By Darko Bosiljčić, business operations director, Brand New Galaxy, MEA
Working with both global and regional clients, trends and the actual future of e-commerce are rather relative depending on where you are as an organisation. Perhaps the right way to phrase this would be to say, “The future is already here; it’s just not very evenly distributed.”
2020 placed e-commerce at the top of the agenda for obvious reasons. However, not everyone had the same starting point. While some companies already had decent e-commerce operations and were looking into optimising and improving these processes, some struggled to understand the channel. What might be an obvious future for one company might be science fiction for others.
There are several ways e-commerce will evolve in this dynamic region:
Building e-commerce foundations
Many companies will have to take a few steps back and truly rethink the role of e-commerce in their organisation. Do they adopt a direct-to-consumer approach, or focus on marketplaces, social commerce or e-retailers, or is it a mix of all of the above? This should be followed by an evaluation of the right talent, tools and content, along with the right model and finance to operationalise their goals.
Better e-commerce content experience
Proper product page content can increase the conversion rate by more than 30 per cent; but only around 5 per cent of the products listed are doing it right. This creates an enormous opportunity for many brands. It means creating e-commerce-specific content that tells a brand story and represents the actual product, satisfying people’s need for information at that point of their research or purchase intent.
Two major e-commerce content areas at a global level that I believe will pick up in the region are:
E-commerce product video: We are in an era of high-quality, fast-moving content driven by e-commerce, vloggers, and specialised YouTube channels. Additionally, the current global situation is pushing e-commerce ahead, which means an increasing number of products will not be physically touched before purchase. And the first moment of truth (FMOT) by the offline shelf is transforming into the e-commerce FMOT (eFMOT) faster than predicted. Welcome to the ‘eFMOT e-commerce real feel’ product videos.
Data-driven content creation and optimisation: Any decent designer can make a good looking e-commerce product page, but that is not enough. With so many sections and elements influencing the page ranking and perception of the brand and its messaging, it is important to apply the appropriate data gathering and strategising of each pixel of that page. It blows my mind that one small tweak of content can increase the conversation rate by double digits. You need data to know what exactly that tweak is and how often you should be making it.
E-retailers should open their walled gardens and allow access to third-party tools, allowing better access to data and resulting in better control over money spent as well as in the overall optimisation of the brands’ presence. It has also been observed that e-commerce automation tools such as Kenshoo, Profitero and Synthrone are already making their way into the market, which can truly make a difference during the full consumer journey across channels. This means companies will be able to choose and build the right tool stack and build custom dashboards for their KPIs.
Here’s a reminder, though: companies need to strengthen their e-commerce foundations, the crucial aspect I began with, or these dashboards will be futile.
Building direct sales channels
An increasing number of companies are deciding to engage directly with consumers, approaching them via their own platforms or by accessing marketplaces. This trend will undoubtedly remain in 2021. The main decision companies will have to make is whether to go into full-scale investments and build long-lasting sophisticated platforms, or opt for a mode with easy plug-and-play software as a service (SAAS) solutions platforms, learn, and then scale – or not.
Social commerce will play an even bigger role in 2021, with no exception in our region. It might be the best option for companies with limited operational power. However, it may also serve as a playground for other ones, or may as well be part of a full ecosystem.
2021 will definitely be an opportunity to regroup and rethink the e-commerce approach. Companies need to truly recognise the power of e-commerce, not only by looking at it as a sales channel but also as a tool for shaping brand opinion, driving trials, communication and data-gathering.
Needless to say, e-commerce is part of a bigger consumer journey, and to drive growth, e-commerce should be at the centre. People should be only a few clicks away from final purchase regardless of where they started the journey, ensuring a coherent path to purchase.