Over the last two years, COVID-19 upended life globally. One large impact was reduced demand for in-person experiences such as travel, dining, and even shopping. Consumers relied more on e-commerce, accelerating a steady, long-term trend. In research ChannelAdvisor conducted last year, 59% of consumers indicated that they were shopping online more than before the pandemic; 38% indicated it was the same. More people tried online grocery shopping and more used ‘buy online, pick up in store’ services.
As economies reopened and we learned to live with the virus, consumers flocked back to stores. However, many new online behaviors ‘stuck’ and e-commerce remained strong. Our survey results hinted at this, with 52% of respondents expecting to continue shopping more online.
As a consumer brand, how do you take advantage of these trends? Or, asked another way, how do you avoid getting run over by these trends? One key is to recognize that consumer journeys are highly diverse. According to our survey results, consumers discovered products they purchased online in a myriad of ways, including marketplaces (43%), brand or retailer sites (35%), TV or streaming ads (31%), social media (26%), Google ads (26%), marketplace or retail ads (19%), and more. In short, you need to appear in a lot of different places to maximize consumer reach throughout the buying process.
While it may seem overwhelming, here are steps to accelerate your brand on the path to e-commerce excellence:
Start with what you know
Identify your target market and the popular known channels on which they shop. Understand your unit economics and the impact on channel selection, shipping options, and advertising budgets. You may not have all the answers. And that’s okay.
Establish ‘agile e-commerce’ operations
There are hundreds of channels, including marketplaces, advertising, dropship programs, your own website and more. Consumers are searching for your products on channels with which you’re unaware. And even if you knew them all, you may not have the IT resources to integrate your backend systems and processes with each channel. Fortunately, there are multichannel commerce platforms that allow you to quickly integrate and test these channels.
Don’t upset your retail channels
Direct-to-consumer sales can provide benefits such as higher margins, more control over pricing, and valuable consumer insights. However, for many brands, most sales still come through traditional retail or distribution channels. These are your partners. Take care of them! You can do this while still pursuing your own e-commerce dreams by:
- Making it easy for consumers researching products on your website to buy from you AND find online and offline retailers that have your products in stock.
- Making your ads shoppable via dynamic links to your site and in-stock retail partners. Digital campaigns aren’t just for brand building.
Shoppable media or ‘where to buy’ solutions can help you show love to your partners by sending them high quality leads while easing the consumer path to purchase.
Stand out from the crowd
Having a website doesn’t guarantee that consumers will come and buy from you. You need to promote your brand on Google, on social media, via display, and more. And, you need to do it in a way that makes sense for your unit economics and advertising budgets. The same holds true for channels. While marketplaces and retailers can expose your products to significantly more consumers, they’re doing the same for your competition. Take advantage of retail media programs to help your products stand out, but make sure the economics work.
Look your best
In the course of a buying journey, consumers may see your brand in multiple digital ads, on marketplaces, on retailers, and on your website. Your branding and product content should be consistent across all channels. Pay attention to each channel’s unique data fields and formats; a lack of channel-specific data may impact organic visibility. It’s also important to monitor your brand on retail sites. Are your products in stock? Is pricing correct? Do product descriptions and images comply with your standards? How many reviews do your products have and what are the ratings? Where do your products show up on the digital shelf for key category or product search terms? Each of these metrics can impact both the findability of your products and the conversion rate on these sites.
Optimize your programs and iterate.
Your channel strategy is in place. You’re advertising to stand out. Partners feel loved. And, you’re monitoring key retail channels to ensure your brand shines. The final element is to aggregate performance data, keep a close eye on results, and make changes along the way. Remain agile. As we’ve seen over the past two years, e-commerce changes constantly.