Article | February 12, 2020
At the beginning of each year I like to take stock of the state of digital marketing and make predictions for the year ahead. For this year, one overarching theme clearly stands out: 2020 will be the year of intentional content. What does that mean? In essence, to succeed in digital in 2020, you need to focus on creating quality, purpose-driven content that connects with your target audience. I recently wrote an article about this in Expat Living , so if you want to learn more about this, go take a look before reading on.
Article | January 4, 2021
It’s that time of year again where we reflect upon the prior year and make informative predictions for the months ahead in order to adjust our business activities and refocus our strategies.
Unsurprisingly, due to the nature of 2020’s events, just about every industry and business will be looking to 2021 with hope and optimism, as well as a strong sense of caution.
And while the physical retail sector has been one of the hardest hit, ecommerce has experienced the opposite effect, but that’s not to say it has been without its challenges. Consequently, businesses need to respond to shifts in the market for the chance of a successful future.
Nate Burke, CEO of Diginius, a UK provider of proprietary software for digital marketing and ecommerce solutions, shares his predictions for the industry for 2021 and beyond.
Physical retail outlets have been facing uncertainty long before the term became widely used. This is due to multiple factors, including high commercial rents, a shift towards digital-first consumer shopping habits and online competitors’ ability to undercut prices. These influences have resulted in the gradual digital transformation of retailers, whereby online offerings have become a primary focus for business efficiency.
Proof of this is the year on year increase in online sales. But the spike experienced in early 2020 is the basis of the first prediction, which is high levels of online shopping will continue into the next twelve months, with no going back to pre-COVID ways. But many organisations are already in a position to accommodate this trend, particularly as 85,000 new businesses enabled ecommerce functionality or joined an online marketplace during the first national lockdown.
And now these businesses have made the digital switch, they will want to continue maximising sales through online channels as the pandemic has created a permanent digital shift in consumer shopping behaviours with more predicted to shop online post-pandemic than before it.
Alternative sales channels
The next prediction is fuelled by both digital innovation and the rise in ecommerce. As more and more businesses enable ecommerce functionality, there will inevitably be greater competition and an increase in options for consumers to choose from.
Therefore, the channels through which businesses sell their products will widen and become more accessible in order to generate the greatest chance of items or services being seen and ultimately, chosen over competitors’.
Fortunately, the rising popularity of online marketplaces and the developments in social media shopping functions, means businesses now have the opportunity to distribute products through more channels than ever before. And this will only continue to increase in the year ahead.
When it comes to marketplaces, Amazon is leading the way with a year on year rise in net revenue. Not only is the business’s performance evidence of this, but so is the consumer shopping behaviour shift which is seeing more consumers go directly to Amazon first (40%) when searching for a product, as opposed to Google (30%) or a brand’s owned channel (19%).
Facebook and Instagram are also notable channels for ecommerce businesses, with YouTube also growing in popularity and prominence. Although by nature, these platforms are designed for social interaction and content consumption, in recent times, they have placed greater focus on shopping with Facebook’s marketplace, Instagram’s shopping tab and YouTube shopping ad functions, for example.
One of the biggest benefits of utilising social media as a shopping channel is the streamlined customer experience that can be created. Fundamentally, shoppers can see a product on their feed, click through to view it and then place an order without even having to leave the app.
But as well as convenience, social media is an effective shopping channel as platforms are key influences on consumer consumption decisions anyway. In fact, 80% of Instagram users and 68% of YouTube users say content on the respective platforms helps them decide whether to buy a product or service.
Therefore, as more businesses realise the impact of these platforms, we’ll see social media being added to an increasing number of online sales strategies.
Many are hopeful for a return to some form of normality in 2021. And with the potential reopening of physical retail, businesses will be faced with the opportunity to maximise their presence and in turn, sales through both online and offline channels, creating an omnichannel brand offering.
This way, brands will appeal to a larger customer base. And no matter which channel a customer chooses to use to interact with the brand, they can expect a consistent quality of service and overall experience.
But in 2021, what many will realise is the challenging nature of upkeeping both channels. Of course, there will be a greater financial burden due to property costs and employee wages, which will only be felt deeper due to the volatile, COVID-struck economic climate.
So instead, a true omnichannel experience will be created through integration and innovation whereby each channel is used to support and supplement the other.
For example, we’ll see retailers using their physical locations to relieve some of the pain points of the online service, such as delivery and returns processes. Some retailers are already excelling in this, including the likes of supermarkets, Next, John Lewis and Argos who have all integrated click and collect services and other smart shopping options firmly into their primary offering.
As technology and creativity moves on, we’ll also begin to see an increasing number of concept stores that make shop visits an unmissable experience that is personal to each customer and adds value to their purchase, rather than simply a distribution channel.
With all these additional sales channels, retailers will see the benefit of digital management systems that relieve some of the administrative burden and enable greater efficiency.
The VTEX solution, for example, provides a single comprehensive commerce platform for brands and retailers. Combining activity across every sales and logistics channel, these platforms allow for a unified customer experience, lower cost of ownership, and increased business capabilities across physical stores, websites (B2B and B2C), third party and company owned marketplaces.
With all this information in one place, businesses can provide better customer experiences as order information can be retrieved faster and response times reduced. Customer updates can also be automated to ensure any important information about an order process is timely communicated, with no additional workload for employees.
And as well as customer-facing benefits, these systems enable better collaboration between points in a supply chain, which can streamline a business’s processes, and in turn reduce waste and increase efficiency.
For example, orders for items that are low in stock can be placed automatically and only when they are needed. This way, businesses won’t have cash tied up in unused products and materials, and resources can be reallocated to other critical activities.
