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Featured Topics: Expert AdviceDigital CommerceCOVID-19

Ecommerce Expert John Carroll Shares How to Build Your Brand and Drive Sales on Emerging Ecommerce Platforms

Jason Fidler | June 12, 2020

Ecommerce adoption has exploded recently, with analyses forecasting a near 20% growth in U.S. ecommerce sales by the end of 2020. This growth has also correlated with the rise in new online retailers. New brands have come to prominence in prior economic crises, and it appears to be happening once again with platforms like Chewy, Drizly, and Instacart becoming name brands seemingly overnight.

John Carroll, founder of Creative Commerce Solutions and former vice president and general manager of ecommerce at The Coca-Cola Company, walks brands through emerging ecommerce platforms on the latest Digital Shelf Virtual Summit session.

Carroll shared how brand, ecommerce, and sales teams must think about the purchase funnel as more consumers turn increasingly towards digital channels in every stage of the decision-making process.

The Digitally Influenced Path to Purchase

The way consumers learn about new products and promotions has changed radically over the past decade. This change has only accelerated since the outbreak of COVID-19.

“Gone are the days of getting a circular on a Thursday, seeing a 30-second TV spot — maybe seeing a digital ad on Google,” said Carroll. It’s now all about a digitally influenced path to purchase.

New Path to Purchase Players

According to Carroll, three categories of retailers appear to be emerging as the most significant players in the new path to purchase.

1. New Retail

Platforms like GoPuff and Chewy have found incredible success in offering products in specific categories, such as beverages, snacks, and pet supplies.

2. Intermediaries

Retailers like Drizly and the Instarcart are intermediaries, which offer online ordering and delivery for local stores. Intermediaries have been a significant beneficiary of social distancing. Instacart now has a larger market share of online grocery shopping than Walmart.

3. Shoppable Inspiration

Platforms that serve targeted advertisements to consumers with a direct link to purchase, either on Amazon or through direct-to-consumer (D2C) sites. Examples include Instagram, Pinterest, and eMeals.

These sites — alongside online retail behemoths such as Amazon — are radically restructuring how brand manufacturers need to go to think about the ecommerce operations. Unfortunately, for many companies, conflict abounds on that front.

The Conflict Between Brand, Sales, and Ecommerce

The major problem for ecommerce organizations at many consumer goods companies, as Carroll sees it, is their tenuous position between the brand and sales teams.

  • Brand teams: Brand teams have traditionally been focused on the top of the purchase funnel and measure either success through key performance indicators (KPIs) like market share and brand equity.
  • Sales teams: Sales teams have traditionally been focused on just that: sales. These teams also focus on lower-funnel activities like maximizing in-store presence and customer loyalty and relations.
  • Ecommerce teams: Ecommerce teams have traditionally been stuck in between the two — and with little budget of their own, they have had to ask for budget from the other two teams. Therefore, the resulting KPIs (if there are any) are usually a muddled amalgamation of the other two teams’ KPIs. They could also be simplified and non-instructive KPIs, such as sales on Amazon.

A More Holistic Approach to Ecommerce

Carroll advocates that the silos, KPIs, and budgets between brand, ecommerce, and sales teams need to be broken down in the face of the digitally influenced path to purchase.

As brand teams have traditionally owned the top-of-the-funnel efforts, they have therefore been responsible for levers to influence purchase decisions, including TV, radio, and social media.

With sales focused more on bottom-of-the-funnel activities, levers like customer circulars and in-store displays have been in their wheelhouse — with an assist from ecommerce teams when it comes to the digital shelf.

With the consumer leveraging the same online channels for every stage of the purchase funnel, the three teams must take a more evolved, holistic approach in the levers they use to influence a purchase. All three teams need to be coordinated to generate awareness, with items like the content used on retail sites playing an essential role in conveying brand values and differentiation from competing products and incentivizing them to buy.

All three teams need to be coordinated on initiatives, such as offers and promotions, a marketing tactic that Carroll believes brand manufacturers leverage to greater effect in-store than they do online. And newer aspects of the digital shelf, such as rating and reviews, can inform all three teams as to how they improve upon their brand and go-to-market activities.

Carroll: ‘Think Like a Consumer’

As a final word of advice, Carroll recommends that brand manufacturers need to “think like a consumer” when it comes to evolving their strategies to meet the rapid acceleration in online purchasing.

By keeping the consumer at the heart of every decision made, brand manufacturers can better ensure that they can keep up with new trends and bring in the right stakeholders internally to capitalize on ever-changing consumer habits.

Watch the full session, “Building Brands and Drive Sales on Emerging Ecommerce Platforms,” to gain additional insights on how up-and-coming platforms are shaping the consumer path to purchase.

All Topics: Expert Advice , Digital Commerce , COVID-19

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