E-commerce has grown under lockdown and media spending from FMCG companies such as Unilever is adjusting accordingly. 

The growth in online shopping is widely seen as an acceleration of a trend that was already firmly under way and few believe that growth pattern will radically change in the post-coronavirus marketplace.

Over 8% of Unilever’s sales are now made through e-commerce, up from 6% in 2019; and during the first half of 2020, the company recorded e-commerce sales of €2.2 billion, which compares to €3.12 billion for the whole of 2019.

The company’s VP of e-commerce, Claire Hennah, told Digiday she sees no reason for growth to fall to pre-pandemic levels and, consequently, Unilever’s e-commerce strategy is evolving to cover tech platforms, retailers and delivery apps.

Some retailers are media owners in their own right

“We’ve started to look at how we plan e-commerce activations as part of our holistic media approach,” Hennah explained. “E-commerce is always considered upfront with our media plans.

“Some retailers are media owners in their own right and so there are different levels of sophistication around commerce activations,” she added.

Social commerce is a “fascinating” new area the company is keen to explore, but at a measured pace. The company has seen a big uplift in social commerce platforms across Southeast Asia and China, as well as through livestreaming during the 6.18 shopping event, but progress in the West is slower.

“Because we don’t want to annoy people using these platforms, whether its Snapchat or TikTok, we spend a lot of time thinking about the portfolio of content that will work in those more experiential settings,” Hennah said.

The company also recently launched an online store, offering products direct to consumers, which Hennah described as simply a way of offering more purchasing choice. “In the early stages of lockdown, people wanted [home care] products that they couldn’t always get from the place they usually go to,” she noted, and the D2C avenue is one she expects to experiment with further.

Rival FMCG business P&G has also highlighted the need for marketing and supply-chain departments to work more closely in the online purchase funnel. It has ramped up machine learning and data analysis capabilities to forecast demand for products, integrating supply chain logistics and availability at Amazon and the online stores of Walmart and Target.

“If the product is not available in the right spot at the right time to ship to the consumer, then we have definitely failed together as a unit,” Lilze told a WARC session (Brand Experience in E-Commerce) during Lions Live earlier this year.

Other takeaways from Lions Live (the full video of the session can be viewed here, or a summary read here) include: 

• marketing for e-commerce has tended to work in a silo and a more integrated approach is now necessary to maximise ROI;

• the delivery of products amounts to a new “moment of truth” for brands, potentially either delighting or disappointing their customers.

Sourced from Digiday; additional content by WARC staff