure that it is your brand popping up when people search for it.
2. Tasting boxes: Get in touch with one of the many suppliers of tasting & newby boxes that exist in many countries. Sending out samples to an innovative and curious target group can turn anyone in a loyal brand lover. And most of the time, those subscribers are very likely to search for more online information once they receive your sample – so be prepared for that!
To sum up: Digital marketing is an extremely necessary and promising way of communicating with your target audience, and since food is such an emotional industry, really meaningful online contact to your customers might even be more important for food brands than for some other categories.
Don´t let someone else win the race just because you are not even participating!