Ecommerce: Do you have what it takes

The latest wave of Ecommerce innovation covers many topics including greater mobile engagement, the growth in importance of content, context and further integration between on and offline. All have contributed to a renewed focus on Ecommerce and consequently organisations are re-evaluating the size of the opportunity and rapidly upskilling to scale in order to meet its increased potential.

In our work with clients across industries, we’ve seen a significant response to this shift. Ecommerce has become a clear growth priority and features heavily in plans going forward, particularly within the FMCG/CPG categories. Customers’ expectations for a seamless multichannel experience, hyper convenient delivery options and always on customer support are turning the customer experience on its head and throwing up a whole set of new challenges for organisations.

For organisations looking to maximise their efforts in this area it is important to:

  • Fully explore the opportunities of Ecommerce and ensure efforts are localised to the distinct behaviours of geographies
  • Integrate and embed Ecommerce into strategy and equip the organisation with the required capabilities to scale up.
  • Ensure that Ecommerce becomes a true cross-functional exercise with all involved functions playing their role

With this in mind I asked Brand Learning's Ecommerce specialists, what questions might help organisations building their capabilities?

1. Why do people need to build Ecommerce capabilities differently now?

Typically, Ecommerce was seen as a bolt-on to the overall strategic direction of the business but it is no longer a standalone activity and should not be treated as such. It needs to be part of an integrated strategy and embedded into the business.

Capability building programmes need to reflect this and ensure Ecommerce succeeds as part of the integrated brand building and selling experience. As the scope of Ecommerce has expanded, our capabilities need to follow suite and go beyond pure-play retail. They need to be built cross-functionally

Simply put, if organisations do not understand the importance of Ecommerce and begin to build their capabilities in this area, they will get left behind.

2. Why are we noticing this as a growing capability need?

The growth of the Ecommerce channel as a proportion of overall sales has made Ecommerce a commercial priority. Organisations are recognising the need to equip themselves to evolve and improve the customer experience and ensure it reflects how consumers want to buy goods and services. We have observed organisations succeeding in this area by taking a top down focus on driving Ecommerce throughout their business. They are able to cut through any traditional silos that may have otherwise been a barrier and truly embed Ecommerce capabilities.

3. What are our client’s biggest challenges?

Particularly in the last year organisations have been coming to us to help in 3 specifics areas

Organisation design - Ecommerce is a truly multi-functional effort and increasingly clients want their entire organisation to understand the opportunities Ecommerce brings. An overall awareness of the benefits needs to be created and, beyond that, there is a need to embed Ecommerce capabilities cross-functionally. 

Traditional silos often need to be challenged and ways of working should enable agility and collaboration.

Integrated strategies – This is the year we need to take fledgling Ecommerce efforts and up-scale them. Increasingly we are finding a desire to move past the ‘brilliant basics’ and ensure there is a clear future-focus on how to up-scale these efforts. Ecommerce needs to be embedded into all relationships and not just those with retail e.g. manufacturers and affiliates.

Regional variations – It is important to find a solution which accounts for the fact that different regions are at different stages of Ecommerce maturity. Consideration should be given to which devices customers within markets access the internet with, who the regional channel partners are and what will give a brand competitive advantage within each market.

4. Which brands excite us the most?

Unsurprisingly, when talking about exciting and ground-breaking approaches in the Ecommerce space, Amazon is top of the list. If we take a look at Amazon Fresh (Amazon’s grocery delivery service currently in beta in New York), it’s possible that it could fundamentally change the way retailers operate.

The knock-on effect of this is that organisations need to think about how they do things across every function within their business. The need for collaboration and a silo busting approach is not a luxury, it is a necessity. As we have already mentioned, Ecommerce is not just for retail teams. Everyone needs to understand it and have the skillset and capabilities to deliver in their role within the organisation.

Bear in mind that, whilst Ecommerce is focused on customer fulfilment, the steps needed to make a seamless customer experience require significant planning. It’s not something that can just be turned on and expected to work, it’s about building know how and then pushing the boundaries.

In particular, Ecommerce innovation is increasingly creating different opportunities for brands to maximise every consumer touchpoint. Mercedes-Benz is a fantastic example of a brand that has proven Ecommerce really is worth innovating and investing in. They launched a marketing campaign for their Smart car line with WeChat and made a limited edition car available exclusively to their WeChat followers.

Specifically, this campaign highlighted how Ecommerce can successfully support the entire customer journey. WeChat provided consumers with the ability to follow the exclusive launch as well as actually make a purchase through the app itself. With 338 Smart cars being sold within 3 minutes of the limited edition car being made available to purchase, 1,751 people paying a deposit through the app itself and 6,677 sales leads generated, Mercedes Benz’s return on investment was suitably impressive. More importantly though, this collaboration with WeChat showed how a truly innovative experience can be delivered to customers through the use of Ecommerce. Mercedes-Benz took the basic functionality of Ecommerce, incorporated it into social and succeeded in doing so. They provided their consumers with the opportunity to buy and the ability to make that purchase through a different touchpoint.

5. Predictions for 2016

The concept of hyper-convenience, embodied by Amazon’s same day delivery offer in major cities will rapidly become the expected norm amongst many customers. Differentiation will need to come through the customer experience with increasing efforts now going in to the staffing of proactive sales support during the user experience on site for example, mirroring what’s been experienced in shops for years.

Algorithms, real time analytics and context will power greater personalisation and conversion on Ecommerce sites as retailers begin to unlock the secret formula that has fuelled the Ecommerce giants. The impact of these technologies on the customer experience will be huge, bringing greater simplicity, convenience and relevance to site visitors and driving future usage which will be further catalysed by the growth of Ecommerce loyalty programmes.

As with all Digital change there have been examples of organisations jumping on the band wagon and seeking to emulate the success of pioneering new brands. As the Ecommerce market scales and matures we would expect to see the rationalisation of approaches as organisations determine the right strategy for them. A great example of this is the rush to subscription Ecommerce for everything from clothes to snacks, whilst arguably in areas such as personal grooming, this approach has been revolutionary it doesn’t fit every customer journey and we expect some brands to row back from their subscription based initiatives.

If you would like to find out more about how Brand Learning can help you lift your organisations capabilities, please do get in touch. Ecommerce is just one, albeit important, element of an organisation’s strategic direction. You may also be interested for example, in our articles on joined-up challenges, strategy and planning, and activation.


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