October 25, 2021
Case Study

How to Avoid the Hard Sell in Your Consumer Marketing: 3 quick B2C case studies with results


What was your reaction that last time someone was really pushy with you?

Were you excited that they were trying to push you around? Or did you resist?

Most likely, you resisted. If we respond that way naturally as consumers, why do we artificially push so hard as marketers with aggressive sales language and endless promos?

To help you attract more customers to your brand, read on for examples from consumer-packaged goods, ecommerce, and a consumer discount website.

by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute

How to Avoid the Hard Sell in Your Consumer Marketing: 3 quick B2C case studies with results

This article was originally published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.

“Most of our [web] pages are using marketing speak and they're hammering people over the head,” said Flint McGlaughlin, CEO, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS, in the following podcast excerpt:

To help you avoid the hard sell in your marketing so you can improve your company’s results, today we bring you three stories.

First, how Nestlé added a little fun and levity to the in-store experience instead of hitting customers with hard-sell discounting. Then, an ecommerce site that increased sales by being of service to customers – curating an all-in-one marketplace focused specifically on the coastal lifestyle. And finally, a consumer discount website that replaced condescension with empathy in its content.

Quick Case Study #1: Sensor-controlled singing soup pots drive 50% sales lift for Nestle’s MAGGI

Nestlé’s MAGGI soup brand created in-store, sensor-controlled singing soup pots last month that have gone viral – with 810,000 views on one of the brand’s Facebook videos alone.

Creative Sample #1: Screen capture of Facebook video of point-of-sale display for Nestlé’s MAGGI

Creative Sample #1: Screen capture of Facebook video of point-of-sale display for Nestlé’s MAGGI

Nestlé Bolivia had the ambition to create an out-of-the-box brand activation for MAGGI soups. “Times have been challenging, so we wanted to give shoppers something to laugh and smile about while helping retailers sell more of MAGGI’s products,” said Maria Fernanda Ugalde, Senior Category Marketing Manager, Nestlé.

Ugalde and her team brainstormed possibilities. “I don’t know how, but we started talking about Harry Potter, and then we had a spark of imagination,” she said. The team decided on piloting an in-store display where soup pots sing traditional Italian classics to unexpected shoppers.

A sensor-controlled mechanism lifts the lid of the pot in sync with the music to mimic the pots singing with a fire effect from lamps under the pot. The interactive brand activation displays bring the products to life on supermarket shelves, almost like a scene from “Beauty and the Beast.”

The team was able to secure a trial run with four supermarkets across Bolivia. One big plus that helped the retailers buy into the idea was direct product selling to customers without staff, since many customers were not engaging with staff in the way they used to because of the worry of catching COVID.

The team has seen at least a 50% uplift in MAGGI’s soup sales in all stores and some stores are likely to see at least 200% uplift from this campaign alone. Based on the results of this pilot, Nestlé is going to test out this style of in-store brand activation on other products in the future.

“We’ve also seen customers’ videos go viral with nearly one million views on Facebook,” Ugalde said.

“If shoppers take out their phones and share on social media, we think our goal is met. When they leave the supermarket and talk about their grocery shopping experience, we believe we’ve created something meaningful for them that day,” said Vlad Ionescu, Chief Marketing Officer, Tokinomo (Nestle’s in-store brand activation vendor). “It’s also about creating a WOW experience – we call this retailtainment. High impact and long-lasting impressions create positive brand experiences.”

Quick Case Study #2: Ecommerce brand launches online marketplace, increases value of products sold 74%

SurfStitch is an ecommerce brand that has been in business for 12 years and has served more than two million customers. To deliver on its value proposition of offering the world’s best coastal lifestyle brands on one platform, the team sough to broaden its product catalogue – increasing vendor count, product count and the number of categories on offer. 

To do so, the team realized they essentially had two customers. One was their end consumer of course, and for this group their focus was to maintain SurfStitch’s intuitive and trusted customer experience.

“We have seen an increase in customer service queries around delivery tracking due to customers now receiving multiple parcels at different times and with different carriers. To improve this experience, we introduced clear communication in packages and onsite to advise customers that their parcel may be coming from the seller directly and to double check their order confirmation emails. While we message this at the cart and again in shipment notifications, the additional messaging was effective in reducing delivery queries,” said Justin Hillberg, Managing Director, SurfStitch.

