Your new product launch plan (part 1)

Currencies Direct July 29th 2016 - 8 minute read

You’ve had a great idea for a new product. It might be an extension of your existing product range or a totally new venture. It might be a unique private label offering – or you may be adding to an already competitive marketplace.

You’ve found the supplier of your product. You’ve ordered the inventory. You know when the stock will hit your (or Amazon’s) storage facility. You’ve sorted the distribution, written a compelling product description, had a professional photographer take high quality images. You know the price point you need to sell at. You’ve even made provision for the currency implications if you’re sourcing overseas.

Now all you need to do is make that first sale.

Easy.

Or perhaps not, given that Amazon already offers customers a choice of over 150 million different items of a bewildering variety on Amazon Marketplace[1].

So when you launch, how do you make your product stand out among all of these? How do you make people aware that it even exists?

The art of product launching is very different now from a decade ago. The internet has brought about changes in the launch process and has levelled the playing field for companies and individual sellers in terms of reaching brand enthusiasts and potential buyers – whether through email campaigns, online ads or social media.

Yet as always, it’s the preparations you make during the pre-launch period that will ultimately determine your product’s success. This is a time for cultivating influencers, bloggers and reviewers in a bid to create as much buzz as possible and to build up the positive reviews for the new product that will ultimately drive organic sales on Amazon and help to move the product up through the rankings.

In a short article it is impossible to address in detail all of the elements required to launch a product successfully – particularly when readers will be selling in different product areas, with different target consumers in mind and varying levels of experience in online selling. Therefore, we are picking out just a few avenues to explore, which we hope you find useful for your next launch.

Where to start? Perhaps with a very obvious reminder:
 
 

Know your customers

The absolute cornerstone of marketing, ‘knowing your customers’ is particularly important when it comes to launching a new product.

You must be absolutely clear who makes up your target market so you can focus your campaign on the people most likely to buy the new product (or influence others to buy), using the communication methods most likely to appeal to them.

This will be particularly important when deciding whether and which social media you use to drive your launch. A Harvard Business Review article summarised where the lines are drawn:

“Seniors, Boomers and GenXers still like to curl up with a magazine. Millennials are turning to Facebook and Twitter, while GenZ, or the iGeneration, is sceptical of brands and places more value on peer-to-peer reviews–even from strangers.”[2]

You must take account of these preferences when selecting the most appropriate way to communicate with them.

Use social media to drive awareness and call to action

These days, the use of social media is a given for product launches – from the glitzy big brands to more modest entrepreneurs, both B2B and B2C.

It is such a big deal, that you need to understand the many different social platforms out there today – and which will be most useful given the product type you are launching – and the audience demographic you are targeting. The ChannelAdvisor ebook ‘Bridging the E-Commerce and Social Media Gap’ [3] was a good starting point.

Here, we give a flavour of what the main platforms can offer, drawing from a variety of online sources as noted.
 

Facebook 

Facebook still dominates the social landscape both in terms of penetration and engagement (i.e. number of active users), with some 1.5 billion monthly active users worldwide in 2015. The UK contains 31 million of those users, with 60% of the population having a Facebook account. The most popular age group is 25-34 (26% of users) though Facebook has a wider age appeal than its counterparts.[4]

Facebook is considered to be an effective channel for businesses to connect with users  – and to ‘incentivise’ them to ‘like’, ‘share’ or discuss products with their peer networks.

The ability to incorporate images, build in promotions, offers and events as well as place ads or make use of other business tools from Facebook make it a good starting point for entrepreneurs launching new products.
 

Instagram

Now owned by Facebook, this is an image-based platform, so it works well for showing off new products and building brand awareness – particularly for products with visual appeal.

The ability to connect to your Facebook page and website means you can run integrated campaigns: with the recent launch of Instagram’s self-serve ad platform, you can run adverts on the platform through Facebook.
Already being used by businesses of all sizes to promote their products and services, Instagram recently announced additional tools that would help businesses to stand out, get insights and find new customers: Business Profiles, Business Insights (Analytics) and a ‘Promote’ Button (also known as an Action or Buy Button).The new tools are expected to be available in all regions by the end of 2016[5]

In terms of user numbers, Instagram has around 400 million users worldwide[6]. Instagram is one of the fastest-growing networks in the UK and had some 14 million monthly active users in the UK (as of July 2015. It has a younger user base than other platforms, with 39% of its UK users aged 16-24. It also has a slight female skew, with 64% of Instagram users being female compared to 56% of Facebook users[7].  
 

Twitter

Now overtaken by Instagram in terms of number of active users, but still with some 320 million users worldwide, Twitter remains popular – except with teenagers where it has been said to be ‘barely on the radar’ of most.[8]

Its enforced brevity (140 characters) and text focus makes it less attractive for launching products – but it can be very effective for news updates and promotions that are time-sensitive.

