A new year brings new opportunities… but it will also have unique challenges. We wanted to know what’s keeping brand managers up at night as they look ahead at 2018.
We asked 12 brands, both online and offline, across sectors ranging from fashion and furniture to pharma and accountancy, to share their biggest challenges with us. Here’s what they said…
1. Educating consumers
Rae Anne Campellone, Kismet Consumer Product Group
“We’re facing an epic challenge at Kismet Consumer Product Group. We were the first company to introduce hemp and marijuana wellness products for sale to mainstream retailers like CVS and Walmart, at the NACDS Total Store Expo last August. The feedback from buyers/wellness providers that attended TSE, 2017, indicated that there is still a comprehensive amount of education needed to understand and implement the cannabis category at store level. For now, we are focusing on the differentiations between hemp and marijuana, Indica and Sativa, CBD and THC, and current laws, on a state-by-state basis. The education, compliance and legality of the category will be an ongoing challenge for the American retail industry to continue to tackle.”
2. Price increases
Adam Jon, Hollywood Mirrors
“My biggest concern this year is that we are now going to have to pass on the exchange rate costs because of Brexit and the weak pound to our customers. I know many brands that import products will be in the same boat and it is always scary to have more significant than standard price increases. I also hope that the rise in prices across the board of many retailers does not result in the economy going into recession. I sell furniture, and this industry gets hit the hardest during these times, but I am remaining positive regardless.”
3. Customer acquisition
Stuart McClure, Love the Sales
“My company is a retail aggregator that focuses on the sales, so we have a lot of insight across many brands, from New Look to Gucci. One of the major issues all brands will face in 2018 is new customer acquisition amidst such competition, especially through discounted goods. Brands often limit themselves when it comes to ‘buying’ customers through channels such as Paid Search, Paid Social, affiliate etc. This is because they try and determine a payment model based on the value of that transaction, rather than understanding customer lifetime value.
“Brands need to interrogate their data to understand this metric, and then develop an investment model for their paid channels that allows them to pay much more than their competitors for new customers, whilst knowing that initial outlay will become profitable. Doing this allows them to become more intelligent with their pricing too, as they can measure the difference discounts make on sale and build that into their plan.”
4. Meeting customer expectations
Tatyana Kozhevnikova, Artefact London
“I run a bespoke tailoring business in London. The challenge that I am facing in 2018 is the fact that consumers are becoming ever more spoiled for choice. Speaking of clothing and fashion, there is too much of everything: ready-to-wear sector, online, bricks and mortar, custom-made or pre-owned. Everything is available 24/7. Customers have stopped feeling the urge to buy – they can get anything, at any time of the day at any cost. They don’t rush, their expectations are high, and as a business owner there is no room to make even the smallest mistakes today or you will instantly get a negative review.”
“What I find is that people come to me with the expectation that they will get a bespoke garment made for them in a few days at high street prices. Meeting and exceeding the ever increasing customer expectations is an ongoing challenge.”
5. Growing distribution
Nate Masterson, Maple Holistics
“In 2018 our brand is challenged with finding new ways to expand beyond our current market which is strictly e-commerce based. Part of the progression of a web store or e-commerce-based company is in expanding onto store shelves and becoming more of a name brand, household item. In order to address this, our company will be implementing a full-fledged outreach and marketing campaign designed to boost brand awareness and establish our company offline.”
6. More competition
Ricardo Ochoa, UNISON Smart
“This year, the market is welcoming more and more competitors. Internet, social media and influencers are the main disruptors. These factors allow new competitors to expand fast and relevantly. The key to staying relevant is to stay true to your brand essence, always making sure your brand or product is doing better than others to the people it serves.
“For big brands, it is difficult to stay relevant because the bureaucracy they must transit to move forward. Also, being big is a burden when competing for crafted spaces such as: local breweries or organic snacks, among others. That is why many new brands are taking, little by little, market share from big household names.”
