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Bricks or Clicks: Choosing the right channel strategy for an early growth brand.

In many conversations with founders of early stage CPG and consumer product brands, many are rethinking their sales channel strategies in light of the effects of the pandemic on the growth of their brands.

There are five pillars supporting a “one and only” brand…Awareness, relevance, value, accessibility and emotion.

In this post, I want to share my thinking about accessibility. In other words… your sales channel strategy.

Some Founders are investing in creating an online direct to consumer sales channel while simultaneously trying to grow their distribution into more retail stores. A multi-channel approach is something I don’t recommend for an early stage consumer brand. Don’t buy into the myth you’ll be leaving money on the table if your brand is not found in every channel.

Others are thinking building out a direct to consumer model is a better way to grow their early-stage brand quicker and at better margins and by-pass the competitive challenges of the retail shelf environment altogether. As compelling to growth as online retail can be, most early growth founders under-estimate the investment in time and money necessary to make an online strategy successful.

The fact remains, it takes a lot of discipline, time and money to grow and scale an early stage brand in any sales channel.

So what channel strategy would be the best choice for your emerging brand?

Most would agree, even before the pandemic, online retail has forever altered consumer’s purchasing behavior. More consumers are buying more stuff online and their dependence on the retail store is diminishing. The pandemic aside, even Whole Foods has seen declines in their foot traffic as Amazon continues to have increased influence with those consumers.

In a post Covid world, this trend shows no signs of abating.

Looking ahead, if you’re not clear on what sales channels your early-growth brand can establish itself in, look to your merchandising category.

How are consumers buying in your category? What sales channel do they prefer? Is the sales trend in that channel growing? Gain some insight on how your consumer’s shop the category. You have to be confident where ever your products are available, they’ll be the most relevant and accessible to the way your consumers are currently buying.

If your product category is simple, stable or non-consumable and easily shipped, an online direct to consumer business model might be the best go to market strategy for an early growth brand to invest in.

On the other hand, if you’re a premium food and beverage brand, being seen and available on the shelf in the right retail locations, with the gravitas and credibility it brings to your brand, brick and mortar retail might be the primary focus of your go to market strategy.

Whatever the primary sales channel consumers are buying in your product category, is where your brand needs to seen, heard and remembered.

When consumers begin their journey to purchase anything, they think category first before they think where and what brand they will purchase. Accessibility is an essential pillar in scaling your brand. Is it bricks or clicks? Establish your early growth brand in one primary sales channel before attempting to extend it to others.


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