For many baby-boomers (as well as the generation that came before them), the Fuller Brush man is an iconic symbol of in-home product demonstration. More than 110 years-ago, The Fuller Brush Company introduced a unique business model of door-to-door direct product sales; a model that utilized a skilled sales force to demonstrate the company’s specialized brushes and beauty and grooming products in people’s homes. This approach to product sales was so successful that it created the need for the company to reportedly build the world’s largest factory at the time just to keep up with demand.
Out of the management ranks at Fuller Brush came Frank Stanley, who later went on to found the Stanley Home Products company in the early 1930’s, where he introduced a novel product sales model known as the “Party Plan.” Most all of us today know the “Party Plan” model, which features hosted product demonstration parties in people’s homes. Dozens of companies over the years have successfully grown their businesses via this form of direct sales – companies like Tupperware, Mary Kay, Avon, Pampered Chef, and more.
The New Reality of Retail
Today, the internet has brought products and services from around the world into our homes – all available to be delivered to us in a day or less with just a few keystrokes and clicks of a mouse. Retailers and consumer brands alike are frantically trying to adapt to this new reality and the present-day digital marketplace where purchase occasions are being done more frequently online versus in-store, especially for Millennials (18-34) and Gen-X’ers (35-50).
Even grocery retailers, who, due to their merchandising of perishable products have been somewhat insulated to-date from the speed of this shift, are now beginning to respond by beefing up their marketing efforts around online ordering tools and store-based pickup and delivery services to thwart alternate models of food distribution being introduced by Amazon and others. In a recent study, the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) reported over a 30% decline in average number of weekly grocery shopping trips being done by shoppers between 2005 and 2015.
Gaining Awareness & Influencing Shopper Decisions
The ramifications from this level of decline are significant for retailers and consumer packaged goods (CPG) manufacturers alike who rely on in-store and shelf-level marketing efforts to influence consumer choice and impulse purchases. With today’s proliferation of products, fragmentation of media, and fewer shopping occasions in retail stores, brand marketers are having to adjust their thinking around how they gain awareness and influence shopper decisions, especially when it comes to new product innovations.
As the breadth of products and services available to consumers online has expanded, new models for experiential trial of products have emerged. Freemium services and free product trial periods are commonplace today in the delivery of software and technology-enabled entertainment and media solutions. In our digitally-infused world, the “try before you buy” mantra has permeated the marketplace and those consumer brand marketers who find new and efficient ways to leverage a trial strategy will find themselves in a significantly stronger market position than their peers who don’t.
Historically, CPG marketers have relied on in-store demos or event-based sampling programs for the delivery of product trial experiences. But often proximity and environmental limitations restrict or dampen the effectiveness of these programs. For example, how many times have you been out at an event or in a public setting and been handed a sample for something that you normally would use at-home? While a momentary gain of product awareness might occur for the marketer during one of these occasions, for most consumers, the product experience will end there. Why? The reality is that many recipients will simply toss, or lose the sample while they’re out and before they ever try it. For others, it’s because the trial experience was far away from the point of intended usage and purchase planning, and they simply forget about it.
Compressing the Trial & Conversion Timeline
For a significant number of CPG products, the ideal trial environment is in a home setting. New product exposure and trial experiences conducted within a consumer’s home compresses the timeline between initial product exposure, optimal use occasion, and conversion decision. However, marketers have been historically challenged with finding cost-effective means for reaching consumers at-home. The sheer cost of postal delivery fees or shipping fees has sidelined most CPG marketer’s ideas around direct-to-home delivery of trial-sized products. Fragrance marketers have often relied on insertion into magazines and publications as a way around the burden of solo direct mail costs. Unfortunately, blow-in programs and other means for binding and incorporating samples in publications leave the fragrance marketer hopeful the consumer will see the sample intermixed within all the other pages and material.
Who We Are
At Exact Media, we’re helping CPG marketers overcome many of the obstacles other trial vehicles and efforts encounter. Exact Media is embracing the growth of ecommerce and the shift to product delivery at home by marrying shopper demographics and product preferences with relevant trial-sized products and offers from leading CPG manufactures. The Exact Media network is comprised of leading ecommerce and omnichannel retailers who insert our CPG client’s trial offers into their parcel shipments going out for delivery to their customer’s homes.
Just like the Fuller Brush man or the “Party Plan” approach to sales, our network delivers a compelling in-home product demonstration and trial experience for our CPG client’s products. Their trial-sized products arrive via an invited mode of delivery – their target consumer’s anticipated parcel shipment. And, similar to the way a “Party-Plan” host conveys their level of confidence and support of the products they’re presenting, our CPG clients benefit via an inferred level of endorsement from Exact Media’s retail partners who are distributing the sample and offer to their customers. As the shift to at-home shopping continues to advance, we believe we’ll be well-poised to assist our clients in understanding consumers' preferences and behaviors online and converting those insights into meaningful trial experiences and business results.
Interested in learning more about Exact Media? Contact us here.
Scott Springer is a Brand Strategy Manager with Exact Media where he advises leading North American packaged goods manufacturers and their extended marketing enterprises on shopper marketing strategies across digital and traditional media channels.