E-commerce, largely driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, accounted for 16.7% of supplement purchases made online in 2020, up from only 10.2% in 2019, according to Nutrition Business Journal’s 2021 Supplement Business Report.1 That growth is notable for an industry that has always relied on brick-and-mortar sales. The NBJ report further predicts that about 25% of all supplement sales will happen online by 2024.
Pandemic-boosted “panic buying” aside, we might well ask: “What are the digital platforms being used to drive engagement, community, and, of course, sales?
Platform #1: Google Ads
Google Ads can be a powerful avenue to reach new customers and generate online revenue.2
While launching a campaign may seem daunting at first, doing it the right way includes targeting very specific audiences, building keyword-friendly ads and web pages, and frequently analyzing metrics. Then, use those data (and testing) to analyze your campaigns via Google Analytics, and adjust.
But don’t fret if those visitors don’t buy your product right away. Believe it or not, while 97% of people who visit your site for the first time leave without buying anything, Google remarketing ads help you bring back people who visited your website.
According to one social media company, the average click-through rate for a Google search ad is 0.07%, while the average rate for retargeted ads is as high as 0.7%.3 Not only that, those who click through are 70% more likely to convert and become customers.
Platform #2: Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube
Instagram has proven to be an effective sales driver for brands that use the platform well.4 A few tips to grow awareness and mind-share via Instagram are:
- Post regularly.
- Use relevant hashtags. (Find them via #TagsForLikes or #SemRush.)
- Tag your images in memorable ways.
- Find a look and an aesthetic that suits your voice and brand, and stick to it.
- Encourage people to visit the links in your bio.
YouTube has shown itself to be a valuable tool for marketers.5 Up to 70% of viewers bought from a brand after they viewed its marketing content on YouTube.
If you create a YouTube channel for your business, make sure you learn about your audience via YouTube demographics. And look at your competition to see what they’re doing—and how. Use the YouTube recommendation algorithm, which determines most of the content users consume when on the platform. And use keyword-rich descriptions in natural-sounding sentences.
Also, consider YouTube advertising. Analyze your results, and adapt.
Consider what content works well on TikTok and how to connect on the platform.6 Keep in mind, however, that TikTok is all about fun and visually attractive—yet, in many cases, also pretty silly—content.
TikTok is mainly used by people between the ages of 16 and 24, so you will need to connect with them creatively if you want to achieve success on the platform.
Make use of video shorts on Google, TikTok, and Facebook.
TikTok is the standout leader in the short video space—but Google and Facebook have taken note of this and have reacted accordingly by releasing Shorts (YouTube) and Reels (Instagram/Facebook).
One of the most undeniable facts about the folks who work at Google and Facebook is that they are data junkies. They use this information to make informed decisions about where to place their bets next. Another great example of a company deeply rooted in data is Peloton. I regard Peloton as a data company that happens to market and sell stationary bicycles. They use their data to determine what class themes to offer, the music that their members most commonly listen to when taking a class, the most popular class lengths, etc.
In the case of YouTube, its original goal was to have users upload full-length video content to their platform. Part of YouTube’s ranking algorithm takes into account how long users spend consuming a publisher’s video. The longer the watch time, the higher in quality the video must be. So, why the shift towards shorter videos and the eventual creation of Shorts? Because their data told them that people have short attention spans! They want content that is quick, unique, and relevant to what they are searching for.
The same can be said about Instagram. If you remember when Instagram was first launched, it was primarily a photo-sharing service used by teenagers and young adults. In a relatively short period, it has evolved into an all-encompassing digital platform that boasts one billion monthly users and 25 million business profiles. In addition to sharing eye-catching photos, users can go live or create longer format videos (IGTV) or short clips (Reels) that are designed to be entertaining and informative. Lately, I’ve noticed that more and more Reels being uploaded initially to Instagram are now appearing in my Facebook feed. Why? Because Facebook wants to increase the amount of time you spend on its platform. What better way to do that than to present video content to its users?
Depending on the platform, if you’re able to make your posts shoppable, keep in mind that:
- Purchases over social media increased during the pandemic era by over 25%, reaching over 80 million people.
- Experts project that number will exceed over 100 million people by 2023.
Platform #3: SMS Marketing
Consumers are getting used to interacting with businesses on their mobile devices. There’s no better time than now to tap into the power of SMS (simple message service) aka “texting.”7 SMS marketing is the practice of sending out marketing messages via text.
Before COVID, more than half of U.S. retailers planned to boost their digital marketing investment in messaging and SMS. According to Hootsuite, “By June 2020, that number had increased to 56%, outranking any other area for potential investment.”
Business SMS messages fall into two broad categories: customer service (e.g., order confirmations, tracking information), and promotional (e.g., offers or discounts, remarketing, surveys).
Of note, mobile business messaging accounted for 2.7 trillion messages in 2020. Best practices include not only opt-ins but very clear opt-outs.
SMS tips include:
- Get your message down to 160 characters or less.
- Communicate deals and coupons.
- Send out alerts that keep your customers in the loop.
It’s worth keeping in mind that the average open rate of an email campaign is 20%, while the average open rate of a text is 98%. That being said, 73% of digital marketers still say email is the digital channel that produces the largest ROI.
My recommendation is to use these two channels together. Start by understanding that you can use these channels to communicate different messages that achieve the same results.
My advice to supplement brand owners is to not be a “jack of all trades” and a master of none. Start by surveying your customers and ask them what social channels they use the most and the least. You can also ask them what days and times they’re the most active, and about the kinds of content they’re interested in.
Putting myself in the shoes of a brand owner, I’d immediately think that sales, new product launches, recipes, and educational content would be at the top of the content list.
Asking these questions will give you valuable insights into what channel you should focus on first, what days/times you should be posting, the content your audience is most likely to engage with, etc.
Without these insights, you’re firing a gun in the dark while wearing a blindfold. That strategy will waste your time, money, and effort.
About the author:
Vincent Tricarico is the executive vice president of Twinlab Consolidation Corporation and NutraScience Labs (Farmingdale, NY). With over 20 years of direct-to-consumer and business-to-business experience, Tricarico is a respected executive in the dietary supplement industry and is well known for his ability to consistently build and grow successful teams that produce results. Over the years, he has been featured in numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Medium.com, Natural Products Insider, Nutritional Outlook, and WholeFoods Magazine.
- Nutrition Business Journal. 2021 Supplement Business Report.
- Graham M. “How Google’s $150 Billion Advertising Business Works.” CNBC. Published May 18, 2021.
- Saleh K. “Ad Retargeting in Numbers—Statistics and Trends.” Invesp blog. Posted April 15, 2021.
- Kim L. “How to Increase Sales and Make Money with Instagram.” Inc. Published July 6, 2016.
- Baird F et al. “The Complete Guide to YouTube Marketing in 2020.” Hootsuite Blog. Published September 9, 2020.
- Balkhi S. “How to Use TikTok to Promote Your Business.” Entrepreneur. Published October 23, 2019.
- Newberry C. “The Beginner’s Guide to SMS Marketing: Everything You Need to Know.” Hootsuite Blog. Published July 7, 2021.