‘Don’t get left on the shelf in the ecommerce evolution’

Article published on The Drum.

Manufacturers are facing a retail armageddon and need to find new ways of driving sales direct or squeezing as much as possible through the ecommerce platforms of their partners. Pivoting to a DTC business is not a quick fix and for many brands, their own ecommerce sites are just not fit for purpose or the budgets are not available to drive the qualified traffic through to purchase.

That inevitably leaves a greater focus on driving sales through third party ecommerce sites. The ecommerce penetration rates vary massively from sector to sector and while they have been growing strongly, they have to date made up a relatively small percentage of online sales. Traditional retail still contributes significantly to the bulk of all purchases.

The shuttering of stores across most consumer sectors means that consumers are turning perhaps for the first time to ecommerce as way of buying their everyday goods. For those that have been forced to purchase in this way, this pandemic may be the spark that changes their shopping behaviour forever.

Because the majority of a brands sales have been driven through traditional stores, the online presence across third party sites has often been given less attention than it deserves. With the total ecommerce spend rising, this is potentially leading to a large missed revenue opportunity at a time when every penny counts.

Digital Shelf Optimisation (DSO) is a methodology by which brands can better understand how consumers are searching for products and ensure that their own brand visibility is at its highest when it matters. Just as when consumers are using Google to search for products, they are using the retailer’s own search engine to complete their weekly shop. Understanding how consumers search within a retail site or how the specific retailer algorithm matches consumer search with product suggestions is crucial.

We have been working with a food business that manufactures well known store cupboard essentials, which currently are in great demand as people home cook much more. We have driven huge incremental sales by optimising their product pages with the correct keywords and visual imagery to ensure that they are not losing sales to their competitors. Our approach was based on a detailed understanding of specific retailer search algorithms and analysing search behaviour.

Developing tools that allow brands to monitor competitor pricing and promotions is also key. Pricing is very dynamic within grocery sites for instance and having the ability to deliver a swift response can protect revenue quickly.

This opportunity is not just limited to grocery retailers though. We are working in the sports and fitness category to help capitalise on growing sales for home exercise apparel and equipment across a number of well known sport retailers ecommerce sites.

And if brands don’t have an Amazon strategy, then this is the time to develop one. Amazon is not just a retailer but also becoming a public utility for millions of people. Having an organic and paid media strategy to protect and drive incremental sales can be fast to develop and to deliver results within days, given the huge sales volume flowing through it.

Jim Hawker, Co-Founder at Threepipe Reply