The power of partnership, by Liquid’s Sachinn J Laala and Richard Nicoll

Winning sales on e-commerce marketplaces with joined-up marketing. By Sachinn J Laala, CEO, and Richard Nicoll, chief strategy and capability officer, Liquid.

Brands and marketplaces: a marriage made in heaven, right? Let’s face it, they both need each other to survive. But working out how to navigate the new dynamics of selling on online marketplaces has been a dilemma for many marketing and sales directors in the past year.

Retail has traditionally been exclusively the domain of trade marketers, but not anymore. Since the onset of the pandemic, the point of purchase has become the point of everything – especially for FMCG brands and previously siloed marketing functions, which have had to come together to combine skills to land their brand propositions in retail. This is especially true for those wanting to sell on multi-brand e-marketplaces such as Amazon, Noon and Instashop, among others.

Partnership has always been at the core of successful shopper marketing at Liquid. When we talk partnership in commerce, we are referring to joint value creation. As shoppers continue their rapid online adoption, brands have had to react fast to chase sales. There are now very few categories left where shoppers are not exposed to online options and most new online shoppers have most likely first visited a multi-brand marketplace.

However, in some ways, it does feel a little like after the gold rush.

If 2020 and 2021 were the years of massive and sometimes hasty migration to online, then maybe 2022 will be the time for brands to adopt a more strategic approach to their e-commerce activities of working with agility, understanding and experience to establish new ‘joined-up’ marketing practices which seamlessly combine brand building, trade marketing and shopper marketing.

Where to start? Firstly, the size of your brand doesn’t matter; the good news is that marketplace systems treat everybody the same. A listing is a listing, everyone is equal, but with smart planning, some will become more equal than others.

Logistics is a challenge. For those distributors used to shipping large volumes to customers, there’s the issue of having to supply products in much lower volumes. Of course, things are further complicated by the inevitable need to efficiently deal with returns (which are a much higher percentage when compared with offline), which all need to be reconciled and reported in real-time.

Brands’ sales teams and distributors need to be open-minded and ready to do things differently. In addition, it certainly helps to speak the same language – the right people with the right functional expertise talking to each other can fuel conversations that lead to success for brands entering the online retail space.

It really matters now, because e-commerce has become a brand-building channel, especially in FMCG. However, things have become significantly more competitive, not just for brands but for marketplaces too. An example we can look to is the battle for shoppers in grocery aggregation in the UAE.

That’s why we are seeing marketplaces stepping up their game when it comes to content and brand-building functionality. For example, at Amazon they’ve gone from providing the basics, packshot and product descriptions, to providing helpful product education, opportunities for inspiration and brand-building via the brand’s own stores, fully embedded into their platform.

E-commerce has gone from a channel to simply buy from to a place where shoppers can search for information and learn about the everyday products they need thanks to marketplaces. Sorry, Google, but it’s true.

This is where joint value creation initiatives win because brands understand their categories better than anyone, trade marketers understand the channels in which they need to sell and marketplaces know their shoppers’ behaviour in real-time.

So, sharing insight can be a valuable game-changer, going way beyond just the traditional transactional exchange.

Yet, we believe to maximise opportunities brands need to be fully prepared. Here’s a simple checklist, which is a great place to start: content, activation, ratings and reviews, search.

Content is created to convert, providing a clear reason to buy and communicating to shoppers tangible benefits whilst overcoming shopper barriers, ideally created for commerce.

Have an activation plan that inspires purchase. Promotional plans that make sense to both parties, and that bring innovation to a marketplace’s own calendar and functionality, whilst delivering a brand message.

Ratings and reviews acquisition are important to enable peer-to-peer validation and provide reassurance before purchase.

Finally, use search strategies that ensure products show up in the right place at the right stage of the path-to-purchase. And in-platform budgets must be accounted and budgeted for.

So, it’s time to get prepared, get the right expertise on your team and build the right partnerships inside and out, because it’s likely that online marketplaces will fuel brand growth for years to come.