Think like a Manufacturer, Act like a Retailer

Ever wondered how manufacturing brands manage to influence purchase decisions and lock in lifetime customers?

In a world where people are exposed to thousands of marketing messages every day, it’s essential to distinguish your brand from the competition through inspirational digital experiences and compelling communication.

To guide you through this process, we've looked at brands who tick all the boxes, and identified common themes that impact online and in-store purchase decisions.

Here are four essential considerations.

1. Strike the perfect balance between brand and acquisition

In a cookie-less world, too much focus on acquisition can impact growth. So, to achieve sustainable returns, it’s vital to think about acquisition, brand and first party data equally. 

In recent years, a steep rise in performance marketing, coupled with budget cuts (due to the economic fallout of the pandemic) has resulted in a significant reduction in brand awareness activity. In this changing world, a performance-driven approach is limited as the demand for a product or service at any given moment is always finite. As performance marketing outputs increase, demand eventually hits a glass ceiling. Consequently, activity becomes less effective and more expensive.

To avoid falling into this trap, brands need to nurture future market demand, while simultaneously tapping into current demand.

Drive demand today, tomorrow and in future

Brand building is vital for your long-term business sustainability, as it ensures your brand is at the front of consumers' minds when purchasing. This is particularly relevant if you don’t currently offer a Direct to Consumer (D2C) offering and consumers are making purchases in a highly competitive retail store environment.

Brands typically grow over the long term by reaching broad cold audiences (rather than tight segments), standing out, and adopting a creative approach to advertising that engages with emotions.

Manufacturers can create future demand by focusing on ‘top of the funnel’ activity (and appropriate channels) that:

  1. Target large new audiences
  2. Stand out from the crowd
  3. Create strong emotional bonds
  4. Convey a strong message or USP

Leave a lasting digital impression

In the past, manufacturers didn’t have to worry about consumer expectations of the digital experience. But today’s savvy consumers no longer rely on retailer content; they expect manufacturers to directly provide the answers. That’s why it’s essential to provide consumers with a genuine digital experience.

Get it right and consumers will instantly believe in your brand. Miss the mark and you can just as easily sacrifice the credibility of your brand. 

2. Map every step of the customer journey

Customer expectations change daily. With the average retail consumer using 10 channels, the question is: how can your brand ensure every journey runs like clockwork?

One way to optimise the experience is through customer journey mapping. This provides insights into the purchase path and future engagement, allows you to target investment and removes potential barriers.

Mapping also helps to create a unified customer experience across all touchpoints. Whether your customers interact with your brand on social media, email, livechat or offline, mapping allows you to coordinate key channels and interactions. It also highlights areas of opportunity, conversion points, and ‘must win battles’ your marketing needs to address to create impact.

Clean up in the messy middle

Sometimes the path to purchase is short - skipping the research phase completely. Other times, customers spend weeks, even months evaluating and exploring. While the majority of purchases are still made offline, the media and information that inform these purchases are increasingly online, and that has made decision-making infinitely more complex.

Consumers often refer to social channels, browse manufacturers' websites, get opinions offline, consume content and search for inspiration at levels of randomness Google term the ‘messy middle’.

In this decision-making ‘limbo’, “The goal isn’t to force people to exit the loop shown in the’ mode abovel, but to provide them with the information and reassurance they need to make a decision”.

For manufacturers, this ‘messy middle’ represents a huge opportunity to provide rich content experiences, offer digital tools that aid consumer decision-making and build lasting trust in your brand.

3 ways to improve customer interactions and influence pre-purchase decision making:

  1. Use a customer journey map to understand the channels your customers use. This helps to target your content and digital experiences to specific customer needs.

  2. Inspire consumers with social content designed with them in mind. This could be anything from lookbook style content to how-to videos. There’s a huge amount of brand trust that can be earned here.

  3. Be relevant and easy to find - so you’re primed to capture early interest through search. There’s a huge demand for inspiration through search channels (Over 5.7 million terms, driving an estimated 13.5 million visits per month via organic search - Pinterest).

Brands that have made the middle ground their own


Our client, Valspar, is a paint manufacturer that helps homeowners express their unique taste and Colour With Confidence, thanks to 2.2 million accurate colour options, maximum coverage, splatter resistance and durability.

