Litmus: Digital Best Practices for Branded Manufacturers


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Digital Best Practices for Branded Manufacturers: Taking the Spin Out of the Purchase Decision

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Litmus: Digital Best Practices for Branded Manufacturers

  1. 1. LITMUS Digital Best Practices for Branded Manufacturers Taking the Spin Out of the Purchase Decision Branded manufacturers of consumer durable goods sold through indirect sales channels aren’t necessarily caught between a rock and a hard place—but they do have two audiences with discrete and sometimes competing needs: their channel partners and the end consumer. And the end consumer is closer than ever, thanks to the web. Our audit of 41 branded manufacturers’ web sites revealed that the home and garden and technology segments by and large aren’t prepared for such consumer intimacy, and haven’t begun to tap the web’s full potential to be a decision support tool for their often big ticket—hence high consideration products. Too many branded manufacturers merely duplicate information available at the retail channel—warranties, product specs—when they could be offering in-depth information gained through their extensive product R&D, and offering it in an engagingly interactive manner that is unique to the digital channel. If retailers invest heavily in converting the browser to a buyer and specialize in the later stages of the customer journey, branded manufacturers can likewise specialize in converting the social web’s new crop of digital DIYers into pre-shopping brand loyalists. Resource’s The Consumer Spin CycleSM tool maps the customer journey— and corresponding information needs at each juncture—and highlights the potential for consumer indecision in the face of loads of information thrown together like unsorted laundry. Applying our six best practices to branded manufacturers’ web site design will help build stronger relationships with resellers, channel partners and consumers, while also fueling innovation; building brand preference in a category where commoditization and in-store competition always threaten; and ultimately, winning the sale. Content Disintermediation and The New Social Web Dynamics During the era of mass marketing, manufacturers received consumer feedback second-hand through the retail channel or in a one-way method, like a letter. Consumers, for their part, gathered product information in stores or advertising, or through a friend or relative. The web has moved many principally B2B businesses into B2C marketing, merely by disintermediation—taking out the “middle man.” For branded manufacturers online, most of whom are not e-commerce (and therefore do not eliminate the retailer), it is information—aka “content”—that can skip a few ©2009 Resource Interactive. All rights reserved.
  2. 2. Methodology Armed with insights gathered from 10 years of client-related usability and concept tests in supply chain steps and go straight from manufacturer to buyer. With this newly this sector, we also completed: forged consumer communication comes new challenges, though, balancing new O A secondary literature review B2C priorities with those of their channel partner relationships requires coordination O Web site audits of everything from messaging to store location-based real-time inventory. O Consumer interviews The web site audits of the Other challenges—and opportunities—stem from a mass audience that has gone complete consumer experience more ‘niche’ in its online searches, tastes and brand preferences. Finally, the shifting of 41 branded manufacturers’ of trust from brands to networks of friends, consumers and other experts poses sites were in the home and garden (plumbing fixtures, unique challenges even to the most seasoned B2C marketer. A 2006 Edelman cabinets, large appliances, Study revealed that trust in a “person like me” rose from 20% in 2003 to 68% grills, lawnmowers and in 2006—an increase of more than 300 percent. Also, 71% of online shoppers countertops) and technology read reviews, making this the most widely read consumer-generated content (consumer electronics and personal computers) segments. (Forrester). Consumers increasingly trust other consumers as the new truth tellers Unlike traditional usability and taste makers, which puts an even higher premium on the content that branded studies, our multidisciplinary manufacturers are providing, the way they provide it, and the way they listen to team of designers, developers what consumers are providing them. and strategists were tasked with interacting with every aspect of the site. In this way, they sought to uncover all available features— For Manufacturers’ Brands, even those potentially hidden the Next Best Thing to Six Sigma by poor navigation. An audit questionnaire was Our audit revealed an overall lack of digital savvy, and the poorest performers were developed to guide each auditor, still guilty of audience-indifferent, static “brochureware.” We believe that many (if who spent at least four hours per not most) manufacturers view the web as tactical—not strategic and differentiating. site, grading its ability to address We also believe that most manufacturing sites lack resources because of manage- a number of critical functions. ment’s fear of channel conflict or their lack of understanding of what proper web Auditors sought to answer questions such as: usage can offer. O What is the first impression the manufacturer’s web site To improve the consumer experience of branded manufacturers’ sites, we identified provides of its brand? six best practices—a kind of six sigma for the category. O Does the site clearly and consistently communicate 1. Establish brand position what is unique and give the 2. Empower end consumers consumer reason to believe throughout the experience? 3. Elicit conversation O Does the customer leave 4. Educate feeling empowered with 5. Enable purchase information or tools to boldly choose the manufacturer’s 6. Elevate promotion products in the face of alternatives? O Are there mechanisms for communication and dialog between consumers and manufacturers? O Can the consumer now find where and how to purchase the products? ©2009 Resource Interactive. All rights reserved.
