How to reaffirm the online branding message

GS1 Australia offers a range of services to brands, some aimed at helping them navigate the intricacies of online retailing.

As businesses start to move away from traditional retail brick and mortar outlets towards online business models, there needs to be a smart marketing strategy to help both brands and consumers navigate through to outcomes that will meet both of their needs.

GS1 realises that it is important to support companies moving into this arena and that digital images and content are important tools in selling their products. Mark Blitenthall is GS1’s manager of service engagement and is leading the charge in terms of getting a new offering into the marketplace.

GS1 Australia, is the not-for-profit organisation responsible for administering barcodes in Australia, and has been a long-term supporter of industry with services like barcode verification, which involves brand owners submitting product barcodes for testing to ensure that their products will scan at point of sale.

“More recently we’ve been offering additional services, including imaging capabilities via GS1 photography,” said Blitenthall.

“The service also offers other things such as content creation, where we curate the information that is on a product’s packaging. We provide the brand’s information to the retailers in an electronic format so they’ve not only got the product image, but all the information that goes with that image on the product.

“Consumers can look up the product based on its description, and be presented with a range of other information about the product such as the allergens it might contain. As people become more conscious of the food they consume, they are looking for particular ingredients, so it’s important for food brands to provide this information. Consumer expectations are evolving too, so people keep expecting more information on ingredients.”

GS1 starts with the foundation of making a product traceable and sharing supply chain information using the barcode. This new service has evolved to having an image associated with the product, and supplementing the supply chain data with information that is of interest to the product’s end consumers.

“Many companies that GS1 Australia works with initially come to them to get a barcode.
“Then they’ll realise there are other things they need to do, like developing a working relationship with their trading partners,” said Blitenthall. “The retailer will recommend providing information about the product in order to facilitate its movement through the supply chain. It’s at this point that GS1 can assist brand owners to provide all of the additional information that retailers require in order to support the process of getting their product to market.

“We also proactively reach out to our members to discuss their business needs with a view to providing as much support as we can. One of the solutions we provide to them is the photography and content creation service,” said Blitenthall.

It costs about $95 per product for content creation. As a not-for-profit organisation GS1 is doing its best to make it as cost effective as possible.

“When you think about what organisations spend to launch a new product and all the R&D that goes into that product’s development, $95 per item is a small fee to ensure that the product’s on-line marketing has the same focus as the rest of the R&D effort,” said Blitenthall.

COVID-19 has also led to a push for more retailers wanting to get product online. A couple of months ago, there wasn’t as much urgency to have an online presence, according to Blitenthall. However, with COVID-19, there has been a push from the retailers to not only have a bigger presence online but to make sure that the content on their websites is 100 per cent accurate and also that they are showcasing the products the best way they can.

“The retailers are encouraging brands to enhance their online presence, but I think that brand owners are also realising that there is a benefit to be had from making sure they have got accurate content,” he said. “Everyone’s on a journey and we’re all at different stages on that journey. Many are still at the stage of trying to get the product information and images right. COVID-19 has given it a bit more momentum and we’re starting to see retailers encourage, and brand owners buying into the concept of, supplying content.”

The process of using the service is straightforward, according to Blitenthall, and GS1 will do a lot of the leg work for the brand.

“All brand owners need to do is send us their products. We image them, transcribe all the on-pack information into an electronic format, and then contact the brand owner to let them know the information is ready for review,” he said. “They just need to review the image and product information. Once it has been approved and published, it automatically gets delivered to their trading partners by GS1’s Smart Media, digital asset management platform. Smart Media allows brand owners to store, manage and share all their images and product data and has direct integration into the different retailers.”

The brand has got the ability to choose which retailer to publish their images and content to, or they can choose to make the information public, providing access to all recipients
Blitenthall thinks that COVID-19 is a game changer and that the retail landscape will probably never fully return to the way it was before the pandemic hit.

“I think it took a while for some brands to catch up to that. We’re really seeing a lot of traction now and people who may not have been used to shopping online have gotten used to it,” said Blitenthall.

ˆ“People have been talking about the shift to on-line for a long time, but I think even when COVID-19 subsides it is going to continue the momentum that the past couple of months have given it.”