Painting a unique proposition

While Valspar has been around for over 200 years in the US, it only launched in the UK in 2015. As a challenger brand to the likes of Dulux and Crown, Valspar needed to differentiate itself from the competition, and carve out a unique proposition around its colour match services.

Inspiring millions of homeowners

Buying behaviour across the customer journey revealed that there was a huge demand for colour and room inspiration (e.g. over 1.1m searches per month) and that Valspar was perfectly positioned to enable audiences to “get the look” they desire.

As a result, we focussed on attracting audiences at the start of their journey through content creation, SEO and paid promotion of key content.

75% of web visitors now view colour and inspirational content, compared to 26% consuming product information. This results in broader, more relevant reach within the target audience, and provides helpful content that improves awareness and consideration of the brand - enabling visitors to exit the messy middle and engage with Valspar.


Ronseal’s iconic “Does exactly what it says on the tin” strapline and unrivalled high quality, wood care products set it apart from the crowd.

Simplifying DIY

As an established brand, with a history dating back to the 1950s, Ronseal’s main focus is on remaining relevant, diversifying its product range and providing support to consumers who see DIY as difficult, time consuming and unappealing.

However unlike Valspar, Ronseal customers typically look for a product, then explore the colours and finishes that meet their needs.

To reach these people, we focus on providing best-in-class product information and UX, and continually demonstrate the ease with which the product can be used. This builds consumer confidence and drives product purchase.

Giving digital content a makeover

21% of users move between content rich sections and “how to” content before ultimately converting. These pages equate to 55% of website entries and 71% of overall traffic.

Prior to the launch of new products, we evaluate what challenges they solve and how they can positively impact a user's DIY experience. Then, create a wealth of content that attracts the audience, simplifies the task and drives instore and online conversion.

3. Keep customers loyal long after purchase

Securing a single customer transaction is only the first step. Successful long-term growth depends upon repeat purchases over a sustained period and can only be achieved by building a loyal customer base that chooses your brand over the competition.

A smart way to accomplish this is by delivering regular, relevant communications on social media, your brand channels and email. Over time, this increases the customer lifetime value and builds positively engaged communities, which act as loyal referrers for new customers.

This is especially effective for brands which proactively collect first party data to create a single customer view and provide a highly personalised experience.

The diagram below shows how the initial data capture point can lead to a valuable, long term relationship through progressive profiling and continued communications, to reduce the volume of lapsing customers.

Increase your customers’ lifetime value

It’s important to see the purchase as the beginning and not the end. In fact, by focusing on the value of post-purchase engagement and community building, you can increase the lifetime value of a customer, and create an entry point for new customer purchases.

Get creative in a cookie-less world with first party data

Google research cites that brands which use first party data for key marketing functions achieve up to 2.9X revenue uplift - Think with google

People are unlikely to hand over precious first party data unless they perceive a solid enough reason for doing so. So, one of the best ways you can get someone to comply is to ensure your brand is trusted with that data. Then, provide something of value in exchange.

The golden rule is to only ask for the data you need and make it as seamless and non intrusive as possible.

Customer data can always be enhanced later with behavioural data, to really maximise the relationship with your customers.

The experience you provide, quality of content you offer and the steps you take to deepen customer engagement are all key.

Tick these boxes and your understanding of who your consumers really are will rocket.


The brands redefining customer loyalty

Lego Ideas - building on fan loyalty

Lego Ideas is a standalone website that allows Lego enthusiasts around the world to upload their unique lego designs, engage with like-minded Lego loyalists, and be involved in a two way dialogue with the Lego brand.

Why it works

The Lego ideas website is a prime example of what post-purchase engagement and community building should look like. It provides a fun, interactive space, where enthusiasts can share their creations, enter contests and even influence future Lego products. Customers love to have a say in product development, and the community gives customers this power. Fans have the chance to choose what they want to see on the shelves next. The customer-centric digital platform that is Lego insights also encourages customer loyalty, promotes engagement and increases the chances of Lego purchasers becoming lifelong customers.

Examples and data

While the website provides the digital building blocks for Lego Idea’s online community, user generated content uploaded to the websites is also repurposed across social media channels. Lego Ideas has a significant organic footprint of around half a million users across Facebook and Twitter, with content also being promoted across Lego’s official social channels.

