In the wake of the e-commerce boom spurred by the global pandemic, the online retail landscape is now more fragmented than ever.
With marketplaces serving as “digital malls”, shopping inspiration coming from social media content and curated experiences in high demand, brands are trying to succeed on several fronts at once.
Unlike the early years of e-commerce, today’s environment requires diversification across an appropriate variety of channels to strengthen visibility; brands must be active where their target consumers are shopping.
Developing and refining strategies within the following five action areas can help secure and fortify positioning on the digital shelf:
- Connect products to more channels
- Market at the right time
- Sell wherever consumers shop
- Optimise every channel
- Fulfil customer expectations
To connect to target audiences, direct-to-consumer (D2C) sales through web stores and third-party marketplaces are becoming increasingly common.
Beyond the potential for higher sales, D2C channels allow brands to diversify and increase resiliency in the face of economic downtimes. Additional benefits include:
- Larger margins that can come with the elimination of intermediary parties.
- More customer data from direct interaction with consumers.
- Increased flexibility in the presentation of a broader product assortment, pricing, branding and more.
- Expanded reach to new markets and geographies through marketplaces, which now make up more than 67 per cent of global e-commerce sales.
If selling directly from a web store, invest in marketing to boost traffic only after the web store is integrated completely into backend operations.
Third-party marketplaces provide a great way to reach a high volume of new consumers, but careful thought is required to select the right marketplaces based on target customer segments and operational requirements. Once optimal sites for expansion are identified, every successful marketplace venture involves three clear phases:
- Launching successfully, which requires product data that meet marketplace formats and the operational infrastructure to meet marketplace service level agreements (SLAs).
- Building a winning strategy through product catalogue selection, pricing, inventory management and great customer service.
- Defending a winning position by optimising product content and advertising to maintain visibility.
Start with a plan during each phase and continuously evaluate and modify plans, as needed, to achieve – and sustain – winning results.
The online shopping experience has become noisy for most consumers. To break through and capture their attention, brands and retailers must be intentional in their strategies, targeting the right customers at the right times.
A first step to successfully marketing products on advertising and shopping channels is often clean, descriptive product data. Product feed management solutions can help optimise, test and deliver this data.
On marketplaces and leading retail sites, retail media advertising options can boost product visibility and revenue. Although this advertising is pay-to-play, it also aids in driving easier and faster conversions right within the shopping experience and can target shoppers based on intent.
Social advertising typically costs less and can provide access to specific audience segments who have shown interest in particular products. To increase conversion, create an approach that shortens the buyer’s journey by making ads shoppable and/or look for channels that offer buy buttons for more direct sales.
“Big win” sales stories are fun to hear, but too often, it’s the easy sales that are lost to competitors. To tighten up focus, concentrate on:
- Providing high-quality product information and content that leverages automation and pulls from a single source to ensure consistency across channels.
- Pricing in a way that responds to price-matching dynamics and synchronises promotions across channels.
- Managing and communicating inventory levels that prepare and set expectations with customers ahead of time and recover sales that otherwise would’ve been lost.
In the current fast-paced world of e-commerce, information is currency. Every detail matters and small changes can often generate a big impact.
With a direct sales strategy, important metrics include sales performance and operational metrics, such as shipping times. Managing advertising campaigns for optimal return on ad spend is also important.
For brands that sell through retail channel partners, there are key metrics to monitor that impact both visibility and conversion. Working cooperatively with retailers, brands can emphasise the following priorities to generate mutual benefits:
- Remedy critical out-of-stock inventory, increase the number of listed SKUs and monitor third-party sellers to curate ideal assortment and availability.
- Watch for pricing mistakes, understand price matching dynamics and synchronise promotions across channels.
- Test how different keywords in titles and descriptions affect search position, keeping an eye out for competitors.
- Ensure product pages have the most up-to-date assets and plan corrective action when bad reviews or low averages do occur.
By continually monitoring, testing and modifying content and e-commerce strategies, brands can optimise both sales and reputation.
When selling across multiple channels, understanding and meeting SLAs is a crucial piece of each channel partnership. Winning at fulfilment is mostly about maintaining standardisation and scalability.
Third-party logistics (3PL) partners can address the challenges that come with large variations in increased order volumes. Marketplace fulfilment options offer convenience, compliance and greater conversion rates – at a price, and, for some, the potential risk of overreliance on a single network. Investing in the right warehouse management systems and e-commerce software can help efficiently manage online orders (regardless of shipping strategy) through warehouse integrations and support for third-party shipping solutions.
Bringing it all together
With clearly defined goals and priorities, brands can tackle the many challenges of the fragmented e-commerce landscape to reach new consumers and achieve success. Automation remains a key factor in balancing the demands of any multichannel approach. As a complete multichannel commerce solution, ChannelAdvisor automates time-intensive activities and transforms data to meet the unique requirements of every sales channel. Our cloud-based e-commerce platform enables brands and retailers to connect, sell, market, fulfil and optimise sales across hundreds of online channels including Amazon, Catch, Ebay, Facebook, Google, Kogan, MyDeal, Walmart and more.
About the author: Adam Saunders is sales manager at ChannelAdvisor.