When Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger launched Instagram in October 2010 as a free mobile app, little did they know the impact that it would have on business and their marketing activities. In less than two years Instagram amassed over 100 million active monthly users, and in September 2015 had grown to over 400 million active monthly users.
Most, if not all businesses have been caught off guard with this new wave of marketing, which has only added more pressure to the speed to market debate of new products, and here is why.
You see, when you wind the clock back 20 years or more, traditional means of launching a brand relied on Sales and Marketing working together to plan the marketing activities, present to key accounts, negotiate planogram positioning and share of space, and then engage sales teams to activate a products launch into the market, to ultimately drive consumer sales and market share. Everything was in tune and timed to the last detail with military precision, coordination and execution.
While this is still true today for the most part, lets look at what happened five years ago with the introduction of Instagram. Within a short space of time, a new wave of influencers have emerged who have huge followings and can communicate a brand to a targeted audience in a matter of minutes. These influencers are being used more and more by companies to launch brands, without the need for protracted negotiations, providing both smaller and larger businesses with the same opportunities.
When Clinique launched it’s global campaign #FaceForward in 2015, it used millennial megastars Hannah Bronfman, Margaret Zhang and Tavi Gevinson to do it. These are young 20 something women who have launched themselves through social media, each having created social media empires in excess of half a million followers. These influencers are fast becoming a quick, measurable and targeted means to raise brands awareness quickly, which can achieve thousands of likes for a product, in a matter of minutes.
And it is not just for these big brands either. Last December, Stolen Recipe ran a paid awareness campaign with Pia Muehlenbeck in Australia who has a global network in excess of 900,000 Instagram followers. In a matter of two hours her post with product in hand had over 15,000 likes.
By comparison, not much has changed with the way products get to the shelf. In contrast to influencers and their speed, sales teams are governed by traditional methods of getting product to the shelf. Largely driven by trading terms and set review periods for planograms and ranging, these processes and procedures all act in conflict with modern marketing techniques like Instagram, growing the speed to market debate.
It is well documented through various consumer research that more choice in-store is what is wanted, and this is largely driven by the consumers use of social media to inform and educate, which is lacking at the retail end for the reasons indicated before. At a time where informed consumers are demanding speed, traditional sales, supply and ranging practices could be damaging the markets ability to act more fluidly, and in alignment with modern marketing techniques.
This is not going to be a quick fix for business, but one that cannot be ignored and must be addressed as one thing is for certain. Social media and the use of it to directly communicate to consumers will only increase in the future, and all businesses need to be thinking of new ways to drive sales and in-store practices, to remain relevant.
At this point I am reminded of an article I came across in a 2012 edition of Australian Business Solutions, which talked about what every business needed to know in surviving the post Global Financial Crisis (GFC). The headline was compelling “Grow or Die” and three years on I think it is even more relevant today than it was back then. It is by far one of my most favourite quotes and it reads;
“Every business needs to take risk to grow and stay relevant. An attitude of conservatism may see business staying the course in terms of profitability in the short term, but the impact on medium to long-term growth will eventually hit hard. Businesses that fall into the trap of not investing in innovation and growth will be unlikely to recognise the need to change themselves due to inertia, but will be forced to do so by competition”
The market is moving at pace, and social media is educating consumers at a faster rate than traditional retail education programs can. In the race for sales and growth, businesses need to work closer with the Influencers, the Interrupters, and Innovators to remain relevant, and to keep pace with social media.
Craig Matthews is the MD of Stock Box, with over 30 years industry experience in retail development, specialising in independent retail programs.