  3. 3. How to get follow-up Gathering BRIGHT SPOTS product demographic and Clear home maintenance/ On average, manufacturers page main service for psychographic scored well here: navigation products is clear consumer info Tone and nomenclature Sorting search Category is clearly results in labels are in directed consumer Easy to use consumer toward the helpful Creating store locators terms end consumer categories communities Locating Visualization— Taking BLIND SPOTS specific customizable advantage product in the products in of 3rd party On average, manufacturers physical world home research need improvement here: EVALUATION CRITERIA AND SCORES Scores based on the following numerical spread were assigned to each of the 41 sites, and then aggregated for a ‘state of the union’ of branded manufacturers’ online. We graded based on the PASSING scale: (3) Best Practices, (1) Passing, (0) Needs Improvement, (-3) Failing. Here are the results: -3 0 +1 +3 ESTABLISH BRAND POSITION I believe the site makes an emotional connection with the viewer The site makes a rational argument for participation with the brand, products and services The brand’s differentiating features are clearly communicated EMPOWER CONSUMERS After visiting the site I would feel confident about making a decision to purchase a product in this category The site takes advantage of third party information to build credibility I believe the manufacturer provides a clear reason to buy the brand versus a competitor’s EDUCATE Product and/or service content is free of unexplained jargon There is a clear hierarchy of product information Features are explained through consumer-relevant benefits I could return to the site for support post-purchase Products are organized in a way that makes them easy to compare ELICIT CONVERSATION Through the site experience I believe the manufacturer wants to hear from its consumers The manufacturer uses interactions on the site to find out more about my preferences, life, etc. The manufacturer uses the site to create a community of users or potential users If I were to have a complaint or a comment I’d know how to get it heard ENABLE PURCHASE Locating the store near me where this brand was sold was easily accomplished Locating the store near me where a specific product was sold was easily accomplished The site enabled me to visualize products in my home before making a purchase The site provided me with physical tools to take to a retail location to help make a decision ELEVATE PROMOTION The site creates brand awareness via online advertising ©2009 Resource Interactive. All rights reserved.
  4. 4. Establish Brand Position Directly communicate and demonstrate those attributes and qualities inherent to the manufacturer that make it unique in the marketplace, and provide both a rational and emotional connection with the consumer unfettered by channel constraints. Simply put: tell the brand story. Sub-Zero’s brand is all about superior food preservation and from its home page to lower-level product pages, the brand consistently brings this message home with simple stories, commanding visuals and clean and uncluttered navigation. We were surprised to find that some of the most recognizable brands we audited— particularly global consumer electronic brands—did a poor job of communicating their brand story. This is especially true of e-commerce brands, where pushing the product seemed more important than telling the brand story. ©2009 Resource Interactive. All rights reserved.
  5. 5. Empower End Consumers Develop a holistic interactive experience supportive of consumers’ need states at every step of their purchase decision process. This will strengthen the consumer’s ability to choose the manufacturer’s products and services and withstand competitive influence. Offer real shopping guides—not product brochures. Weber’s guide to buying a gas grill literally walks consumers through the exact steps they need to take when in store—like shaking a grill to gauge sturdiness. Future grillers follow the simple demonstration online and can then print the tool to take to the store. The customer gets to choose who’s best. Gutsy! While Jenn-Air® has a quiz to help consumers find a range, it doesn’t start with the basics. It asks if she wants gas, electric or dual fuel, but does not explain the reason she might choose one over the other. ©2009 Resource Interactive. All rights reserved.
  6. 6. Elicit Conversation Systematically engage in dialog with core consumers to gain key insights into their needs and desires, as well as potential competitive threats. This interaction must go beyond “registration” and demographic data collection; it must dynamically encourage consumers to share their experiences and opinions as part of a process to inform future innovation. Make sure you’re not just hosting a web site; you’re hosting your web site guests, so build your site for people, not technology. Kitchen Aid® Conversations is a place where true fans can ask about current and future products, ultimately giving them the power to effect product development. Weber Nation, a site dedicated to the Weber® grill fan base, encourages consumers to share their stories and read others’. ©2009 Resource Interactive. All rights reserved.
