Consumer data has become insights gold for CG companies, and for brands founded upon a direct-to-consumer model, losing ready access to this info can be an unwelcome adjustment when entering brick-and-mortar.
Native found itself in a similar predicament when it took the next step in its retail expansion. A DTC that got its start in 2015 selling natural deodorant, the personal care brand was picked up by Procter & Gamble in 2017 and has since grown dramatically.
When it expanded into Target in 2018, the brand knew it needed help navigating the completely different animal of selling wholesale vs. DTC, Meng Li, Native marketing VP, tells CGT. Accustomed to having mountains of data at its fingertips from selling straight to its customers, lacking access to this same level of insight from its retail partners was a shift.
“You don't have access to a lot of the consumer data,” she notes. “Retailers don't share as much, and the data that you can pull is really hard to manipulate.”
While larger companies can dedicate entire teams to the labor-intensive task of pulling insights out of raw data, Native simply wasn’t set up for that kind of work. As a result, this lack of clarity often led the brand to feel in the dark about such important details as both product and region performance.
The company partnered with Alloy in early 2019 to gain more visibility and efficiency, drawn by the platform’s intuitiveness and ease of use. One need not be a data scientist to slice and dice the data to get granular and make business decisions, Li says.
During its retail growth, the partnership has enabled Native to make better use of the Target-supplied data. For example, the brand can examine product performance at the regional level by ZIP code, and then reallocate both marketing and inventory investments to focus on specific regions as needed.
“Rather than doing kind of a general, national campaign for marketing, we're really able to use Alloy data to divert and reallocate spend to really focus on the areas where we don't have as much sales,” Li says, including isolating the regions where brand awareness is needed.
Using this strategy has resulted in both sales and velocity increases, with one small scale test with a geo-located marketing campaign experiencing double-digit sales increases.
The platform’s ease of use also enables a stronger command of the business, she says. The democratization of data accessibility means teams beyond sales and marketing can reap its benefits. Native’s operations team, for example, leverages the platform for inventory and production planning.
This usefulness during the pandemic has also been apparent as the brand manages both sales spikes from stock-up behaviors and category slowness.
“[Being] able to see those trends very quickly, in almost real time, has been really helpful to think about how we forecast for the future — [both] forecasting for sales and forecasting for inventory and production planning,” Li says.
Given the historical lack of innovation in retail data access, particularly in brick-and-mortar, having the insights that today’s technologies can provide is crucial in developing a cohesive consumer experience strategy. Too often the CG industry falls into the trap of trying to determine how to best engage with consumers based on where they’re shopping, Li says.
“I don't think consumers think that way anymore, and I don't think that their behavior reflects that,” she says, especially given the pandemic’s role in fueling the acceleration of true omnichannel experiences. “I don't think consumers think in the silos of in-store versus out of store — and there’s so many options in between.”
While consumer experiences can differ based on environment, today’s marketers and businesses should focus less on channel specificity and more on achieving consistency in every single touchpoint of the overarching consumer experience.
“You can't look and sound one way in-store and then look and sound a different way out of the store,” Li notes. “It has to really be a master brand strategy that spans multiple point of sale and sales channels to have a cohesive and consistent brand feel.”