And as these systems collect and analyse data, they can also provide meaningful insight into market trends, that can inform accurate future predictions and business decisions.
These trends are evidence that the ecommerce landscape is ever-changing. While digital transformation is set to continue, the speed at which it has occurred for retailers this year means the ecommerce market will inevitably undergo further significant change in the months to come.
Businesses that are prepared to adapt now will experience better growth and success than those that remain static or stuck in their ways.
Article | October 7, 2020
Video conferencing has become the new normal in the midst of COVID-19. And seeing as how virtual sales meetings were already a trend before the pandemic, it stands to reason that digital meet-ups will likely be the standard for sales interactions in the future.
A virtual sales meeting is a carefully orchestrated experience, and running a meeting from a laptop in your dining room might feel like an unnerving lack of control. While there are indeed many differences between in-person and virtual settings, a sales meeting held online can still engage prospects, nurture leads, drive deals and maintain relationships. It’s important to understand the best practices for running a successful sales meeting. That way, you can more easily train and coach sales reps on how to thrive in the virtual environment, which will be a key skill moving forward.
Article | December 11, 2020
The Coronavirus pandemic brought an old realization back to businesses – The devil is in the detail. As stores shut and opened tentatively, Amazon’s delivery cycles stretched and returned, and brands reconfigured production-supply chain combinations several times in a span of months, one thing was clear – staying strong and emerging through the current chaos would require close attention to details on a real-time basis:
Where is the demand moving?
What’s my inventory?
What are my operating costs and profit margins on one channel vs. another?
What are my buyers’ other options right now?
How do I optimize digital assortments?
What are the new and emerging customer needs?
And amid the chaos, another thing became apparent to brands – they needed a robust digital strategy to not just drive through this crisis but to thrive in the emerging world. Driven by lockdown restrictions and the desire for safety, more consumers have moved online.
According to research by Adobe Analytics, the total U.S. online sales reached $73.2 billion in June 2020, year over year up 76.2% (from $41.5 billion the previous year).
Consumer research by various teams at Course5 Intelligence has shown that the pandemic has created a large population of first-timers on eCommerce, with a massive increase in online spending by those who were already shopping online earlier. Most research respondents said that their shopping would continue to be omnichannel in the future, with an increased share of online.
And yet that’s only part of the reason why brands need an effective digital strategy. Even before consumers buy their products, they are looking online for information on what they want, availability, meeting the safety standards, and aligning with their preferences and needs. Google and Amazon have become the first point of research when users when to buy something, so digital lies at the very start of their purchase journey. And this is also where digital has distinctive strength over offline channels – the space and scope for a brand to define their brand, highlight distinguishing characteristics from competitor products, share user reviews to gain credibility, and deliver highly customized price-product offers, optimizing gain for buyers and the business.
However, many CPG companies do not have their direct-to-consumer platforms; many are still focused on partnering with a variety of e-marketplaces that exist globally or regionally.
How do you optimize your brand parameters for eCommerce platforms?
Even though many brands have set up their own D2C sites (for instance, PepsiCo’s snacks.com and pantryshop.com), there is no comparison in reach with major eCommerce platforms such as Amazon, Walmart, Flipkart, Shopify, Tesco, Target, Alibaba, Costco among others; your brand needs to be here. Each of these platforms has different engagement parameters for brands. While Amazon has 1P (1st party – Amazon is the wholesale buyer and markets and sells to consumers) and 3P (3rd party – Brand sells direct to consumer via Amazon) options, with Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA) and FBM (Fulfilment by Merchant) options within 3P, others have a variety of other arrangements brands must choose. Making more significant decisions such as choosing the platform/s you want your brand on, the right selling/fulfillment strategy and base pricing to fine-tuning the advertising, product messaging, price, optimizing the supply value chain and product assortment on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis requires a combination of real-time contextual insight and the digital capabilities to be responsive.
Course5 Intelligence has been helping CPG, Retail, and Technology brands use AI-driven insight mechanisms and digital capabilities to define their eCommerce strategy and improve revenues in three broad ways —
WIN THE DIGITAL SHELF BATTLE
Price — How do I optimize my pricing strategy based on various trends?
Product portfolio — How do I optimize my product portfolio and packaging initiatives?
Catalog — Which categories do I overplay?
Market Share — How do I drive sales and gain market share faster than my competitors?
Brand Hygiene — How do I optimize search, product discovery, and reach for all my SKUs?
OPTIMIZE MARKETING SPEND
Ad-spend Attribution — What marketplaces are delivering the maximum ‘clicks to revenue’?
Purchase Signals — Are my ads targeted on purchase signals or on guesstimates?
DEMYSTIFY DATA COMPLEXITIES
Enable Quick Decisions — Do I have visibility on all dimensions and objectives?
Expedite Data Semantics — How quickly can I glean insights from new data sources?
Solve the ‘Alt-Tab’ Environment — Does my analysis exist in an ‘alt-tab’ environment? Or within a single product?
These are just a few data points that drive action within an effective and profitable eCommerce strategy. CPG brands that would like to make lasting inroads to consumers’ online shopping habits will need to deliver compelling value to buyers continuously. To do this, they will need to expertly navigate a complex and dynamic set of parameters to shine through at every level of the buyer’s journey – from the first appearance on the buyer’s horizon to becoming their first and last choice, always ensuring that the numbers match across buying price to experienced value.
Optimizing your digital marketplace strategy for the end-to-end buyer journey in an amorphous market landscape is the only way to stay ahead of the competition, establish category leadership, and increase revenue on a sustained basis.