Vol. 127 - NO. 39

Blog Startup CPG

SINCE 2019

3 Steps to Reach Consumers Online
Without Spending on Digital Ads

Bude Piccin is the founder of Tastermonial with a passion for high quality foods and helping those with dietary restrictions find variety. She’s a mother, polyglot, and technology aficionado. Bude has a broad experience with retail e-commerce innovation as an ex-Amazonian.

Direct-to-consumer online sales channels are an effective way for CPG companies to launch new products, learn about their customers, and earn better margins than when selling to traditional retail brick and mortar stores. The caveat here is gaining the visibility among a larger base of online offerings

In 2019, 8.6% of digital advertising was accounted for by CPG and consumer products, which amounted to more than 11 billion dollars.

Pay-to-Play Ad Culture

The great thing about digital advertising is that it can be done by almost anyone and, if done strategically, can be wildly successful. Platforms include search engines, email, social media, apps, websites, and more. Today over $100 billion is spent on digital advertising per year in the US.

Unfortunately, digital ads are a pay-to-play game. Most mediums require a fee to run your ads, and even then those channels may not display them to your desired audience. This barrier-to-entry poses a problem for startups who may not have the budget compete with larger brands who spend huge amounts of money to target the same audience.

To illustrate this, we’ve included a snapshot of a few large-scale CPG companies and the amount of money they spent on advertising alone in 2018.

Even if startups are able to allocate funds for digital ads, many media channels can be inefficient at showing the ad to your target audiences resulting in a low conversion rate and a waste of ad budget.

So, what should companies do if they aren’t able to find the money for digital ads, or don’t want to gamble their budget in ad roulette? Luckily, there are free alternatives to paid digital advertising that startups can use to grow their brand and boost sales.


Free Alternatives to Paid Digital Advertising

These options are a great way to increase the visibility of your products without digging into your budget.

  • Search Engine Optimization
    Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is the process of increasing exposure to your brand and website traffic through non-paid, or organic, web search results. It’s important to know what your target consumers are looking for online, the keywords they use, and the content they are viewing. This way, you are able to tailor your website content to this information, increase exposure to your target audience, and raise your SEO ranking (how high you appear in search results). The “Holy Grail” of SEO is Google, and Google ranking helps to find brands from other online stores.
    SEO is crucial because search engines account for the bulk of online traffic. In fact, only 2.8% of consumers interact with paid ads in the US. Here are some things to keep in mind when improving your rank on search engines:

    • Ensure titles and text are clear, concise, and relevant
    • Make content easy to find on your website.
    • Add high-quality images for your product listing and include alt and title attributes.
    • Avoid deceiving headlines, plagiarism, hidden texts, and keyword oversaturation.
    • Make sure your product listing includes customer reviews.
  • Amazon Rankings
    Startup CPG food brands typically sell their products directly to consumers on various platforms, including Amazon. The benefit of selling on Amazon is that 66% of US consumers first research the product on Amazon while 20% starts on Google. Brands that sell on Amazon likely want to rank high in Amazon search results, so how can they make this happen?

    • Keywords/relevancy: Product title and description are paramount for increasing your ranking. Titles should be fewer than 200 characters, and both titles and descriptions should be relevant and contain keywords.
    • Reviews: Both the amount and quality of reviews are important for conversion rates. It is best to have high-quality, longer reviews with many keywords. These keywords are interpreted by Amazon’s SEO to further classify the review into positive or negative.
    • Image size and quality: Sellers should use high-quality images that are at least 1,000 x 1,000 pixels so that buyers are able to use the zoom feature and view the product in detail.
    • Answered questions: Not only can these help to clarify the perception of your product, but answered questions also help to increase the rank of your product.
  • Social Media Hashtags
    Hashtags sort photos and content into groups of other posts with the same hashtags, and they can help to bring attention and interaction to your posts, for free.
    Here are some tips to keep in mind when using social media hashtags:

    • Don’t use hashtags that your content is not in line with. For example, if you are posting a picture of food, don’t use the hashtag #dogs. Using unrelated hashtags can be frustrating to viewers looking for specific content.
    • Don’t force it. Hashtags should add value to posts and shouldn’t bombard viewers.
    • Keep hashtags short, sweet, and relevant.

Tastermonial has developed a way to suggest diet-relevant hashtags in our shop based on proprietary technology that extracts and analyzes nutrition and ingredient data from images. This way, consumers with unique dietary needs are able to filter and find products that cater to their lifestyle. By adding these diet tags into our product descriptions, they can also be used as search terms and keywords.


The Bottom Line

Digital advertising is not the only way to reach your consumers. There are so many free resources that businesses can utilize to reach their target audiences across channels, including SEO, Amazon rankings, and social media hashtags. These methods can help to bring awareness and engagement to your brand, free of charge.




Reminder: Grocery is an analog business. Like the USPS. Boots on the ground. In person. You cannot Zoom in or socially distance your merchandising. Someone has to physically go to the store, go behind the employee doors, find your product, put it on the shelf and get reorders.

My question to you is: When was the last time you visited your accounts and checked on your product?

In my DISTRO 101 class I show brands an upfront behind the scenes look at how I open accounts, what buyer and distributor conversations look like, the costs involved with engaging with chains, and so much more. All of the stuff I wish someone had told me when I first started.

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