Invest wisely: The non-media essentials for e-commerce success

VMLY&R’s Toseef Butt highlights the areas that brands and agencies need to focus on to pave the way for success

Whether you’re a brand that operates within the realms of D2C, marketplace, Q-Commerce or any other type of commerce, you must first meticulously secure the integrity of your operational foundation.

Globally, e-commerce is expected to deliver 19.5 per cent of all sales in 2023 and is expected to account for 23 per cent of all sales by 2027.

Within MENA, the e-commerce market is expected to grow to $57bn by 2026.


With 64 per cent of searches now starting within retail environments instead of on Google, it’s clear that in today’s world, the digital shelf serves as the primary and most common initial touchpoint for consumers.

Just as you wouldn’t open a brick-and-mortar store if it was still under construction or if you hadn’t meticulously crafted your visual merchandising to captivate customers, the same level of care and preparation should be applied to your digital assets.

Consumers often show a willingness to pay more for a superior shopping experience and, unsurprisingly, underwhelming shopping experiences can lead to missed sales opportunities.

This is why I advise my clients to deliver the best consumer and brand experience at the destination, before investing substantial amounts in media or paid traffic. I’m also fully aware of the pressures for brand and e-com managers to drive sales, and it’s true that in many cases, media investment is essential for achieving that goal.

PPC campaigns on Amazon are also one of key components to improving your organic visibility. This is one area where VMLY&R steps in to work hand-in-hand with brands to strategically enhance creativity and organic growth without compromising any sales momentum.


Your online brand stores and product detail pages (PDPs) stand as the most vital owned assets in your arsenal. You must seize the opportunity to distinguish your brand from competitors, effectively communicate your value proposition or USPs to consumers, and, perhaps most crucially, do so with creativity.

Creativity is the most powerful factor that helps brands stand out from the shelf. It beats media and even price in leaving a lasting impact.

Hopefully we can all agree that the content we publish is of paramount importance for winning over consumers.

It is equally important when it comes to conquering search, and winning in search is not easy. 60 per cent of product clicks go to the first three results in Amazon Search.

If we take Amazon as an example, the digital shelf typically features only 8-15 products on desktop (depending on the size of your screen), and up to two products on mobile devices, above the fold. Now if 60 per cent of product clicks go to the first three results, what do you think that means for products listed below the fold or on page 2 and beyond?

It’s vital to conduct audits and pinpoint areas for enhancement on both the front and back ends of your listings and product detail pages. These areas can include elements such as titles, descriptions, product availability and pricing.

We guide our brand partners in comprehending the significance of each of these variables and work together to build roadmaps for achieving success on platforms like Amazon, focusing on creativity, technical excellence and operational efficiency.

Amazon is arguably the most sophisticated retailer within the EMEA region. Achieving success on this e-commerce giant is not just a standalone achievement. Think of it this way – when you excel on Amazon, you’re not just winning on one platform; you’re gaining the knowledge and skills to thrive on many others.

Once you’ve got Amazon figured, it becomes your blueprint for excelling across the wider landscape.


Across the industry, there will always be opportunities for retailers to enhance their strategies, particularly within the Middle East and Africa. We frequently encounter:

  • Inefficient media buying models such as ‘cost-per-week’
  • Limited creative flexibility
  • A lack of transparency when it comes to ad-delivery or sales attribution
  • Limited targeting capabilities

At VMLY&R, we collaborate closely with brands and retailers to craft engaging experiences for consumers. My personal passion lies in achieving this, with a particular emphasis on leveraging data and precise measurement.

As we traverse the landscape of digital retail, let’s remember that having equal focus on non-media essentials serves as our guiding compass. We must embrace the opportunity to refine our strategies and deliver captivating consumer experiences.

While the road may pose challenges, it’s also teeming with untapped potential and we must continue to navigate, adapt and thrive in this ever-evolving industry, harmonising the creativity that sets us apart with the precision that data provides.

By Toseef Butt, Regional Commerce Director & Head of CaaS at VMLY&R