Getting new products in front of online shoppers

Industry trends have shown that product development success has been fluctuating for several years, with some 76% of new FMCG launches failing to find an audience. John Maltman, CEO of E Fundamentals finds out more

Given the changes in consumer shopping habits, supermarket range reviews and the fact that NPD can carry a high price tag, it is easy to see why innovation can stagnate. However, our latest research into new product launches have shown that the problem may reach further than simply not being right for shoppers. It may be that many new products might not be getting in front of their potential consumers at all.

An important contributing factor in the success or failure of a new product launch is your eCommerce strategy. We analysed a range of major NPD launches across 18 categories and found that over £2.1 million worth of revenue was wasted due to poor online execution. The analysis showed that inaccurate information was provided for these new products and the same mistakes were being made consistently by nearly all the major brands. This resulted in many not appearing in shopper search results at all. Most shoppers today will not take the time to browse past the first 24/36 products and yet, some 71% of new products fell outside of the top 100 altogether. It seems even if the online shopper is looking for a specific product, they’ll be hard done to find it.  

Online grocery:

product findability is a fundamental feature

While only five out of seven of the key online retailers stocked the soft drink Pepsi Max Ginger, only one of these listings mentioned its ginger flavour in the product description. While the brand was technically listed well, there was little information provided about the strength of its new flavour for online shoppers who may have been interested in trialling it. What’s more, within the crowded cola category, it ranked well for searches that included the keyword ‘ginger’, but you wouldn’t have been able to find it within the top 50 product search results for the most popular cola search terms. This works well for people who are specifically looking for this flavour, but for the vast majority of shoppers who will be discovering it for the first time, they would have to trawl through over 50, higher-ranking cola results before finding such a flavour exists.  

Product ‘findability’ is fundamental in online grocery; it contributes to growing your category and increasing your online market share. The core challenge is how to leverage the online channel to build an audience for a new launch, or indeed for any product listing. As retaining customer engagement becomes more challenging, it is up to manufacturers to have total category perspective across branded and own label products to stand a chance at being discovered.

The bigger picture:  

key elements of a successful launch

As a result of our analysis, we identified the key steps to ensure your product gets in front of the right audience, at the right place, at the right time.

One of the most important elements of a successful launch begins with great timing, which requires an understanding of the wider category the brand is launching into. The retail buyer is concerned about the overall category growth and how it will impact their sales. The perfect launch doesn’t consist of gathering and acting on insights around the product alone, but insights around all of the competitor’s products within that category.

Considering growth in the time spent on mobile apps, it’s unsurprising that when launching a new product, a mobile first approach is an important element. A mobile first content marketing strategy is built around the understanding that initial engagement is likely to begin with a handheld device. As a result, mobile must be treated as a first step in the content planning – not as an afterthought. What works in-store won’t work online and what works on desktop won’t work on mobile and tablet. Social media is also a natural extension of any strategy. Driving shopper marketing and activation with key retailer partners will increase reach and awareness for your product launch. It’s the execution of a successful digital marketing campaign that will determine how much revenue your eCommerce will make, without which your products will stand alone with little visibility.

“Product ‘findability’ is fundamental in online grocery”

Business visibility and credibility are also essential to the success of a product, which is why SEO is a major part in ensuring your launch goes off without a hitch. No two online stockists run their search function in the same way. Some will make products on promotion appear first, others prioritise specific search terms used by shoppers. Brands need to work with the right suppliers and vendors to learn how each retailer optimises product visibility.

We found many instances in our research where the product name was listed incorrectly and inconsistently across different retailers. Aside from jeopardising brand credibility and loyalty, this oversight impacts whether your audience are able to easily shop your products. Similarly, delivering a strong and relevant benefit statement is key if a product is to achieve market success. Successful new products deliver on their consumer promise. In online grocery, the website acts as a virtual shelf but often the information provided is generic and technical in comparison to in-store. Credible, clear, and relevant benefit statements increase the chances of engagement and online conversion.

Making connections: 

creating conversation with the consumer

For the first time, brands do not need the middle man to have a conversation with their customers and learn what excites and repels them. Aside from using feedback as an early indicator of possible changes to your product, listening to your shopper will also provide you with ideas on how to build a customised content hub for your digital marketing. As category growth is driven by the consumer’s interests, brands need to remain receptive, nimble and quick to act, not react. In order to provide relevancy to the user's experience, it requires understanding customers' behaviour and their receptiveness across all channels.

In an increasingly online world, there is a vast difference between a “good enough” proposition and an outstanding one – and only the latter will attract and retain customers. Product success starts with compliance and optimisation which helps increase online sales. However, to get real value out of your category and increase your share, it will require you moving beyond fixing the basics and incorporating your eCommerce strategy into your wider sales and marketing plans right at the very start. Ultimately, the brands that make shopping an easy and engaging experience for their customers are the ones who will grow their company’s portfolio, vigilance and a passion to win.

Image Courtesy of Shutterstock

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