7. Marketing to Millennials
Jacob Dayan, Community Tax
“One challenge in 2018 that will impact many brands is the difficulties of marketing to Millennials. As most marketers know, Millennials grew up on the internet and are used to fast service, multiple companies competing for their business, and the atmosphere of being a “VIP”. The Millennial challenge this year will be to target smaller groups within the Millennial “bucket” with personalised messaging that appeals to their own interests and needs.
“It’s not enough to be cool in 2018 with blanketed brand messaging, companies have to create a sense of uniqueness through personalised micro-moments and service to convince Millennials to stay loyal to a brand. The service component is a challenge all on its own. One bad encounter and many millennials will hop right over to the competition. The challenge of marketing to Millennials is something that the entire company needs to be aware of and not just the marketing team.”
8. Customer loyalty
Bryan Leeds, Viter Energy
“Customer loyalty is a challenge because customers have so many options these days, and this forces brands to constantly spend time on innovation in order to stay ahead of their competitors at a faster and faster rate. Brands can’t just create a product and then sell it. They have to constantly be innovating their product line while simultaneously excelling at marketing. Otherwise a competitor will come in and take market share away.
“To tackle this, we want our customers to become part of our company. When we make new products we always consult with our customers first. And when we have new products to sample, we always go to our customers first in order to get their feedback. We want to involve them as much as we can every step of the way, and we hope this helps them feel as though we’re in it together.”
9. Social media marketing
Kimberly Marek, 7 Charming Sisters
“Facebook. Facebook. Facebook. Brand managers and advertisers are laser focused on what the Facebook 2018 algorithm change will do to their brand and advert strategies. Zuckerberg made his announcement but brands are left wondering, ‘How will this impact our marketing tactics?’ As an online fashion jewelry retailer with a social reach of over 1 million people, our solution is to carefully monitor and analyse our FB analytics and adjust accordingly. Page engagement is expected to be hit the hardest so we have done the following to preempt engagement drop:
- Super Value-Added Content: Interesting and cute posts likely won’t cut it anymore. Value-added content will be more important than ever.
- CTA Posting: All posts will include a CTA that is engagement-based (so not just ‘shop now’). Look for more brands saying things like ‘comment below, give this post a like’ and more.
- Posting with Less Frequency: I expect to see marketers posting less and working to get those posts exposed more. Less is expected to be more in this algorithm change.
“Above all else, we plan to remain true to our brand. That’s the biggest advice I can give really. Stay tight around your brand strategy but be prepared to adjust delivery as this change rolls out.”
10. Creating video content
Stuart Ridge, VitaMedica
“VitaMedica is a physician formulated nutraceutical company located in California. For us and other brands, one of the most challenging aspects this year will be consistently creating new and unique video content. Throughout this year, look for more and more companies to accompany videos with their outreach campaigns. Videos now appear on over 70% of search results, and according to studies, 46% of consumers are more likely to purchase a product after watching a video.
“Seeing as videos can create backlink opportunities and most videos result in a solid ‘average time on page,’ different search engines benefit from companies using video as a marketing tactic. With social videos generating 1200% more shares than text and images combined, according to WordStream, look for video sharing to be a big SEO trend in 2018.”
11. Word of mouth/referrals
Antonia Townsend, Enclosed
“At Enclosed, competition is not the issue as we are the only lingerie company that specifically targets men buying gifts for women. However, customer acquisition with a product that has no viral component is painful. And by painful, I mean expensive. While most brands (even b2b) get some lift from referrals, dudes don’t generally spend their time talking about buying their wives’ lingerie. As we have to focus on paid customer acquisition rather than referrals, another factor that contributes to the challenge of 2018 is the ever-increasing CPMs at Facebook and other social media avenues.”
As competition grows, choice widens and margins get squeezed, all brands will face challenges in 2018. However, reliable consumer intelligence can help brands make the strategic decisions to overcome them.