Twitter can be most effective when used to engage industry influencers and customers to comment on your product – and also in delivering calls to action. A number of business tools are available with Twitter, for example Website Card ads to drive traffic to your website, Promoted Tweets and Accounts and Twitter Analytics so you can see how you are doing.
  

Pinterest

Pinterest is a social photo sharing platform or self-styled ‘catalogue of ideas’ with around 100 million active users worldwide[9] and a reported three million pins a day in the UK[10]. Pinterest attracts a predominantly female audience (some reports place it at 90% female). It is particularly strong for hobbies and craft-related products; DIY and recipes are the most popular content. The visual concept makes it a good platform for displaying new products and creating a launch buzz through influencers and journalists –as well as driving conversions (provided you are targeting the Pinterest demographic). Pinterest pins apparently have a longer shelf-life than posts on other platforms.

Promoted pins (ads) are now also available and buyable pins have recently been phased in to the U.S. and are expected in the UK later this year.

Snapchat

The Snapchat messaging app has a reported 200 million[11] active users worldwide.
Snapchat has a young demographic but it is increasingly being taken up by older users, i.e. the 35+ population. [12] According to mediakix, Snapchat's daily video views have grown 400% between May 2015 and May 2016. UK-specific figures have not been found.

Part of Snapchat's appeal is creativity. It is image based, and with the use of tools like ‘Stories’ and ‘Lenses’, users can be even more creative.

The fact that Snapchat content disappears within ten seconds is a challenge for businesses looking to build product/brand awareness but the sense of urgency could work well for calls to action or reminders.
A further advantage is that Snapchat can be tapped into on a low budget.
 

Leveraging social media

The value of social media is very much in creating/expanding a following and as a vehicle for calls to action such as taking up a promotion or participating in a game/competition.

Providing any practical advice in this article is difficult without focussing on a target audience and product area; but we include a few pointers that you may wish to explore further.

Pre-launch: create a following

  • If you don’t already have one, create a Facebook page that is relevant to the niche your product addresses (eg cookery, if your product is kitchen or bakeware) and in the run up to the product launch post content daily that is perceived of value (eg recipes or top tips), with the goal of gaining ‘likes’ and ‘shares’. Intersperse this content with the occasional reference to the forthcoming/just launched product. A good rule of thumb is ten posts of pure content for each ‘promotional’ post.

 

  • Dust off your Twitter account – or set one up if necessary to begin posting tweets early in the launch process, using designated hashtags relating to, for example, the problems that your product addresses.

 

  • Share your Amazon product page with Facebook followers. If you have built up a following of Facebook fans already through the content you have been providing on your brand/product Facebook page, you already have a qualified audience, familiar with your products and your company. As such, they are more likely to ‘share’ or ‘like’ your page with friends.

The launch: drive awareness and first sales

  • Awareness already generated on social media can be further built on for launch day. You can, for example offer incentives/promotions for consumers to try the new product – and hopefully review it positively.
  • Depending on your budget, it may be worth running ads at this stage – to solicit ‘likes’ to your page and generate interest in promotions.

Post-launch: maintain momentum

  • Seek out reviews for your new product and incorporate these in your social media campaign to drive further interest – particularly if the reviews are from someone perceived as an ‘influencer’ in the field.
  • Continue to feed non-promotional content through your social media accounts to sustain interest – and keep your audience warmed up for the next campaign.

Social media is very good – but it’s not a magic wand

The ubiquity of social media makes launching a new product much easier for smaller online retailers, but it is equally important to contact potential buyers directly through email campaigns. For this, you will need a ‘subscriber’ list, which you can use to offer incentives to try your new product and, most importantly, to get those buyers to write reviews  – all without infringing Amazon’s new terms of service in this area, of course.

More about this in the next instalment!

 
[1] Amazon: Summer 2016 Trends Report, July 2016
[2] Harvard Business Review: 10 Tactics for Launching a Product Using Social Media, 16 April 2016
[3] ChannelAdvisor, Bridging the E-Commerce and Social Media Gap: What’s Now, What’s Next and What You Need to Do, 2015
[4] http://venturebeat.com/2015/11/04/facebook-passes-1-55b-monthly-active-users-and-1-01-billion-daily-active-users/
[5] WebProNews: Instagram Announces New Tools For Business, 31 May 2016
[6] http://www.statista.com/statistics/272014/global-social-networks-ranked-by-number-of-users/
[7] http://avocadosocial.com/the-latest-uk-social-media-statistics-for-2016
[8] https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/sep/23/instagram-400m-users-young-app-twitter
[9] http://www.statista.com/statistics/272014/global-social-networks-ranked-by-number-of-users/
[10] https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/jun/25/pinterest-british-users-diy-cookery-decorating
[11] http://www.statista.com/statistics/272014/global-social-networks-ranked-by-number-of-users/
[12] http://www.comscore.com/Insights/Blog/Snapchat-Breaking-into-the-Mainstream-as-it-Posts-New-Highs-Across-Age-Segments
 

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