  7. 7. Educate Make the process of discovery intuitive to the consumer and provide information in sync with her priorities. The organization and delivery of information should accommodate the consumer’s desire to know everything about a manufacturer’s products and services. Drop the jargon, speak the consumer’s language and offer real insights into products. There are lots of buying guides and comparison tools out there. But to be truly effective, they need to build a benefits story. Whirlpool® does a good job describing their product features in terms meaningful to the consumer. Consumers can go to product pages where product demos are integrated with product information—so a user doesn’t miss them. Specs, product tours and videos are all organized in one spot—something you won’t find at the store. Whirlpool’s only misstep was the use of product numbers instead of product names. Consumers researching Whirlpool’s Duet® washer and dryer will only find GEW9250P. ©2009 Resource Interactive. All rights reserved.
  8. 8. Enable Purchase Though non-transactional, the manufacturer’s web experience is free from competitive influence and channel distortion so advocating for the consumer and directing the sale should be top priorities. Since home and garden and technology products have specific benefits, help consumers choose which ones are best for them, then direct them to a channel partner for purchase. John Deere has a great easy-to-use tool that asks about lawn size, number of trees and the terrain, and then suggests three mowers to suit the consumer’s needs. The seamless integration of the John Deere site with Authorized Dealers makes it easy to find the market price and order a product online. There is no price competition among dealers online, which elevates the brand and simplifies the consumer’s decision. ©2009 Resource Interactive. All rights reserved.
  9. 9. Elevate Promotion Maximize promotional activity through fully integrated and targeted campaigns that build awareness for your brand, communicate the relevance of the brand to the consumer, and potentially raise the consideration of the product category overall. Remember that integrated marketing isn’t just a buzzword. Don’t lose the momentum generated by promotions across channels. KraftMaid® took full advantage of an opportunity to leverage the exposure of their brand on ABC’s Extreme Makeover Home Edition. They added a home page link to the product pages featured on the television show. Most manufacturers didn’t fare well in this category, though. Even when we signed up to receive newsletters, we found many brands did not bother to respond. ©2009 Resource Interactive. All rights reserved.
  10. 10. A Standout: Merillat® This site uses intuitive navigation that supports the consumer journey for cabinetry; it starts with style and ends with support. The voice on the site is open, frank and informative. Winning the highest average score overall, Merillat’s site incorporates all six of our best practices and delivers a superior user experience. O This site looks simple and makes even complicated tasks seem easy. O It offers three levels of cabinets (good, better, best), making the product offering easy to understand. O It offers an image-based personal style quiz. The results are meaningful because a consumer can then filter images in the gallery based on the results. Visualization Tools in Action Merillat® is a great example of how visualization tools can make the user experience more beneficial. Visualization features are seamlessly integrated throughout the experience so consumers can effortlessly change cabinet finishes in a “stock” room to get an in-context look at the color, or, if they see a picture of a kitchen they like in the design gallery to view the floor plan drawing. Consumers can also use a 3-D design tool to plan their cabinet layout. These tools are highly functional and anticipate ©2009 Resource Interactive. All rights reserved.
  11. 11. consumers’ needs. And better yet, items can be saved in the idea folio without interruption—up to five items without registering. Once users register, they can save an unlimited number of items, from photos to accessories to 3-D design drawings. The Consumer Spin CycleSM Based on interviews and our experience with the consumer decision-making process in general, we developed a decision model for the consumer journey that pinpoints the unproductive, frustrating cycles of indecision that can stall the consumer’s path to purchase. When applied to the manufacturing category, this model takes into consideration: where the consumer is in the decision process, the consumer’s rational and emotional states in each phase, time spent, decision criteria, and the action outcome necessary to move along to the next step in the decision- making process. Understanding the consumer’s need states at each juncture of the multiplestep process can mean minimizing the dizzying, immobilizing effect that big ticket, infrequent and complex purchases have on consumers. CONSUMER SPIN CYCLESM The Consumer Spin CycleSM A Decision Model A Decision Model TRIGGERING CONSIDERING EXPLORING NARROWING SELECTING PURCHASING USING EVALUATING “Consumers’ Critical Question?” “Consumers’ Critical Question?” “Consumers’ Critical Question?” “Consumers’ Critical Question?” “Consumers’ Critical Question?” “Consumers’ Critical Question?” “Consumers’ Critical Question?” “Consumers’ Critical Question?” Decision Decision Decision Decision Decision Decision Decision Decision Criteria Criteria Criteria Criteria Criteria Criteria Criteria Criteria ACTION > ACTION > ACTION > ACTION > ACTION > ACTION > ACTION > Decision Decision Decision Decision Decision Decision Decision Decision Decision Decision Decision Decision Decision Decision Decision Decision Criteria Criteria Criteria Criteria Criteria Criteria Criteria Criteria Criteria Criteria Criteria Criteria Criteria Criteria Criteria Criteria EMOTIONAL STATE EMOTIONAL STATE EMOTIONAL STATE EMOTIONAL STATE EMOTIONAL STATE EMOTIONAL STATE EMOTIONAL STATE EMOTIONAL STATE ©2008 Resource Interactive. All rights reserved. Applied Learnings—Shaw Floors: Innovating a Powerful Decorating Experience Shaw asked Resource to help them build brand equity online and off. As with most branded manufacturers, Shaw had not marketed directly to consumers and relied heavily on their distributors to market their product to the end consumer. While Shaw was one of the top manufacturers of flooring in the U.S., consumers lacked brand awareness of them. Through consumer research and insights gained through our Spin CycleSM purchase model about how overwhelmed consumers can become in the floor shopping ©2009 Resource Interactive. All rights reserved.
