Picking up where we left off last week…
You are three weeks into your D2C store sprint, and you’ve built out the back end as well as your storefront. Now to put on your marketing hat!
Week 4: Build your first funnel.
With no actual store windows or passersby, where will your first hundred customers come from? In this part, you’ll be building a road that takes consumers from internet hubs like Facebook, Google, Instagram, in-game ads, etc. to your web store. But it’s a Do-It-Yourself road.
The first thing to do is find your target group of potentially interested buyers. One way is to look for search terms on Google Adwords that are relevant to your category. The other way is to go to Facebook Ads Manager. Of late, advances in AI/ML have enabled the ad platforms themselves to figure out the relevance of your landing page and ad copy to various consumer sub-segments and serve up your ads in the most optimised manner -- open or broad-based targeting. We have found having two campaigns in parallel, one with open targeting, and another with specific targeting to your core TG to be the best to way to start campaigns and discover your 'in-market audiences.' Here is an example of target segments based on interests for female hygiene products or people looking for nutrition supplements/ gym wear that I picked out from the Facebook panel.
Next step is to setup the ad creatives. A D2C marketer has a bunch of creative assets in their tool-kit - social proof, unboxing, product demo, discounts & offers, ingredient stories, functional benefits, “the science behind”, explainer videos, and many more. Each of these creative assets can be used in various sequences and combinations that can create desire, interest and action with different consumer segments. You’ll also see where they lose interest, or want to see choices, or drop off – i.e., friction.
The classical marketing model has always been AIDA – Awareness, Interest, Desire, and Action. In traditional retail, you would use print, outdoor and TV advertising to create awareness, followed by sampling, perhaps, to provoke interest. Desire could be the result of point-of-sale advertising, while an offer or an invitation pack could invite action.
Digital funnel building is no different, the objective is to create an AIDA sequence of ad-creatives (think video first) that funnels users into making a purchase. Small experiments with varying audiences help spread awareness, and you can begin to understand what works and how. Retargeting allows you to further pursue only the interested members of your audience – those who have engaged with your ToFu content. You move them further along the AIDA journey by exposing them to MoFu creatives. You further retarget those who engage with the MoFu content with BoFu creatives. When they come to your landing page, retarget those who engage - use reminders to close the sale.
So, for example, if you are selling Ayurvedic products, you could create awareness using a fun Quiz that matches consumers based on their Doshas/ body types with the right types of diet plans personalised for them (ToFu), you could re-target users who finished more that 50% of the quiz with unboxing or social proof videos of how good your products are (MoFu) and finally, close the sale by giving consumers who engaged with the unboxing or social proof videos with an offer/ functional benefit video (BoFu).
To keep the journey going even after, do make it a point to ask for reviews, ratings, and referrals. That helps keep consumers coming back and recommending your brand to their friends. As far back as a decade ago, Dentsu suggested a cyclical AISAS model to replace the linear AIDA framework. Influenced by social media, AISAS meant that consumers would go from Awareness and Interest to Search, Action, and Share. However, the Search and Share functions would repeat themselves.
The Search and Share cycle is where reviews, ratings and referrals play a major role.
Here is an example of a full funnel in action. It’s a dog food brand that my friend’s pet absolutely loves. The Quiz engages users at the ToFu by helping consumers discover the best meal plan for their dog, the social proof ad makes consumers build trust with the brand in the MoFu, and the retargeted BoFu creative has the ingredient story and a discount offer that gives confidence to consumers to click and go to the landing page for further research and purchase.
For each of the drop-off points in the consumer journey from landing page to checkout like Add to Cart, Checkout Initiated, >30s time spent on page, page depth >2 etc. are events that are critical to set up remarketing campaigns to ensure that consumers are constantly reminded of your functional benefits, limited time offers (to encourage urgency of response), similar products, cross-sell etc. to encourage them to complete the purchase. I found this to be a great guide for remarketing. Below is an illustration of some examples of remarketing campaigns that one can run for drop-offs from cart and landing pages.
There you go, by rapid iteration of content and targeting you will have your first working D2C performance marketing funnel.
Weeks 5 & 6: Rinse and repeat.
You take the learnings from your first funnel and build a better one. And then a still better one. Next, start with the first funnel for your second product. And so on, till you’re able to find multiple entry points into your website – or landing pages - for different customer personas.
It’s fascinating, because only on the internet can you build an ornate gold door for one kind of customer, and a red acrylic one for another kind.
Struggling for inspiration for your first few campaigns? You can always go to the Facebook Ads Library, I find browsing through some of the ads of brands in and around my category always helps get those creative juices flowing.
Every armchair cricketer thinks he can play an 140K inswinging off-stump yorker delivered by Ben Stokes better than Wriddhiman Saha. So, instead of conjecture, we went out and spoke to some of the founders of the brands in our portfolio who have actually built these funnels to understand what kind of watch-outs and challenges they faced when building out their first few D2C funnels. Here are some excerpts from those “Fireside chats”. (You see what I did there!!! I know, shameless plug, but you can’t blame a guy for trying to build a brand).
“It’s true that D2C will give you lots and lots of data, so make sure you know what you’re tracking, or else you can very quickly be buried in unusable data.” Kartik and Vishy, Magic Crate (Ref: Google Analytics Setup)
“When you’re trying out different versions, make sure to note down what you were trying with what version, or you’ll end up guessing – and eliminating guesswork is why you’re testing in the first place.” Ameve, Kapiva
“Don’t forget that your early days are only about finding product-market fit. Push that hard. Don’t settle for a ‘good’ response - you should be looking for a ‘great’ one.” Siddharth, Azani
Your consumers are the key to everything – How well do you understand them? What kind of experience will they be blown away by? Or felt understood by? On what occasions would they choose your product? How will you cross-sell and up-sell to them?
The answers to these questions will emerge from the legions of first- and third-party customer data that your store has been steadily acquiring. Being intimate with the consumer is the life-blood of a D2C funnel- it informs your landing page content, your ad-creatives and also targeting choices.
Here’s an unpopular thought in 2021- there’s no substitute for good ol’ qualitative research. We have found, speaking to consumers constantly – on WhatsApp, email, Zoom, on the phone – wherever they are willing to talk to you, and give you insights into their thought process and daily life. All those conversations will enrich your first- and third-party data to really bring the funnel to life.
So there you have it – your 6-week sprint. Just remember that weeks 5 & 6 set the tone for everything you do after.
I’ve tried to capture what we’ve learned while working with our brands. We would love to know what your experiences have been? What has worked for you? What hasn’t? Do share your experiments, creative strategy, channel choices, targeting approaches, thoughts, experiences or anything else under the sun, we would love to learn and feature them in our upcoming episodes.
Thanks for reading, and good luck with your brands!
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