I am a manufacturer of vanity products like stretch marks and whitening lotion, and have gone to retail by branding it. However, since we are a small brand, most bigger distribution outlets would not even want to carry us. We are in smaller retail shops though like Babyland and other niche outlets. I have tried an alternative route, selling my products on ecommerce sites like Zalora, Cudsly and Lazada. Sales are not bad but I know I can do better. While we plan to go aggressive in retail outlets this year, I really think social media and ecommerce is the way to go. Any advice how to set this up? - Anonymous
                                                                                              
I agree with you that ecommerce can help you break into the market faster by generating awareness for your product and getting people to try it. Given that you are new and still small, I believe you have to be more prudent in expanding too rapidly also given that you have to consider capital expenses as you grow. Social media can also be an efficient tool especially if you do not have a massive budget for mass media. However, a word of caution in that ecommerce has yet to generate massive traction in terms of providing an organization its bread-and-butter revenue. At the same time, social media can help you generate awareness and trial, but unless executed well, can also be more expensive versus other traditional media like out-of-home or print advertising.
 
Here are some of my watch-outs as your embark on your digital marketing journey:
 
1.      The strategy of going with larger ecommerce sites like Zalora, Cudsly and Lazada to introduce your product is sound. You do not have to spend a lot of money in creating your own website, and you can use sites like them to generate traction and test your market in terms of acceptance and interest of your product. They are an excellent entry point where you can test packaging, price points, and different segment acceptability. However, as you grow and learn from them, I suggest you start already having your own ecommerce site so you can build your own store and eventually, own the database of customers and can directly communicate with them, and provide you more flexibility with customer interface. I am not saying ditch your presence in ecommerce sites mentioned above. By all means continue selling through them until you generate enough traction, and then you can analyze and move from there.
 
2.      Social media is an excellent tool to drive awareness and traffic to online retail sales. Facebook for example, can be a good way to target very specific market segments for your product. You can target certain age groups, and especially your case where your potential customers are new mothers, you can target those who just liked or visited a baby shop or bought a baby brand. Instagram for example, is another good option, as you can get online influencers like new moms and up-and-coming bloggers to post pictures about them using your product. It is highly possible that it could generate good levels of awareness and have people look for your product instead. However, do not analyze digital in a vacuum, as I still believe out-of-home advertising like billboards and directional signages, and point of sale marketing in retail, can also work equally well with digital. Analyze and test your marketing executions until you arrive at an optimum level of response.
 
3.      Following through on my second point, use online influencers to help you with your digital marketing efforts. It will be very hard to rely just on social media to drive traffic to your website or to the store. Bloggers and celebrities will become part of your marketing mix as you need to borrow their equity in building up your brand. Start with two or three that you can establish good relations with and grow together. Provide them free products so they can endorse you, but do make sure they really use your product before they endorse it online. The online public can spot what is a real honest-to-goodness post and one that is “marketing”.
 
Hope this helps in giving you a better grasp of how to dive into the digital marketing space. You are already doing it. Learn from your experience and use data and metrics to calibrate and pivot from there. You will get it in due time. Good luck.
The Philippine’s foremost digital marketing guru, Donald Lim is also the Chief Digital Strategist of Mansmith and Fielder’s Inc., the only advocacy-based training and consulting firm focusing on marketing, sales, strategy and innovation. For details, please email info@mansmith.netor call 584-5858.