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Open Mic Ecommerce Retail

The 3 step ecommerce development playbook for brands

IPG Mediabrands


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July 4, 2024 | 8 min read

The commerce space is vast and evolving fast. Digital smarts hold the keys to the kingdom. Brands need to evaluate, then re-evaluate how they optimize the value of their digital inventory, strategies and tactics. Mia Rodriguez (senior vice president, head of ecommerce, Kinesso Commerce) lays out a three-step framework for going up through the ecommerce gears.

The full commerce ecosystem is huge – so many routes to market, so many channels to engage customers, so many levers to impact performance and drive brand equity. And when it comes to developing their digital offer, every brand is in a different place, with different operational dynamics.

But successful navigation of this space is as vital as it is complex. In the US alone, ecommerce sales are predicted to exceed $1.7tn and touch 81% of the population by 2028. At Kinesso Commerce we spend a lot of time helping brands develop powerful strategies to optimize their offers. We often adopt a three-stage developmental program to structure brands’ progress to digital maturity based on the premise that before you can run, you must first learn how to crawl, then walk.

Let’s look at some of the high-level steps you might take at each stage.

1. Crawl

This is about getting the fundamentals right and beginning to review performance. It starts with developing a positive online experience, through accurate, engaging product description pages (PDPs), relevant supporting content and a friction-free path to purchase.

If your brand is at this early stage of development, start digging into your data so you can:

  • Create content that’s engaging with robust detail on the PDP.
  • Examine your fill rates and delivery stats – these are a solid barometer for your operation’s effectiveness and ability to meet customer demand.
  • Pinpoint how your brand is being discovered and where your referral traffic is coming from, to realign or update any promotional activities.
  • Start reviewing your product assortment at different retailers to build an accurate picture of what’s moving and with what audience.

These are basic but crucial actions that set down solid foundations for the next phase.

2. Walk

At this stage brands are looking to drive traffic to their commerce sites. They’ve done the basics, they’re in pretty good shape organically, and they’re starting to use demand-side platforms (DSPs) for paid media, as well as pursuing new merchandising activities.

But this is often where we see brands start to plateau. They need to look under the hood of their commerce operations and identify what’s causing them to stall. Once again, data is your best friend. Re-audit your site pages, your PDPs, your brand stores, and your copy. Are there clues to products or pages that are converting with customers?

Learn to love product reviews. Comb through the one and two-star reviews for common underlying themes behind customer unhappiness. It quickly becomes clear what needs to change. Use this insight to inform new content, create new graphics, write new titles – anything and everything to address negative engagement.

Another opportunity that’s frequently overlooked is monitoring competitor reviews. Reading the feedback left for competing products – specifically those with naturally high rankings – you can get a feel for what they’re doing differently.

Interrogating your data can also reveal opportunities for more effective product curation. Examine products that are regularly bought together, or those that work well together, and consider bundles (physical or virtual) for these items.

The final pieces of the puzzle in this phase of commerce development are media and campaign types. You can:

  • Assess keyword effectiveness and optimize budget allocation accordingly.
  • Implement dayparting to ensure ads run at ideal times for best results within budget constraints.
  • Review search performance, both paid and organic.

In short, gather data on campaign performance across channels, products, and audience segments – then use the data to shape and reshape engagement activities.

3. Run

The focus now shifts to widening your reach. It’s about improving impact with returning customers and attracting new ones. The first step for brands in this phase is to reinvent the ‘brilliant basics’:

  • Pinpoint lower performing pages or products and develop the onsite user experience – including new video or lifestyle elements and brand-exclusive imagery. You can even introduce AI to create a more intuitive path to purchase.
  • Review brand stores and reinvent how products are presented. Make it exciting – give customers a reason to keep coming back.
  • Boost basket value through smarter product curation. Not every item needs to be on every retailer’s site. Selectivity pays off and makes logistical sense (even from a basic supply chain fulfillment perspective). Focus on core 'hero' products, with a careful mix of mid-tier and long-tail items for optimal assortment.

Retail operations

After the basics, it’s time to look at retail operations, starting with item-level economics.

Analyze profitability right down to the SKU level. Hero SKUs often receive significant media investment, but when you tag in retailer fees and other costs, they may become unprofitable. Assess their organic performance and consider redirecting media spend to mid-tier products that lack organic visibility.

Maintaining the featured offer

Keeping your place in the Amazon featured offer is crucial. You need to have a competitive offering in order to maintain your position as the primary offer for your products. Ways to stay in the featured offer, or “buy box”, include maintaining marketplace price dynamics, keeping consistent costs and pricing in the market, and finally, pulsing in promotions and offer discounts to “subscribe and save” consumers.

Watertight fulfillment

Customers are unforgiving of brands promoting products when they don’t have them in stock. They move on quickly to other brands, and it’s often not just a lost sale, but a lost customer. Again, scour your reviews and ratings for any indications that supply chain glitches are impacting your customer experience.

Pull back on promotions

Frequent discounts train customers to wait for sales, which typically hits the bottom line. If you’re reducing promotions, be bold and cut them entirely. Short-term pain leads to long-term gain. Alternatively, consider pulsing in targeted promotions during key periods or on specific SKUs.

Shopper activation

Connection and consistency are key to successful omnichannel activation. It’s particularly important to ensure in-store activations and cross-channel media campaigns are aligned. A lot of digital media actually drives in-store performance, so it’s important that activation efforts are cohesive.

Full funnel media enhancement

Maximizing customer value across the journey means making the most of every media opportunity. The growth of retail media networks (RMNs) offers brands rich audience data. Combining RMN reach and insights with national media channels enables coherent omnichannel engagement, allowing brands to continually improve audience impact.

Analyze historical SKU performance to optimize campaign organization. Use top SKUs for major programmatic and keyword campaigns, while promoting mid-tier SKUs through sponsored brand activities. This approach boosts awareness and sales of ancillary products when customers search for your brand.

Budget fluidity

This approach might require a mindset change. Rather than one-and-done promotional strategies that are set in stone, be fluid with your budget allocation. Scrutinize campaign results as they happen and move budget to whichever tactics, frequency, retailers, or channels are working. Be agile. If you see products with low stock, pull that budget down and put it behind other SKUs. Part of a more fluid budget should also include carving out part of the allotted investment for test-and-learn. This spend shouldn’t be held to the same KPIs as the rest of the budget, but instead, embrace a more flexible mindset to support successes that could become real game changers.

Be restless, be ruthless

Of course, this is just a whistle stop tour of some key milestones on the road to eCommerce maturity. There are so many variables, and brands have so many individual dynamics that there can be no one-size-fits-all solution.

But be restless and ruthless with your approach. Question everything, and never get comfortable. Keep digging into your data, reviewing your reviews, testing channel efficacy and content performance. And when you’re convinced you’ve got it nailed, that’s the point you start again. Review, revisit, and revitalize.

I’ll say it again, and you can take it to the bank: don’t get comfortable. When you’re comfortable, you’re not growing.

Open Mic Ecommerce Retail


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