Ecommerce as a Holiday Brand Channel: Unlikely Duo or Match Made in Heaven?

Ecommerce as a Holiday Brand Channel: Unlikely Duo or Match Made in Heaven?

Can you think of two things that go well together that shouldn’t, or are unconventional? Perhaps maple syrup and bacon, or french fries dipped in ice cream?

While you’re contemplating these odd pairings let me propose a more practical application.

Have you ever considered trying ecommerce as a brand channel?

Sure, it’s typically associated with PPC ads, SEO, and driving and optimizing conversions.

But lately, consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands have been experimenting with ecommerce as a way to build awareness, for product sampling, and to connect directly with consumers in new and unexpected ways.

With the holidays fast approaching, and yes, Valentine’s Day isn’t that far off either, let’s take a look at how CPG companies have had success using ecommerce as a branding platform for special occasions, seasonal promotions and to reach and engage with a new customer base.

1. Nescafé Sweet & Creamy Brand Launch

Can an ecommerce site be used as a destination to launch a new brand? To celebrate its 150th anniversary and target a new generation of instant coffee drinkers, Nestlé launched its Nescafé Sweet & Creamy brand online using the Shopify Plus platform.

The goal? Convince millennials that drinking Nestlé Sweet and Creamy instant coffee will make adulthood, or “adulting” to which it is now referred, suck less.

Using an ecommerce channel to target this audience and offer product sampling made sense as millennials have been “driving the recent spike in online shopping -- making 54% of their purchases online.”

By using storytelling elements on the platform like video, a working 1-800 number “adulting” helpline and social media enabled the company to “show rather than tell millennials how Nescafé might make their lives better,” says Jeff Miller at One Method, Nestlé’s agency partner. 

The results? The Nestlé team had to shut down the campaign on the first day as people were “so receptive to the Nescafé Sweet & Creamy offer [free samples combined with a tongue-in-cheek language aimed at millennials] they literally blew through our expectations,” says Miller.

The plan was to give away 21,000 samples in a year. The campaign drove 90% of that number in just a few hours after the launch. The company is also now ahead of its sales targets online, and they achieved a 70% conversion rate when the samples were available.

Because of the huge brand launch success, Nestlé plans to use Shopify partner apps (available on the app store) to increase its engagement with millennials via loyalty and subscription programs -- targeted to the thousands of customers who’ve already opted-in to receive sales promotions.

2. Oreo Customized Cookie Packaging

Want to break with tradition and sell directly to consumers while giving them control over your packaging?

That’s exactly what Mondelez did when the makers of Oreo cookies decided to test ecommerce as a way to personalize the brand experience for customers.

The company launched a special ecommerce website that enabled users to customize their packaging just in time for the Christmas holidays.

The Oreo team enlisted the help of the Shopify Plus platform and API to help sell cookies online with a safe and easy checkout experience for the first time, while enabling consumers to decorate the packaging in real-time.

The customized experience also allowed users to add a personalized message (including marriage proposals and pregnancy announcements) to a loved one or friend as a holiday or special occasion gift.

Orders for the cookies came in quickly after the launch, and the company was excited to see how the Oreo brand was enabling customers to co-create memorable life experiences at a level it had never achieved before.

Because of the fantastic response, Oreo continued to experiment with levels of customization through the holidays in 2015 and is now looking at building a digital startup culture from within its organization to disrupt its traditional ways of doing business.

3. Doritos Ketchup Roses

Canadians love ketchup chips. And nothin’ says lovin’ like a bouquet of Doritos Ketchup Roses -- a brand campaign crafted by BBDO and Pepsico to promote the limited run of the popular flavour last winter -- just in time for Valentine’s Day.

To deliver hand-crafted ketchup rose chip bouquets in select cities across Canada, Doritos created an ecommerce-powered microsite so customers could order their special deliveries for the men in their lives.

Like Nestlé, Doritos promoted the special product launch with a tongue-in-cheek video -- a throwback to the ‘70s when ketchup chips were first introduced in Canada -- which was distributed via PR and social media, and incorporated as an explainer video on the site.

The bouquets sold out within hours of the campaign going live. However, the brand also provided a DIY guide, complete with downloadable coupons, for customers to create their own ketchupy-goodness flowers.

A quirky ecommerce-based brand campaign paid off once again to raise awareness and drive in-store sales.

Hungry for Other Examples?

This is only the beginning. Expect to see more experimentation with ecommerce by CPG brands in the near future.

And there’s no time like the ghost of Christmas present. You can get ahead this holiday season by testing and mastering this emerging channel before your competitors.

Contact the Shopify Plus sales team to find out how your CPG brand can use ecommerce as a seasonal, targeted branding channel.

About the Author

Andrea Wahbe is a freelance B2B marketing strategist and corporate storyteller who writes about Canadian SMEs, marketing, and digital media trends. Follow her on Twitter.