It’s understandable that many brands are feeling the urge to rush onto e-commerce platforms, but doing so without a plan could cause more harm than good, an expert cautions.

A careful strategy is required to be successful in digital retail, says Alex Zhang, APAC Head of Strategy at VCCP.

In a WARC Best Practice paper, Zhang notes how, over less than two decades, e-commerce has gone from a ‘nice-to-have’ channel to ‘essential’, accelerated by recent pandemics.

“Brands are now looking to transform the way they reach customers, but not all transformation is always good,” he says.

Part of the problem, in his view, is that too many marketers and brands are trying to be predictive of the post-COVID world – they want to look through a crystal ball when they would be better off consulting a compass.

“Follow what has always steered you right with your customers,” he advises. “Whereas crystal ball planning tries to ascertain the future, compass planning looks to the unchanging human principles as the root of enduring brands.”

It might not be a principle exactly, but people will always want to get what they want at the best prices and when it comes to e-commerce, brands need to strategise their presence, Zhang says.

“In general, e-commerce is still a pricing game” and it’s all too easy to find a brand slipping into the platform’s natural way of running things, he explains.

Even Apple can get sucked into e-commerce activity on a third-party site that goes against its long-held branding and pricing strategies, as it found on Lazada Malaysia. “LazMall is supposed to house Apple’s official presence, but ‘iPhone Crazy Offer!!’ is in stark contrast to the measured and premium communications on the Apple brand site,” Zhang observes.

The solution to this sort of problem needn’t be complicated: to maintain a premium image, simply reserve the higher range products for the brand’s own website.

“Third-party platforms are still a great source of traffic,” says Zhang. “List more entry-level products for discoverability (e.g. AirPods), and control all elements of your brand, not leaving it just for the platform to manage.”

For more detailed advice, read Alex Zhang’s article in full: Three-way points for navigating e-commerce in a post-pandemic world.

Sourced from WARC