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Roundtable discussion: How important is ecommerce to the future of brands?

10 Nov 2020  |  Sam Tidmarsh 
Roundtable discussion: How important is ecommerce to the future of brands?

In this roundtable, Mediatel Events' Sam Tidmarsh speaks to four speakers following their sessions at the Future of Brands: Ecommerce.

With insights from their roles at eve sleep, Cox & Cox, Heineken and OMG Transact, the ecommerce experts assess the opportunities for brands.

Sam Tidmarsh (Chair): Hello everyone and welcome to our roundtable special on Mediatel News as part of our exciting series of virtual events.

Joining the discussion today is Andy Boddy (Commercial Director, eve sleep), Aynsley Peet (Ecommerce Director, Cox & Cox), Ksenia Khalina (former Head of Shopper & Trade Marketing, Heineken), and Gemma Spence (CEO, OMG Transact).

Ecommerce has grown tremendously in 2020, with the pandemic forcing shoppers online. How important is ecommerce to your brand, or the brands you work with?

Andy Boddy: We started out as a digital disruptor, and while we work closely with our offline retail partners, we’re heavily focused on ecommerce!

Aynsley Peet: We are purely ecommerce. It’s 100% of our business focus.

Ksenia Khalina: One of my current projects is leading an expat relocation company in Austria that works with clients such as Nestle, Bosh, Microsoft and Dynatrace. 

Direct-to-consumer ecommerce is a great opportunity and a new revenue stream. It requires a significant company transformation though new business strategy, product portfolio, tech solutions, new people and managing skills. 

Gemma Spence: In short, incredibly. This year, online retail has become the primary level for brands’ growth.

We’ve seen attitudinal changes to spending online like shifts into essential shopping, going back to basics, focusing on local, loyalty offers and a dramatic shift into a more sharing and caring economy. In turn, this has meant a huge sea change in buying types and uptake on new ecommerce modules such as subscribe and save, subscription models and buy now pay later. In addition to behavioural changes, we are seeing more than ever a rise in ecommerce retailers.

Therefore, in order to improve penetration, share and profitable margins on their portfolios, brands must embrace new and emerging channels within ecommerce to stay relevant based on new consumer shopping habits.

Sam Tidmarsh: Christmas is now less than two months away. How can ecommerce brands improve customer experience leading up to the Christmas period?

Andy Boddy: By being open and honest with customer expectations. This is an unprecedented time and supply and demand for online business has shifted considerably. So, communicate and be honest with lead times and delivery expectations.

Gemma Spence: Consumers expect seamless and highly personalised journeys across all the channels and devices they browse on.

Brands therefore need to ensure they are consistent with their product content and ensure images are fit for purpose across multiple devices and channels. Additionally, they need to ensure consumers can complete the journey in the same channel as often as possible.

Simultaneously, however, brands need to ensure they have a robust supply chain. Be ready for an uplift in sales and ensure there is enough stock to meet forecasts, regardless of the fulfilment method.

Ksenia Khalina: Focus first on customer understanding. Keep your hand on the pulse of your customers by monitoring their changing needs in this difficult time. Then make sure your brands help the customers to deal with their current challenges, and find ways to be supportive, creative, and empathic through content.

And don’t forget about your brand. It is so important before Christmas to deliver hope and joy to the customers!

Sam Tidmarsh: What technology can brands implement from tomorrow to improve sales on their ecommerce store?

Gemma Spence: For brands who have a DTC platform, they can now attribute every single £ spent on driving traffic to this channel to purchase. In fact, they can connect journeys from Facebook, Instagram or WhatsApp, allowing customers to browse and purchase in their desired platform.

To make this feasible however, brands need to have the necessary infrastructure in place, like a Digital Asset Management (DAM) or Product Information Management (PIM) system, content syndication partners, payment solutions and assets to suit the Storefronts. These tech solutions are now part of an intricate ecosystem, and brands must manage it in-house or through a partner to ensure success.

Aynsley Peet: I would recommend Klevu for site search and Nosto for personalisation. Plus, for a new payment option, Klarna works very well. 

Ksenia Khalina: I believe there are a lot of effective technologies out there which brands can introduce from tomorrow! My favourite ones for improving sales and customer experience are e-wallet, ecommerce subscription services (replenishment, curation or providing access to lower prices or members-only perks) and tech allowing online product customization (especially before the festive season!)

Andy Boddy: I wish I could give you a straight answer, but I’m going to flip this slightly. One of the biggest wins we’ve had this year is partnering with Spill, which has helped our employees manage their environments within a lockdown. A high functioning team will achieve more for you than one piece of tech. 

Sam Tidmarsh: And as my last question, what is your key takeaway for ecommerce brands from the pandemic?

Andy Boddy: The resilience and focus of our team has been incredible. At such an uncertain time, we chose to flip from promotional messaging, to creating content to aid customers sleep and headspace, with no hard sell and no hidden codes. Providing advice on sleep, food and even how to stretch and flex. We saw some of our highest performing pieces of content. At this time, brands could benefit by being more human. 

Gemma Spence: Stand out on the shelf. Brands must now be bold to catch the digital shopper’s eye to get sold.

We all know the proven concept of traditional brand growth is an augmentation of making sure brands are top of mind through mental availability combined with physical availability through in-store and immersive experiences to improve sell through. However, in today’s environment we need to shift this concept and focus on a combination of mental availability and digital distribution combining the entire value chain – pick, pack, ship as well as the unboxing experience.

By getting that right, brands can maximise their digital availability and make all elements of their distinctive assets work even harder.

Ksenia Khalina: Brands that pivot to understand and address consumers changing needs and expectations during the pandemic can find new opportunities and success in their sectors. There are many great examples of brands that succeeded during pandemic through providing DTC ecommerce solutions. 

Also, there are examples of better WFH arrangements, supporting each other psychologically, communicating on eating healthy and staying healthy, helping with school and home lessons, sport at home, etc.

Aynsley Peet: Look to showcase your brand with brand content, create a dynamic approach to digital marketing and look to be flexible through a test, test, test approach for campaigns. Also improve on-site experience through personalisation.


The Future of Brands: Ecommerce conference featured speakers from Maplin, Diageo, Cox & Cox, Astrid & Miyu, Tata Consumer Products, eve sleep, RB, Organix Brands, Marie Claire and more. To watch any of the nine sessions on-demand now, click here.

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