Hubspot: - ongoing comms and collection of first party data

Hubspot has mastered the art of deploying effective content marketing to gather first party data. 

Why it works

Hubspot provides valuable content spanning multiple formats, designed for different audiences - all housed within an easy-to-use content hub. This ranges from how to guides to more in-depth offerings such as training programmes, courses and certificates. 

While using lead magnets is nothing new, the content offered by Hubspot is always valuable, always free and often solves a specific user problem. All users have to do to access this content is complete a short and sweet data capture process. The landing pages are also equally well designed and provide an overview of what consumers can expect in exchange for their data - making them more likely to convert.

4. Understand the metrics. Uncover the real insight.

Before you invest in the digital experience, it pays to know which metrics matter and how you can be sure your brand is growing.

Start on the right track

This key is to know what to measure first, then figure out how to measure it.

Above all, you need a measurement approach that delivers insights at the same speed you make decisions; data at the appropriate levels; and coverage on every channel – so you can drive growth and increase the efficiency of your marketing.

To understand and optimise performance, make sure you’re using data that is:

  • relevant
  • at the user level
  • designed for all channels and publishers that are important to you 

Aligning your objectives and KPIs to the customer journey

To help identify what you should be measuring, we recommend using a combination of SMART goal setting alongside the RACE framework.

SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely, and by following these principles you’ll clearly see what you are trying to achieve.

RACE, on the other hand, is a planning framework that allows you to define your strategy in a structured way. It takes each step of the customer journey into consideration: from exploration to post-conversion engagement and breaks the journey down into four stages:

  1. Reach - activity which grows your audience and captures them during the exploration phase
  2. Act - value added content that supports the decision-making phase and encourages data capture
  3. Convert - the steps that persuade an audience to make a purchase
  4. Engage - the triggers that build a loyal customer base and encourage repeat purchases

The table below is a simplified view of how SMART goals and RACE can be used to define what you measure and provide valuable insight into performance: 

RACE goal

Marketing goal

KPI metric

Target and frequency


Increase website visits


100,000 per month within Q1

Increase non-branded web traffic

Inspiration section visibility

Get to 60% visibility by the end of 2022


Improve lead volumes

Conversion rate

Achieve 3.5% CVR per month


Reduce acquisition costs

Cost per lead

Achieve £30 CPL within Q1


Increase engagement rates

Social engagement rate

Reach 15% engagement rate on Instagram by Q3

Don’t forget brand metrics

Gauging how well known your brands are and how they are perceived by your audience is a must, especially if you don’t have direct contact with the end user.

This insight is invaluable when it comes to understanding your position in the market and striking the right balance between brand awareness and conversion activity.

You can assess brand perceptions by:

  • Undertaking brand tracker surveys to understand prompted and unprompted awareness vs competitors. You should carry this out on a quarterly basis, to measure trends and adapt accordingly.
  • Tracking social mentions to understand how often you are mentioned vs competitors.
  • Monitoring monthly online sentiment across social media to see if consumers see you in a positive, negative or neutral light.
  • Measuring the volume of branded search terms that result in people visiting your website. Higher numbers suggest greater brand awareness.

In summary

The bottom line is that manufacturers need the right level of brand awareness and the right strategy for their content, across the purchasing cycle.

While manufacturers have historically ignored the “messy middle ground”, there is ample opportunity to influence the decision-making process.

Manufacturers looking to exploit this need to first find out what to focus on and build slowly, concentrating on the overall lifetime value of their brand.

Ultimately, manufacturers can shape the purchasing process and enjoy more success in-store by mirroring the methods of retailers.

However the critical take-out is this: you don’t have to ace every single point to achieve brand success. The key is to define the key areas of focus that deliver for your brand, your business and your customer journey.

Your journey begins now!

From Valspar to V&A, we’ve helped manufacturers across the UK to adapt to a changing world.

If you’d like to discover more, talk to us about a free, no-strings attached workshop. We’ll help you identify the quick wins and the areas where your budget is best spent, to meet your business goals.

We’ll also give you an overview of our model of effectiveness and help you start your own journey. 

Get in touchArtboard 1