E-commerce has been growing steadily for a number of years, but 2020 saw a step change in the amount of shopping done online. Driven by the Covid pandemic, substantial digital transformation has happened in just months, according to the e-commerce platform, ChannelAdvisor. The result is a huge opportunity for brands, in the shape of direct-to-consumer (D2C) sales, but also a significant set of challenges.
This is the starting point for ChannelAdvisor’s latest ebook, A Guide to E-commerce for Brands. It looks at the current online trends and how they are affecting brands, how brands are developing their e-commerce strategies, and the rise of both D2C sales and third-party marketplaces.
The e-commerce boom continues
In the UK alone, online sales were predicted to increase by £5.3bn to £78.9bn. In the US, e-commerce now accounts for almost a fifth of all retail sales. Just as importantly, this change in shopping behaviour looks likely to continue beyond the end of the current crisis. ChannelAdvisor’s own research in August 2020 showed that over half (55%) of UK shoppers surveyed said they would buy more online in the future than they had before the pandemic.
At the same time, mobile has risen to become the main way people access the internet, and was predicted to take the majority of total UK retail ecommerce sales in 2020 by eMarketer. According to ChannelAdvisor, the results are that customers are always shopping, either actively or passively, and their journeys are becoming much more complicated. But they still expect every interaction at every touch-point to reach the standards of customer experience set by e-commerce giants such as Amazon.
Five steps to selling
In response to these changes, the ChannelAdvisor ebook outlines a five point e-commerce strategy:
building the capability to sell across whatever channels your customers use;
making sure your advertising strategies reflect the recent changes made by Google and Facebook to add retail marketplaces to their offerings;
finding a logistics partner to handle fulfilment rather than attempting to match Amazon’s delivery operation yourself;
auditing the quality of your product data, and ensuring you’re sending it to every market in the right format; and
ensuring you have the right KPIs in place – and ways of measuring them.
The most complex of these is the first. As the ebook points out, brands have to strike the balance between establishing a multi-channel presence and spreading themselves too thinly for that presence to deliver the customer experience required. The solution is to build and grow a retail ecosystem that meets your individual requirements. This may or may not include developing a D2C offering and/or selling through third-party marketplaces, such as Amazon or Zalando.
Why go direct?
ChannelAdvisor lists six potential advantages for brands in responding to these changes by going direct to their customers:
- Increased sales;
- Increased margins;
- The ability to offer a wider range of products;
- Access to more and better customer data;
- Minimised reliance on individual retailers; and
- The ability to expand into new markets and locations.
Adopting a D2C approach should also enable the business to respond more quickly to changing market conditions. In addition, the increased level of control D2C offers should mean brands can offer a better and more consistent customer experience across multiple touch-points.
Tailoring your approach
When it comes to e-commerce, one size doesn’t fit all. Every company will be at a different level of maturity, with different brand objectives and a different set of customer journeys. What is more, technology, customer behaviour and the e-commerce industry itself will continue to change and evolve. To succeed, companies need systems, structures and partnerships that are both robust and flexible, and that are tailored to their own requirements. But each one will be built by thinking about the same set of issues, and answering the same set of questions.
To learn more about how to develop an ecommerce strategy for your company, download ChannelAdvisor’s free ebook A Guide to E-commerce for Brands by filling in the form below: