Content marketing challenges for brand manufacturers & wholesalers

It is becoming a testing and increasingly important strategic issue for Brand Manufacturers and Wholesalers to have to confront not only retailers encroaching on their supply chains but as they consider B2C (i.e. going direct to consumers) as a commercial imperative they are finding many and varied retail eCommerce skill, capacity challenges and cultural shifts needed amongst their management and staff.

The biggest by far is centred on relentlessly creating content that is compelling and engaging about their brand. The storytelling required to both build and share stories and showcase their products at the same time is a new pressure point and talent search issue that can get overlooked or be poorly addressed. When it’s not being addressed the tell-tale signs can be the constant management focus on the company website features and function list rather than the reality of a critical focus on content creation being most needed and of course funded. Worse again it’s going to be hard to find what you need in a single person and if you do take that path this new process area becomes vulnerable to key person risk.

On the positive side, digital commerce is allowing manufacturers, distributors and wholesalers opportunities to better present their brand and not have it hampered by retailers who will not provide the priority and support they would prefer. This new digital commerce era has made manycost-prohibitivee retail expenses such as having to build stores and carry out traditional production and printing diminish. Creating and distributing content has been getting cheaper in the digital age but the choice of where and how to do it has got increasingly complex and multi-layered.

This whole content marketing phenomenon is best exemplified in the emergence of branded online communications built and distributed online by savvy operators to circumvent the traditional media print publications. These new online publications are about adding value to the consumer and of course still promoting product but foremost a place where stories of value and interest are told and a sale may pop up as a by-product.

By example, an increasing number of fashion and apparel retailers have opted to begin to publish free digital content so they have a place to clearly tell their value proposition and wrap more of an experience and lifestyle connection to their branded product. And importantly get feedback and build a following. These new media channels are popping up in a range of industry verticals and giving readers meaningful information and entertainment at the same time.

Further to the above The HOUZZ online homewares and furnishings site is a wonderful example of right now how value is being added to consumers with engagement on lifestyle and design but then marrying in product reviews, suppliers, pricing and links by association to shopping experiences.

And innovation is being added all the time. Some leading fashion houses may bring a runway show to their followers via online video and while online watching those viewers will be given a shopping cart experience to drive sales straight from the runway.

The device of critical preference in terms of format and delivery of these content initiatives to the consumer is via the mobile phone. Your story telling must be seamless across devices but most importantly on the mobile. Innovation must come to the fore on these devices and be able to shift the consumer quickly from editorial narrative to an image where on one click you can move them into a “buy” process. Take up of these shopping experiences may take time but it is more and more about the “quick and the dead” in this space.

Marrying these type of initiatives into an integrated approach that ties in product, knowledge, entertainment and value to the consumer across all the social media and mainstream eCommerce platforms is taxing for companies not used to the retail engagement with customers.  Add in different geography, languages and culture and the strain on talent and internal capacity that can bring and it’s then abundantly clear why your digital commerce partners need to be able to help you meet these challenges.  They need to be able to assist you with re-use of their learning and the networks to help you minimise risk.

Increasingly brands are having to sell in not only a product story but why and how they fit into the consumer’s lifestyle and this means more than ever working out who your buyers really are and building and sharing relevant content and being able to distribute it and tailor it for the multitude of channels to market available in digital commerce.

We think the big learning from all this is there will be a shrinking window as to the differences between the media challenges for manufacturers, distributors and wholesalers and the current retailer.  Importantly you will want the underpinning eCommerce platform to be one where the essential feature and function list is extensive, can extend with relative ease to supporting commercial growth in current and new markets.

From that baseline your internal capability is able to then centre its attention on the real challenge and business imperative of building and distributing great content for your market consumers.