  12. 12. process, we positioned the Shaw site as an authoritative resource for empowering consumer decisions for flooring. Leveraging extensive product imagery and search capabilities with Scene 7, Swatchbox and Endeca, Resource created innovative applications of these technologies to create new, dynamic product visualization tools, including the Shaw IDEA GALLERY / Try On A FloorSM and “Upload Your Own Room” site features. These features allow the visitor to view flooring within an actual room and customize the type, color, style and shape—and room views—with each product. Users can also search and view by flooring category, and save searches throughout the site— as well as send their “My Shaw Floors” selections to friends and family for review and commentary. Lastly, to support the retail channel, consumers can also search for local dealers by product and brand to enable purchase through their local store. “Elevating promotion” for Shaw meant creating online advertising campaigns that generated awareness and engagement with the brand. These ran at site launch, where consumers could enter to win a free rug. At the launch of the “Upload Your Own Room” tool, we featured an online advertising campaign using rich media and Pointroll banners that let consumers begin to build their own room before they reach the Shaw site. ©2009 Resource Interactive. All rights reserved.
  13. 13. Let the Pre-Shopping Begin We believe that the web connects every brand touchpoint, regardless of the industry, but that there is a tremendous opportunity for branded manufacturers to use the web both to connect with their end consumers and to support their channel partners. The great news for both parties is that the web can be used to influence the sale without being responsible for the ultimate transaction. Better digital consumer experiences begin when manufacturers adhere to basic web site brand design principles and understand their own consumers’ journey. By focusing on the six best practices (6E’s) and optimizing their unique Spin Cycle, we believe SM that branded manufacturers can vastly improve the productivity of every marketing dollar invested in online initiatives. Additional Sources Quantitative data supplied by: BIGresearch June 2006 Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey; HIRI 2006; Forbes; Forrester; JupiterResearch; New Product News; Outsell Inc.; and SVM E-Business Solutions study, 2006. About Resource Interactive Resource Interactive is one of the nation’s preeminent digital marketing agencies, helping Fortune 500 companies thrive in the evolving internet economy with award-winning digital strategy, creative and technology solutions. Known for its revolutionizing consumer insights, leading edge interactive design and technological innovation, Resource Interactive is ranked among the top ten independent interactive agencies in the nation. Unique in the industry as female-founded, owned and operated, Resource Interactive has grown over its 28-year history from its first marketing relationship with Apple to ongoing partnerships with clients such as Procter & Gamble, Hewlett- Packard, The Coca-Cola Company, Victoria’s Secret, Sherwin-Williams and L.L. Bean, among others. For more information, visit ©2009 Resource Interactive. All rights reserved.
  14. 14. Litmus Test Try our Litmus test to determine how well you are engaging with end consumers. 3 – Definitely 2 – For the most part 1 – Not at all 1. Are you fully conveying your brand identity on your site? If you hid your 3 2 1 company logo, would consumers still recognize your brand? 2. Are you empowering consumers with easy-to-use tools? 3 2 1 3. Are you using your site to actively engage in dialog with consumers and then 3 2 1 doing something with the information? 4. Do you have tools that enable product selection on the consumer’s terms? 3 2 1 5. Can consumers easily locate product and not just a dealer? 3 2 1 6. Is your online message tied to your offline message? 3 2 1 7. Are you learning more about your consumer with her every site visit? 3 2 1 TOTAL How Did You Score Over 16? You are meeting your fan’s expectations, supporting your channel partners and using the web to build brand preference. Good job! Between 11-15? Your user experience has hits and misses. Think like a consumer on every page, with every feature. 10 or less? It’s time to re-evaluate. You are missing the opportunity to strengthen relationships online. 343 North Front Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215 ph 614 621 2888 ph 800 550 5815 fx 614 621 2873 FOR MORE INFORMATION, EMAIL: ©2009 Resource Interactive. All rights reserved.