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5 ways to own e-commerce in today's reality

The landscape might be changing, but natural products brands can set a solid e-commerce foundation for present and future success.

With the brick-and-mortar retail landscape shifting during the COVID-19 pandemic, brands are going e-commerce-heavy. It's important to reevaluate your natural products brand's digital presence right now, but where to start?

Luckily we can count on Elliot Begoun of TIG to break it down into approachable, actionable steps. Begoun hosted a TIG Talk webinar with Alex Hanifin, vice president of marketing for The Good Crisp Company, during which they dove into all-things digital marketing—including five ways brands can own e-commerce right now and post-pandemic.

1. Look at data

One advantage of utilizing e-commerce is the live data that can drive strategy decisions. Hanifin, for example, suggests a simple approach; look at what people are buying through your e-commerce platform. What are the most frequently bought items? Focus on those. It's fine, perhaps even strategic, to eliminate SKUs, especially when it means putting more resources toward what is selling.

Another important point to analyze is discount data. A lot of brands are heavily promoting discounts right now, but strategically showing up on e-commerce is an investment, and it's important that it grows over time. While it might seem obvious, brands should make sure they are making money off digital platforms, and be particularly cautious about discounting products. While it could entice short-term customers, this is about building a solid digital foundation for the long haul.

2. Cross-promote with other brands

Right now is the time to be experimental, try new strategies and use e-commerce to drive discovery. One way to experiment is by partnering up with another complimentary brand that aligns with your brand's values. For example, Alpine Start, formerly co-founded by Hanifin, recently teamed up with Bobo's to cross-promote on both brand websites. Bobo's also created a Mother's Day Gift Box variety pack that included Bobo's products alongside Alpine Start's instant coffee packs.

As Hanifin mentions, online marketing is fluid—brands don't need to get much permission to try something new compared to what brick-and-mortar retail would typically require. E-commerce democratizes the natural products selling landscape, so take advantage of creative paths to get your brand's products out in the world.

3. Team up with aligned influencers

Are social media influencers worth investing in to drive product sales? According to Hanifin, yes. Strong influcer-brand relationships can be highly successful for both parties. Although influencer marketing can be pricey, word of mouth marketing is still one of the best to put resources toward. A great way for consumers to find products is through a trusted influencer.

But, it's important to vet influencers first. These relationships can easily be hit-or-miss, so brands should take the time to get to know who they could potentially hire. Consider jumping on the phone or a video call to better understand their followers, what they typically talk about and their expectations for brand partnerships. Talk to other founders, too—especially brands whose voices align with how your brand wants to portray itself in the market. Ask which influencers they've worked with and whether it was a success. Referrals can go a long way.

4. Keep it simple

With so many marketing options, strategies can easily get complicated. But, as Hanifin stresses, keep it simple. She advises viewing your brand from the consumer's point of view. If a potential customer visits a brand's website, is it easy for them to find and learn about products? Is the buying process simple? What about the brand's aesthetic—do the images, headlines and body text accurately and clearly portray the brand's vision and vibe? If not, clean up the e-commerce platforms to reflect simplicity.

Keeping it simple doesn't mean brands can't have fun, though. As mentioned earlier, now is the time to think outside the box, have fun and experiment with different marketing opportunities. Try new things and toss if they don't work. Don't take any of this marketing too seriously, because at the end of the day, as Hanifin says, it's just fun to sell food.

5. Own your authenticity

With the world rapidly shifting, consumers are looking for consistency, clarity and normalcy. What does this mean for brands? As Begoun shares, be who you are even more. If you're a serious brand, be that now. If you're a free-spirited brand, be that now. If you're science-heavy brand, be that now.

It's not the time for brands to be something they haven't been before. They should lean into what makes their brand their brand on all messaging—social media, email newsletters, blog content and beyond. Consumers appreciate the consistency and are more likely to trust a brand when it leans into authenticity.

Watch the entire TIG Talk with Elliot Begoun and Alex Hanifin.

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