Historically consumers have often passed over “store brand” products in favor of familiar and popular CPG brands they have cherished since childhood. However, this all changed in 2020 as many popular CPG brand products were suddenly absent from store shelves and online due to panic buying and pantry loading. And with many Americans out of work, shoppers switched to private label products for their lower prices.
In fact, according to a McKinsey consumer survey, nearly 40% of U.S. shoppers tried new products or brands during the COVID-19 outbreak, and nearly 20% reported buying more private label products. This has created a window of opportunity for retailers to develop their private label strategies to retain customers who switched during the pandemic, acquire new ones and build loyalty.
If you really want to take your private label brands to the next level, you must embrace empathetic marketing in all that you do. This is especially true when it comes to creating a meaningful digital presence that builds relationships and drive sales. Given the significant (and likely lasting) increases in ecommerce, you can no longer rely on shelf placement and pricing strategies alone to get private label products into shopping carts.
Empathetic Marketing: Getting Closer to Your Audience
Empathy is the ability to recognize, understand and share the thoughts and feelings of another person. In marketing, empathy is a critical investment, particularly for private label brands that may be developing a robust brand strategy and content plan for the very first time.
Empathetic marketing becomes even more important when you must rely on your product listing pages’ content and their accessibility and visibility, vs. store interactions. But before building compelling and emphatic content, private label brands should do some basic groundwork.
The first step is defining the target audience. As McKinsey points out, many private label brands have primarily existed to fulfill retailer pricing strategies to achieve greater margins – not to support a key audience or the needs of a consumer segment. Given this, many private label brands lack a clear focus of whom their brand will serve and why its products are needed. But by clearly understanding and defining the target audience, marketers can identify a north star to guide future decisions regarding online content, product listing pages and optimizing for visibility and findability among members of your audience.
To further define the target audience, you need to build audience personas. This allows you to walk in the shoes of your potential customers and know exactly what they want and how they want it. Most importantly, this enables private labels to provide audiences and prospects with more valuable content grounded in an in-depth understanding of their wants and needs.
You can do this by analyzing the questions they ask relative to a product or category, as well as the problems they’re trying to solve. Content should ladder up to these questions and demonstrate how a brand or product provides a solution. Those questions can be quickly identified by checking Google’s “People Also Ask” on SERPS or by leveraging the robust keyword research sections of online marketing tools such as SEMRush and Ahrefs.
Empathetic Marketing and Content Creation
Once you have a sound understanding of your customer and a compelling solution for their needs or challenges, you can create content that builds deep, genuine relationships between them and your private label brand.
As you build out online content for product listings and your webstore, you should prioritize empathetic content written with the shopper in mind, written from their perspective and responsive to their daily issues. For example, if they’re a bargain hunter supporting a large family, content should showcase cost savings as well as any promotions or discounts. It is also important to organize content based on the consumers’ informational needs, giving them a seamless journey without distraction or backtracking. Better connections can be fostered by ditching product jargon, instead using the words they use when searching for and discussing your product.
From a search marketing and content visibility perspective, content should also demonstrate expertise, be authoritative and trustworthy to adhere to Google’s E-A-T guidelines and be considered a high-quality page. While E-A-T is not a direct ranking factor, it’s important to improve the perceived trustworthiness of your website and content. Not only will it help improve SEO, but it can also help enhance the user experience, giving audiences greater confidence your brand and website can be trusted.
The Future of Private Label Brands
Only time will tell if consumers will stick with private label brands or return to their pre-pandemic product loyalty, now that many manufacturers have caught up with demand. Regardless of the pandemic, private label brands looking to shed the “store brand” reputation and image need to invest in empathetic marketing.
Jennifer Kenyon is a Partner and Director, Organic Search at Catalyst