As content and commerce converge, the consumer path to purchase is wider and shorter than ever before – but has the marketing funnel reversed too? To address this issue, frog, the creative consultancy that is part of Capgemini Invent, held a live-streamed panel event in partnership with The Drum.
Watch the full frog panel session, above.
Important themes explored during the discussion included: how advertisers are responding to the blurring of lines between brands, promotion and commerce; ways in which social-first, direct-to-consumer competitors are keeping more traditional brands on their toes; and methods to build authenticity on social platforms while still pursuing an effective, commerce-driven approach.
Has the marketing funnel reversed as content and commerce converge?
Discussing these issues was an expert panel moderated by Norman Rosenberg, Director at frog. It featured Ksenia Barton, TikTok Creative Labs Strategist, Alicia Jitaru, Mars Petcare EU Brand Director, Mary Diamond, Client Partner at Reddit, and Audrey Madden, Creative Strategist at Huel.
Norman Rosenberg set the scene in terms of an increasingly complex marketing ecosystem in which traditional expectations of the funnel are being challenged: “Physical availability and mental awareness are now just different starting points in a funnel that has reversed. Data is inevitably driving this reversal with the convergence of unstructured declarative data, and structured intentional behavior meeting in the middle. This dynamic is also affecting creative briefs, media buying and content. And, as we can see, the medium is the store and the store is the medium. This is the change that is happening now.”
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Audrey Madden at Huel picked up on the theme with a point about how the brand’s creative approach varies across the marketing funnel, especially when it comes to the differing requirements of boosting brand awareness and direct response. She said: “And what I find so interesting is that we struggled to have those conversations in a good way. It’s a challenging thing for us to be like, ‘Okay, do we just be emotional? Do we take the risk without the data to back it?’ It’s like, ‘what, we can’t track it? What do we do?’ So that’s really fascinating.”
The “revolution” in digital commerce that was accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic was a theme addressed by Alicia Jitaru at Mars Petcare. “Brands that haven’t even thought about having a direct-to-consumer presence all of a sudden are now on DTC, including Mars brands,” she said.
Furthermore, Norman Rosenberg posed the question to the panelists around “do [we] feel that there is so much data that the algorithm is sucking creativity out of it all, and that we are so data-driven from that, we know passions and personalities and everything, that we can never make a step-change and it all becomes formulaic?”
Ksenia Barton at TikTok replied that this is instead an opportunity to shift traditional thinking, and to embrace the opportunities provided by the availability of this consumer insight: “Traditionally, heritage brands are losing loads of time and money despite studies that show when you take people out of the context you’re losing a lot of true insights. Your true insights are on Reddit, TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram, and with comments posted that’s the speed and agility of your audience talking. Just grab their insights and react.”
Tailored creative strategies
Discussion shifted to focus on the importance of brands having tailored strategies for social channels such as TikTok and Reddit, and the potential for consumers who are turning to Amazon to start their purchase journey. Ksenia Barton said: “People are going to Amazon to research, and also on TikTok it’s become like a shopping mall… where they can see what the world is doing and what is trendy, what is cool… That’s the phenomena of how TikTok makes people buy – because the community is telling you ‘this is great’. That’s discoverability.”
As Norman Rosenberg indicated, the aim here is less likely to be associated with “traditional top-funnel brand salience” and more concerned with building a platform and community.
Mary Diamond at Reddit built on this with a point about social channels playing a key role during the consideration stage of the consumer journey: “People are coming to research products and we’re seeing some great examples from brand owners such as L’Oréal in connecting with a specific community and adding value through educational tips that connect with people at the middle stage of the funnel.”
In addition, Alicia Jitaru highlighted the growing ability for brands to be able to test concepts in a live environment: “The beauty of digital channels is that in the past we were iterating on hundreds of concepts, testing them on the fly and deciding on one. Now we can actually test different concepts live and, on digital platforms, get quick responses and then decide which resonated best with consumers. That’s the beauty of this digital revolution.”
The potential for even greater levels of convergence between content and commerce was raised by TikTok’s Ksenia Barton, especially in light of the emergence of hybrid physical and digital worlds, and the Metaverse. She said: “TikTok is so active on that but if [people are] finally starting to buy digitally, I think the next step can be to buy digital items like virtual clothes to use on your social network.”
The session concluded with the key message that creative is king and that being human is of vital importance when connecting commerce with content. The panel also emphasized that the creation of experiences (especially those that deliver mutual value) is a powerful route forward, and that social commerce is here to stay – reflected in the statistic that annual global sales on these platforms has reached $492 billion.
Watch the frog panel session above.