Bricks to Clicks: Chapter Eight Summary
In our eighth post in our “Bricks to Clicks” summary series, (you can read our last post HERE) this week, we’re talking about chapter eight of Content Analytics founder and CEO David Feinleib’s book Bricks to Clicks: Why Some Brands Will Thrive in E-Commerce and Others Won't.
Chapter 8: The E-commerce Flywheel
Amazon did the impossible and reinvented the wheel when it expanded its offerings from books to, quite literally, everything else. Amazon’s promise, illustrated by its famous Flywheel concept, is to increase availability and selection. That selection experience brings in more and more customers, who expect competitive pricing and a great consumer experience. This formula is what led Amazon to dominate e-commerce early on.
Our Bricks to Clicks customers recognized that the smart money wasn’t on promotion and marketing like it was in the old days. Today: content quality is a huge part of the equation to attract and retain online buyers.
The Updated E-commerce Flywheel
One of our early bricks to clicks clients, 3M, transformed and redefined the flywheel for their aggressive e-commerce efforts. They understood immediately, especially as a brand that has considerable value, that they needed to shift their investment into data analysis and content quality. We’ve renamed this the e-commerce flywheel:
- Product Presence
- Demand Generation
- Metrics and Analytics
Comprehensive Product Setup
Suppliers today have to work with an increasing amount of digital channels, ensuring that each product page is properly enabled with the right balance of information, features, ratings and other page features we’ve covered in previous chapters. Some highlights of comprehensive product setup include:
- Detailed product descriptions optimized for search
- Ratings and reviews
- Thorough answers to consumer questions
- Professional and engaging high-res images and videos
- Product comparison tables
Once you’ve got your products set up, it’s time to make sure consumers can find you. Demand generation includes:
- Email and newsletter marketing
- Social media engagement
- Banner ads
- Online promotions
- Direct advertising
Here’s a brief of each below.
SEM: Paid search ads driven by keywords that show up in popular search engines (predominantly Google).
SEO: Driving your audience to your site with organic search results. Search algorithms are complex and high Google rankings rely on a number of factors including keyword relevancy, keyword placement (H1 tags, image tags, etc.), content freshness, and content length.
Brands and sellers have no control over a retailer site, but they can control their product pages with titles that include the right keywords, product descriptions, and engaging language.
Email Marketing: Email engagement helps reduce negative reviews (increasingly useful for marketplace sellers). It’s also a cost-effective method of notifying your buyers of promotions and new products. Studies continually show that the most important ingredient in any email campaigns is your subject line. Most mail platforms, including the ubiquitous MailChimp, allow for A/B subject line testing to find out what’s driving opens and clicks.
Social Media Marketing: Leverage SM as an awareness building tool and invest in brand ambassadors that drive the online conversation. In short: even if SM doesn’t drive sales directly, you can’t afford to ignore the online conversation about your brand.
Targeted Banner Ads: Display is still an important ingredient in your marketing spend. Showcase specific promotions, target niche audiences, and spread your buy to include third-party sites as well as retailer sites. Retargeting increases brand awareness and recognition for consumers in their research phase.
Online Promotions: Trade promotion, according to sales and marketing firm Acosta, represents 10 to 25% of gross sales for the typical CPG company. Large suppliers have dedicated e-commerce promotion teams to drive consumer demand and brand awareness. Those suppliers leverage those teams to guarantee availability of promoted products, monitor metrics, and manage product content quality.
Retailer-Brand Showcases: Brand showcases are predominantly implemented on retailer sites by exceptionally large suppliers. Using high-end imagery and video, the showcase features limited products and often center on a specific event like a holiday, product launch, or a limited-time offering. Showcases can tell a brand story and drive product purchase behavior. Showcases also embargo other brands from the page, giving the shopper a singular brand experience without any distractions.
Direct: With more and more consumers using Amazon as their primary driver for search, product research, and purchases, know the retailer mix for your category and drive demand accordingly.
Metrics and Analytics
It goes without saying that all marketers and sellers examine ROI closely to determine where and how to reinvest. There are some forms of analytics and marketers commonly do, and some where we see that revised or new focus introduces a new set of values to your team.
