How to build your brand in e-commerce
We recently received a question from one of our clients (brands) operating a cosmetics business.
Thank you for your eStoreCheck report, but I see that mostly my performance in e-commerce is sick. What should I start with? I know e-commerce is a growing channel right now in my category, but I still have limited resources in my organization to spend on it. Therefore, I need to be very focused with my allocation.
Firstly, this is a great situation for the brand, as e-commerce is a significant area of business growth. If everything were perfect, the brand could only defend its current situation and protect its current sales. Having a scorecard mainly in the red is a privilege, as there is an excellent chance that even simple improvements will result in substantial shipment growth. This is a great opportunity.
Do you need e-commerce at all?
It is true that there are product categories which generate a double-digit share of their revenue via e-commerce. It is also true that many categories do not have this channel on their radars, as they sell below 1%. If you are selling cosmetics, e-commerce will probably be a single-digit share of your sales. If your e-commerce scorecard is red, however, you can quickly boost your sales and gain a few percentage points of growth in total business only via e-commerce. It is worthwhile especially in the developed markets, where growth for offline retailers is tough.
ROPO. E-commerce is not only about sales – it builds your brand equity. Most of the people who search for product information visit either an e-commerce place directly (e.g. Amazon) or ask Google. Please note that even if consumers search for product information on Google, there is some 1/3 to 2/3 chance that they will be redirected to some of the retailer’s web pages. Only the third place is a brand.com type of website. To conclude, e-retailers capture at least 2/3 of the traffic that searches for product information. So if you believe you should invest in your very own website or blog, you must reckon e-commerce has reach at least twice as great. BTW, ROPO means research online, purchase offline.
So, is your brand ready to grow some sales in e-commerce and, even more importantly, enjoy brand image impact via an almost free media?
Pick the right stores.
Not all stores are created equal. Some stores are big and famous but sell little of your category. Most of the brands operating in Amazon markets would admit they must be there with a fine appearance. Most of the brands from Amazon markets also recognize that they have specialized stores that are also critical as they attract more premium consumers or have larger baskets. Assuming you have limited resources, you must make a choice and start with selected retail clients. Usually, it is an excellent idea to check your shipment data or available market share data. If this is not available for you, search for e-commerce reports, speak to your media agency, or directly store-check for your best competition and learn from them. You should also go to Google and search for brands of your category and generic keywords—watch which stores appear there. Those retailers would have an impact on your brand equity as consumers come across them on their path to purchase.
Usually, it is wise to have a mix of huge, horizontal retail brands such as Amazon, Walmart, or Tesco, complemented by specialized stores of your category. Remember the Pareto principle of 80 for 20, so pick some five stores from the beginning. In most of the markets, that will already be a substantial scale.
The real execution starts with D.
Ok, so you defined the strategic role of e-commerce. Now pick the stores. It is time to get away from your desk. Make your products available in the stores of your choice. Distribution is key. You cannot count on sales or brand impact if you have no distribution. Usually, it is not the best idea to start with listing your full portfolio at once. Be smart. Optimize distribution of the best-selling products in your line-up. Remember, e-commerce is a delivery animal, so you can also prioritize large-size packs or even create dedicated e-commerce heavyweight bundles. They will be conveniently delivered to consumer’s doors with no effort, and the consumer will stay “loyal.” On the other hand, small-value products may not sell well online in the stores where consumers shop for single items (e.g. Amazon vs. Ocado). There are some product categories that can benefit from the e-commerce channel, as it may enable broad line-up availability vs. regular stores. How many times has it happened to you that you made up your mind to buy a particular electronic gadget, but it was not available in the local electro market? E-commerce gives the comfort of broad choice even in a tiny town or a village.
Content: e-content and i-content
Congratulations. You have your product in the store listed. It looks ugly still. Now you need to pimp the content. It is not only about nice and neat packshots and informative titles. It is about leveraging digital medium potential to the maximum to drive conversion (this is how retailers would call your sales) and brand impact. Understand the content requirements (or feasibility) of your retailer partners and think about how to leverage them to the maximum. One set of pictures and text will most likely not fit them all; adapt the content; leverage text, photos, and videos; and think about how you design your regular packaging. Content is a kind of electronic version of your physical packaging. At eStoreMedia we call it e-packaging. It must not only play a marketing role that would convince the shopper to buy, but it should also leverage digital assets of the Web, and, ultimately must be searchable both in the store and on Google. E-content has many jobs to do. And one more thing— e-content people watch both on desktops and mobile, so make sure your content is as RWD as the store allows (responsive design). Do not forget to try it on any device.
Ratings&reviews is a replacement for a physical store assistant. You have no one to ask online, but ratings&reviews give you an opportunity to consult with other shoppers. The number of stars contributes to how people would see your brand and product, and, therefore, it is a part of your e-content. If you are a beginner, just know that having below four stars is bad. Usually, having too few reviews is a good problem. You should speak to some R&R (Rating & Review) agency to design a program for you that would engage shoppers to leave further reviews and ultimately push your score up. If, however, you have a lot of reviews and your product is still below four stars — dig into them. Understand why people complain; maybe it is time to upgrade the product?
The game for the more advanced.
If your distribution is excellent and content builds the brand and converts sales, you are already half way on your e-commerce mastery ladder. You can still boost your sales with mastering the following areas: maximizing the number of product reviews, optimizing price level, fighting for search position, and maximizing ROI from in-store media. If you feel overwhelmed, no worries — we work with dozens of brands, and none is perfect across all pillars. Everyone is still learning and trying to master her or his know how. When they think they have already grasped a holy grail, Amazon introduces a new set of tools. It is a journey, not an endpoint. We are here to help you navigate.
eStoreMedia is an e-store check and e-store content agency supporting brands with their e-commerce presence maximization. eStoreMedia works for Fortune 500 brands across 30 markets.