Product Replenishment Vs. Product Discovery: Marketing Strategies Diverge In The Digital Era

Stuart Elmes


Ecommerce has grown steadily over the past twenty years. In 2000, just 1% of retail transactions had occurred online, but over the past two decades, that number has climbed to 16% of all retail sales. Every indication shows that these trends are likely to continue and accelerate over the coming years, but the massive growth of this market has wrought significant changes both in the way we shop, and the way brands need to communicate with and persuade consumers. Smart speakers, predictive AI, and improved logistics networks have created a “replenishment economy,” where shoppers can seamlessly replace staple products with predictive demand algorithms, and direct to consumer business models are offering unprecedented value and convenience in industries like beauty and male grooming. 

We are only now coming to grips with the impact that these changes will have on the marketing industry. Rather than one size fits all campaigns, brands will need to adapt to divergent shopping paradigms to influence consumers. Let’s take a look at the keys to success in adapting to a changing marketplace.

How To Market For Replenishment

Product Replenishment Vs. Product Discovery: Marketing Strategies Diverge In The Digital Era

When it comes to products with predictable demand, brands have a massive opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to delivering value and convenience to their customers. For things like dish soap, dog food, razor-blades, or vitamins, it’s easy to mine the data and determine when a consumer is likely to run out of a frequently used product. With AI and machine learning taking leaps forward, it’s becoming easier than ever to anticipate what your customers will need, and when they’ll need it. 

To convert this information into sales, brands will need to explore every way they can nudge shoppers into staying loyal. Whether that entails building the capability to offer same-day delivery, sending out personalized reminders when supplies are likely running low, customizing rewards programs, or giving discounts for shoppers who join subscription programs, you should be exploring ways to demonstrate how much you value your customers. The consumers who are keen on replenishment are likely to place a high value on convenience. So doing absolutely everything you can to make their lives easier should be your first priority. 

A key piece of demographic information to consider is that shoppers who are likely to take advantage of easy replenishment services are likely young and affluent. As a Retail Dive survey discovered, millennials are significantly more likely to use subscription and replenishment based products and services than older generational cohorts. Boomers and Gen-Xers who are reluctant to join subscription programs cite recurrent fees and expense as reasons they avoid this payment model. 

But as voice shopping penetrates the mainstream and logistics networks improve, it will no longer be necessary to subscribe to these types of programs. Most household staples will likely be available through a simple voice command, and one-hour delivery might soon be available in many major cities. When these changes occur, it will be essential for brands to maintain their status as the top-of-mind choice, as Amazon will almost certainly use voice shopping to promote its own brands and products. It will also be wise to create a DTC retail platform or subscription that offers the incentives necessary to keep your brand's customers from migrating to Amazon.

How To Market For Product Discovery

Product Replenishment Vs. Product Discovery: Marketing Strategies Diverge In The Digital Era

The short version of this is one word long: Instagram! A Facebook study released earlier this year found that 46% of those using the social media platform reported making a purchase after seeing a product on Instagram. The same study reported an “Instagram Halo Effect” that showed between 70 and 80% of those surveyed saying they found brands that used the platform “popular”, “creative”, “entertaining”, “relevant”, and “committed to building community.” The company plans to leverage its stratospheric popularity with “Instagram Checkout”, a new feature that allows users to purchase the products they see without leaving the app. Analysts are bullish on the feature’s potential to further monetize social commerce. As marketing expert James Gurd notes: “Instagram Checkout could be a game-changer for brands that rely on visual content. The checkout is native, users need only sign up once and then have a quick checkout within the app for future purchases.” 

Even if you’re not committed to Instagram, online video is definitely the newest frontier for product discovery. Forecasters at Cisco predict that by 2020, video will account for 85% of all consumer internet traffic. This means that finding a way to get your product involved with as much video content as is possible is a must. Investing in marketing with Youtube and Instagram, finding influencers who can provide effective sponsored content, and using the medium to tell your own story effectively will all be necessary for reaching prospective customers.

Another key to success will be harnessing the data-driven marketing solutions that will allow you to take advantage of “micro-moments.” These moments are instances where a customer asks their phone a question related to your product or service, things like “where’s the nearest Mexican restaurant” or “what soap is gentle on dry skin.” As voice-based searches multiply and AI-enabled assistants grow ever more popular, taking advantage of these tiny windows of time and delivering targeted and helpful content will become increasingly important. Brick and mortar stores need to ensure they’re highly visible in moments when a customer makes a “near me” search, while brands likewise have to capitalize on product information searches. People using voice search are less likely to make it down the queue to the fifth or sixth result of a search.

New Realities

product replenishment Vs Product discovery: marketing strategies diverge in the digital era

The internet is offering you the opportunity to understand your customers as never before. This opportunity comes with some risk, namely, all of your competitors have the same information at hand, and can use it to lure them away from you. Today’s customer demands a degree of personalization, customization, and convenience that is unprecedented. In order to reach them, you’ll need to abandon the uniform campaigns and strategies that worked in the past and focus on tailoring your marketing approaches to meet their needs. A necessary first step will be creating and implementing separate approaches for replenishment and product discovery. If you have any questions, we’re here to help!