- Website analytics
- SEO analytics
- Retailer-specific analytics
- Cross-retailer analytics
- Competitive analysis
- Ongoing product and demand generation adjustment
Website Analytics: Our suppliers use the Content Analytics platform as the central repository for all of their data intelligence. This includes path-to-purchase data which we then use comparatively with our content health and SEO audits to give sellers specific actions to drive more traffic to their sites and increase conversions.
SEO Analytics: Early on, many of our customers told us that SEO platforms are onerous, providing an overwhelming dataset that produces excessive information with too little insight. Our SEO view shows which pages have the most room for improvement, directing sellers and brands to which keywords are performing well for what products and which product pages need more optimization. We tie content health and SEO together for actionable insights with immediate results.
Retailer-Specific Analytics: We typically work with clients initially to help them understand how they are performing on a single retailer (usually Walmart or Amazon). We then expand to other retail teams or the global e-commerce function. The deep dive into a single retailer gives us greater knowledge which we then apply on a larger scale.
Cross-Retailer Analysis: We help suppliers understand how to improve across different e-commerce channels and retailers. Establishing this view ensures greater control over brand integrity, and informs on which channels are providing the best ROI. It’s unlikely that until our platform is deployed that a seller has adequate internal resources to monitor all products across dozens of sites daily. Overall: suppliers have improved leverage across the entire e-commerce business without investing in additional human capacity.
Competitive Analysis: Many suppliers already have teams dedicated to competitive reporting, looking at market share metrics and product development. Suppliers need to see how they stack up in the e-commerce space and we show them how they compare to competitors’ product pages in a number of areas including: number of images, videos, product descriptions, ratings and reviews, in-stock rates, and pricing.
Making Adjustments: E-commerce is dynamic (to say the least). Suppliers need proactive approaches to selling online. The worlds of physical and online retail are similar, but also vastly incomparable. Retailers and sellers both require a comprehensive platform to support the aggressive speed and pace of the online world.
Implementing the E-commerce Flywheel
3M saw their business explode online by focusing on selection and presence. They then drove traffic to those products, constantly examining opportunities to leverage product presence and increase demand. Once many sellers (who follow this approach) see success on Amazon, other retailers expect them to repeat it. This sets up an environment where sellers need to be exceptionally nimble at a speed which was simply unheard of in the physical retail world. Amazon taught the retail world to become customer obsessed. Smart brands are following suit.
There is a lot of opportunity for omnichannel sellers to retain dominant positions in channels like grocery, consumables, and other areas. A purely digital retailer (Amazon) can only leverage the quality of the product content. An omnichannel retailer can supplement poor content with an improved in-store experience (for now). Those retailers are learning quickly how to marry the online and in-person shopping presence. Many suppliers know they need to keep a balance between Amazon and other retailers, and regularly test demand generation strategies with other retailers online.
The “infinite shelf” is still a developing concept for many CPG companies. A physical product that could once only dominate a certain portion of the physical shelf has endless space online to showcase all of their products. In the physical store, a retailer has to balance shelf space with different products. Online: retailers can maximize traffic for as many products as possible. This creates a more competitive environment for brands, putting pressure on sellers to invest in online participation.
Today: consumers are not as likely to be swayed by awareness marketing as they were in the past. The modern shopper wants facts. The internet, with reviews and ratings, has given online shoppers an increased expectation of transparency and information. Videos, faqs, multiple images, ratings, and reviews are what drive trust and, eventually, purchases. The new consumer perception: suppliers that do not provide enough information online must have something to hide.
Smaller brands have much more advantages in the online world as the barriers to entry are lower than they were in the physical retail space. Challenger brands have as much room as they need on the digital shelf to tell a compelling brand story. The challenger brand also has to overcome the trust a consumer has with a more established brand. The answer is creating and managing enough high-quality content across all channels that resonate with consumers.
By now, everyone is too familiar with a lousy online shopping experience. A lack of high-res images, reviews, and tech specs are, at this point, deal breakers. If you were drawn to the page from an ad, the money the seller spent on the ad is wasted if the product page doesn’t provide enough information to engage, educate, and convert the customer. Large ad spends are throwing good money after bad if that same spend isn’t met with investment in quality content. Bricks to Clicks suppliers are leveraging resources necessary to implement the e-commerce flywheel, creating a virtuous circle of presence, demand, and insights.
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