The team also needed to introduce a new back-end process for handling customer returns. There is no change to the customer experience, however SurfStitch needed a process to transfer this product back to sellers at regular intervals as opposed to adding the product back into inventory.

But a second “customer” was the vendors themselves, a group that also needed a strong user experience. The team offered a standardized vendor integration process and sought to onboard new vendors with less manually dependent workflows while adding more products from existing vendors.

They added two specialist Business Development roles to the team that were dedicated to recruiting new vendor partners. They also added dedicated resources in the Merchandise team to directly manage all marketplace vendors and focus on acquiring new desirable sellers. Not all sellers have technical resources, so SurfStitch added additional capacity to the tech team as wel lto assist with integrations and testing.

It took just 40 days to launch SurfStitch’s specially built API-fed marketplace. Unlike many marketplaces that feed directly into a store front, the custom-built integration connects directly to SurfStitch’s ERP (enterprise resource planning platform), which then seamlessly feeds the products into their ecommerce platform.

The marketplace has enabled SurfStitch to expand their product and category offerings. They can now sell over 500 brands thanks to an almost 300% increase in new vendors. Financial Year to date, SurfStitch has seen a 70% increase in products listed with a 74% lift in gross merchandise value (GMV) across all marketplace categories. Within 12 months they added almost 200 new vendors and over 10,000 new products.

“Surfstitch is the perfect example of what’s possible now for brands, retailers or even communities to build third-party marketplaces around passions, lifestyles and like-minded communities,” said Jim Stirewalt, President, Marketplacer (SurfStitch’s multi-vendor online marketplace platform).

Quick Case Study #3: Consumer discount website replaces condescension with empathy, doubles traffic

“I love the point made in the podcast about avoiding the artificial marketing language and having organic conversations instead. I would like to reflect on this point based on my personal experience,” said Elice Max, Co-owner, EMUCoupon.

Max was always passionate about helping people save money, so she started a website that helps people redeem discounts on products.

But she soon discovered that starting a business is the easy part. The real challenge was getting the word out and being louder than your competitors. “So, I did what everyone else does on the internet and that is to use the conventional marketing language,” she said.

Two years after the website started, it was using marketing lingo that was borderline condescending. For example, “Stop wasting your money on XYZ and check out this amazing new deal” or “MAKE A BUDGET.”

Creative Sample #2: Before tone on consumer discount website’s blog post

Creative Sample #2: Before tone on consumer discount website’s blog post

“We are screaming at the reader in a somewhat condescending tone. Unfortunately, this is extremely common in our industry where the content creators assume their audience is mindless,” Max said. “I learned the hard way that being patronizing towards your audience is not a great marketing strategy as my business suffered during this time.”

Eventually, she started to think from the reader’s perspective. “I wouldn’t like being called dumb for buying things at full price so perhaps I shouldn’t talk to customers this way, too. Recently, there has been a change in the way we talk to our audience and the content we put out,” she said.

Here’s an example of the copy’s tone in the website’s newer content – “Nobody can plan your finances better than you can.”

Creative Sample #3: After tone on consumer discount website’s blog post

Creative Sample #3: After tone on consumer discount website’s blog post

“There's a clear difference. The sentence ‘Nobody can plan your finances better than you can,’ is aimed at empowering the reader. I hope to make this sort of empathetic and empowering language one of the prominent features of my website,” Max said.

The website’s traffic remained around 400 to 500 readers a day for two years. In recent months, the site is attracting around 800 to 900 readers a day. “Hopefully, we can continue this momentum all the while improving the way we speak to our audience,” Max said.

The team has started a series of blogs that deal with the real financial issues people face. The business is trying to understand the financial troubles different individuals face and recommend actionable solutions. They hope to build a platform that has serious conversations around personal finance and doesn't antagonize anyone.

Related Resources

Become a Master at Creating and Optimizing High-Converting Webpages – The course is fully underwritten by MECLABS Institute, with no monetary cost to participants

The Radical Idea: Customer-first marketing prioritizes customer experience over upsells

Attract New Customers and Increase Engagement: 3 quick case studies of brands using TikTok influencer marketing, email deliverability, and emotive blog posts to get attention and drive sales

Improve Your Marketing

Join our thousands of weekly case study readers.

Enter your email below to receive MarketingSherpa news, updates, and promotions:

Note: Already a subscriber? Want to add a subscription?
Click Here to Manage Subscriptions