I have good news and bad news for you. Which do you want first?
Ok – since you insist, I’ll start with the BAD news… There is a lot that can go wrong with a brand’s eCommerce efforts. While all retail is complicated, most organizations have a much better institutional understanding of how to succeed at physical retail than they do in eCommerce. Because of this, they make big mistakes that open the door wide for more advanced competitors.
Now the GOOD news… Brands are generally making the same types of big errors over and over again and that these are all “fixable” with a little bit of hard work and creativity. By understanding these errors, you can help your team and your brand to succeed and grow faster.
Here are some of the most common mistakes that might be sabotaging your brand’s sales today…
- You haven’t optimized your product portfolio and pricing for the channel – In most cases, you can’t just list your popular Grocery, Mass, or Club SKUs and hope for the best. Take Packaged Chili as an example: Although there are 6 popular configurations on Amazon, 12-packs represent the majority of sales (over 60%) and are priced at just over $30 on average. Launching your brand’s popular 18-pack at $39.95, even though it’s a better price per can, could make you look expensive, hurt your trial, AND impact your search rankings. Your historically successful 3-pack, on the other hand, might also be a big problem if shipping economics force an uncompetitive price point / price per ounce or lead to less attractive delivery options for the shopper. Are you selling your Chili in jars today? While this packaging might be delivering a differentiated and premium look at shelf, it could also drive a double digit % disadvantage in your eCommerce shipping costs (due to weight) and higher breakage could quickly lead to expensive customer satisfaction issues.
- You don’t understand who your real competition is – To define the right proposition, you’ll have to understand with whom you’re competing online. If you’re selling packaged Whole Bean coffee, for example, you might assume that Starbucks is the brand to beat and design your proposition and content accordingly. This may be true at your local store but you might actually discover a much different picture online. Looking at Amazon’s top SKUs right now, for example, Starbucks doesn’t even appear until #10 – behind brands like Koffee Kult, Valhalla, Stumptown, Death Wish, and even Amazon’s own private label. Without the constraints of closely managed shelf space, the eCommerce playing field is more level and this leads to a more complex competitive environment that combines established “national brands” with smaller, but rapidly growing, upstarts. In addition to your traditional adversaries, you need to understand your eCommerce opponents if you want to succeed.
- You’re letting distributors and resellers deliver a poor shopper experience – As we work with clients, this continues to be the most common problem we encounter and it impacts nearly every element of what shoppers see. Your brand’s goal is to ensure that your item content is thorough, your brand equity is delivered well, your pricing is consistent, and that customer service is exemplary. You may, though, have a large community of sellers representing you in the wrong way – these sellers may be skating by with poor quality listings, incomplete copy, bad or outdated photography, pricing that violates your MAP policies, and maybe even unsupportable product claims. If you’re a brand leader, don’t just look at the great content that your team or agency has created, get out there and look at EVERY listing for your brand. You might be shocked at what you find…
- You’re doing SEO and SEM wrong – Years ago, I worked on the Gillette brand. For decades, Gillette had been calling their refills “cartridges” and continued to do so as their content moved online. Well, it turned out that the consumer wasn’t searching for “razor cartridges” at all – they were looking for “razor blades” (as of this writing, “razor blades” still gets about 70 times more search volume than does “razor cartridges”). By prioritizing “blades” instead of “cartridges” in our titles and item content, we were able to see a very significant and very immediate sales lift – a rare easy win! Today, most brands aren’t making these rookie mistakes, but they are making other costly errors. We frequently see, for example, brands using irrelevant web search SEO data (from Google, for example) to optimize their product listings when they should instead be using eCommerce SEO data that better reflects the shopper’s purchase behavior. We see other brands with expensive SEO habits – they try exclusively to rank for (and buy) high volume, high competition “battleground” search terms while ignoring much more profitable opportunities (long-tail keywords, common misspellings, etc.). From a search engine marketing standpoint, our experience is that a well-selected keyword campaign will save 40% or more per click… As you can imagine, a 40% difference can make or break your ROI!
- You’re practicing “set and forget” eCommerce – In traditional advertising, you envision the ad, you develop the ad, you push it out into the world, and then you move on to the next one. Many brands, and their trusted agencies, still treat eCommerce content this way and this is a GINORMOUS (yes, that is a word) competitive blunder. The smartest and fastest growing players research their category, start with good content, and then optimize it relentlessly to get to great content. They closely monitor their search rankings for each of their “strategic keywords” and optimize their listings based on what they learn. They use A/B tests to evaluate alternative copy and images and are always improving their item conversion rates as a result. They maintain an active promotion and merchandising calendar to keep their items visible and so their listings look “lived in” to shoppers. These brands recognize that in eCommerce, sales beget even more sales and they use a variety of tools including social media promotion, influencer, and affiliate marketing to drive sales momentum… The eCommerce search engines reward them as a result because this activity helps the retailers grow too. Imagine your item listings as living things – you’ll need to feed them and teach them if you want them to succeed.
In coming weeks, we’re going to drill deeper into each of these areas. We’ll start with the first topic about product and portfolio optimization and work our way down. We’ll explain each problem and offer concrete solutions and tools that your team can use right now.
Are you facing any of the challenges we’ve described? If so, our company, Bold Retail, Inc., is here for you. We help brands compete more effectively in eCommerce by assessing their strategic situation and competition, by building custom strategic growth plans, implementing, and then optimizing those plans. We believe that brands of all sizes need “BOLDer,” more competitive approaches to eCommerce and we’re here to provide those approaches. If you believe that we might be able to help you, please reach out to me personally on LinkedIn. You can also schedule a free consultation here at any time.